The Capitals (28-7-3, 59 points) are in Boston tonight to face the Bruins (20-13-4, 44 points) at TD Garden. Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
With or without you: Alex Ovechkin has been pretty consistent this season, whether he’s been riding shotgun with center Evgeny Kuznetsov or Nicklas Backstrom. In his first 15 games with Kuznetsov, Ovechkin had 8 goals and 8 assists for 16 points. In his last 22 games with Backstrom, Ovechkin has 13 goals and 5 assists for 18 points. Ovechkin sits three goals off the league-leading pace set by Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn.
Between the pipes: Braden Holtby (24-4-2, 1.92 GAA, .932 SP) will get the call for the Caps, while Tuukka Rask (14-10-3, 2.51 GAA, .914 SP) will go for the B’s. Holtby burst onto the NHL against the Bruins in the 2012 playoffs, defeating the defending Stanley Cup champs in seven games. In his career, Holtby is 8-2-0 with three shutouts, a 1.52 GAA and .954 SP. In 11 career games against the Caps, Rask is 1-7-3 with a 3.01 GAA and .896 SP and one shutout.
Where they stand: The Caps are atop the Metro Division and Eastern Conference, but are 0-1-1 in their last two games. The Bruins hold the final playoff spot in the East with 44 points, tied with Ottawa, which is in ninth place. The Bruins have lost four of their last five and have been outscored 16-5 in those four losses.
Galiev in, Latta out: Caps coach Barry Trotz is expected to shake up his fourth line by replacing right wing Michael Latta with Stan Galiev. Galiev has not played since Dec. 14 and has two assists in seven games this season.
“He's practiced really well," Trotz told reporters in Boston. "He deserves to be in. He gives us a lot more speed at the forward position. I think that's an area where we can be a pretty quick team and push the pace in the game."
Is it possible the Caps might be showcasing Galiev for a potential trade?
Just the facts: The Caps have outscored their opponents 46-30 in third periods this season but are coming off their first loss when leading after two periods (19-0-1). The Bruins have outscored opponents 39-37 in the third period and are 13-2-1 when leading after two.
Leaders: Evgeny Kuznetsov (34 points) has a one-point lead over Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for the team lead. Backstrom and Kuznetsov lead the club with 23 assists. Patrice Bergeron leads the Breuins with 35 points, while Brad Marchand leads them with 15 goals, one more than Bergeron and Loui Eriksson.
Top PP units: The NHL’s top two power-play units collide tonight. Led by Bergeron (7), Eriksson (7) and Ryan Spooner (5) the Bruins are No. 1 with a success rate of 28.6 percent. The Caps are next at 25.6 percent, paced by Ovechkin (7) and Oshie (5).
Ovi on Chara: Asked if 6-foot-9, 250-pound defenseman Zdeno Chara is still tough to face at age 38, Ovechkin, 30, quipped: “Even when he’s 50 years old he’s going to be hard to play against.”
Chasing 3,000: The Bruins currently have a lifetime record of 2,999-2,280-791-139 in 6,208 regular season games. With their next win, they will become just the second team in NHL history with 3,000 regular season victories (Montreal, 3,282).
Right at home: The Capitals are 13-4-2 on the road this season, ranking first in the NHL in point percentage (.737) and tied for first in road wins (13) and road points (28). The Caps have earned a point in 11 of their last 13 road games (9-2-2).
MORE CAPITALS: Alzner on losing two in a row: 'We hate it'