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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Devils

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Devils

The Capitals (42-10-4, 88 points) and Devils (29-23-7, 65 points) face off tonight at Verizon Center (6:30 p.m., CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

Where they stand:  The Caps have won seven of their last eight and sit 23 points ahead of the Devils, who have lost two in a row and sit one point behind the Penguins.

Who’s in goal: The Caps will go with Braden Holtby (36-6-3, 2.15 GAA, .925 SP). The Devils will go with Cory Schneider (25-18-6, 2.02, .929).

Beagle update: Caps center Jay Beagle practiced with the Caps Saturday and received a stick tap ovation from his teammates and said he hopes to get back into the lineup in about a week, possibly Sunday afternoon in Chicago.

Beagle said he began skating four or five days after his Jan. 2 surgery but started stickhandling only a week ago. He discarded a hand brace on Friday but has not yet taken faceoffs against an opponent.

“I can’t close my hand 100 percent, so to wrap it around the stick is a little bit tough,” Beagle said. “I’m working on that but it feels pretty good and it’s come quick.”

As for where he might fit in when he returns to the lineup, Beagle said he just wants to see the Caps keep winning.

“Jojo, Willy and Chimmer play unbelievable together,” Beagle said of the third line of Marcus Johansson, Tom Wilson and Jason Chimera. “I just want to come in and make the team stronger. It doesn’t matter where Barry puts me.”

Oshie’s 500th: T.J. Oshie will play in his 500th NHL game. In his first 499 he has 126 goals and 218 assists for 344 points and a plus-86 rating. “It took me long enough,” Oshie, 29, said. “It seems like it’s taken a long time.”

Oshie said he’s accomplished “a fair amount” in his career, but added there is another level he can get to. He has three goals in his last 24 games after netting 13 goals in his first 32 games.

“You’re always trying to get better,” Oshie said. “You’re never really at the top of your game and hopefully the best is yet to come.”

Lineup change: The Caps will stick with a top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams, which means Andre Burakovsky will remain on a “second” line with Nicklas Backstrom and Oshie.

“You need a little change sometimes,” Backstrom said. “It’s good because in the playoffs there will be a lot of matching and it’s good to try something new.”

Oshie agreed.

“Me, O and Nicky just weren’t getting enough O-zone time and weren’t playing with the puck as much as we wanted to.  Last game worked out well. Their line played well and I thought our line had more O-zone time.”

points) this season.

Historic pace: The Capitals’ 42 wins are the most victories through a team’s first 56 games of a season in NHL history. The Caps have posted a 15-1-1 record in their last 17 games at Verizon Center.

Speak of the Devils: The Capitals have won five consecutive games against the Devils and have outscored New Jersey 18-8 during that span. Alex Ovechkin has 41 points (18-23-41) in 39 career games against the Devils. Braden Holtby has posted an 8-3-1 record in his career against New Jersey with two shutouts, a 2.08 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. 

MORE CAPITALS: Report: Both Islanders and Barclays want out of lease deal

Here are projected lineups for both teams:

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Andre Burakovsky – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Jason Chimera – Marcus Johansson – Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich – Mike Richards – Michael Latta

Extra: Stan Galiev

Defense pairs

Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt – John Carlson

Brooks Orpik – Dmitry Orlov

Extra: Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) – Philipp Grubauer

Devils

Forward lines

Joseph Blandisi - Adam Henrique - Lee Stempniak

Reid Boucher - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri

Sergey Kalinin - Jacob Josefson - Tyler Kennedy

Bobby Farnham - Stephen Gionta - Jordin Tootoo

Defense pairs

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

John Moore - David Schlemko

Seth Helgeson - Jon Merrill

Goaltenders

Cory Schneider (starter) - Keith Kinkaid

Injured: Michael Cammalleri (right hand), Stefan Matteau (facial fracture), Patrik Elias (right knee), Jiri Tlusty (right wrist)

Scratched: Tuomo RuutuEric GelinasDamon Severson

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Capitals vs. Canucks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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USA Today

Capitals vs. Canucks: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Washington Capitals (3-2-2) head to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada after an overtime/shootout loss against the Florida Panthers last Friday. 

The Caps are determined to avoid the devastation they felt in the first period when they gave away four goals to the Panthers. They will need to focus in the power plays and avoid penalties at all costs.

Many fans were looking forward to the reunion with former player Jay Beagle, who is now centerman for the Canucks, but he is unfortunately out on injury. However you can look out for Caps Nic Dowd, who will have his own homecoming game against his former team. 

Here is everything you need to know about Capitals vs. Canucks which takes place at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.
 

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Vancouver Canucks, Game 8 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Rogers Arena, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

When: Monday, October 22 at 10:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Canucks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Canucks on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS SCHEDULE

9:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
9:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
10:00 PM: Capitals vs. Canucks
12:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

CAPITALS vs. CANUCKS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Lars Eller, F, Capitals: In his last game, he had a three-point night with three assists. He is a messaive help and shined within the trio of Vrana and Connoly on Friday.

Tim Schaller, F, Canucks: He was struggling in the preseason but came back with a vengeance. He assisted with a penatly kill and is a key component in fourth line. 

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

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What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

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USA TODAY

What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. What is his job during the game?

Friday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers was one of the rare games that featured four goalies. Braden Holtby and James Reimer started, but both were ultimately pulled in what was a high-scoring affair. In stepped Pheonix Copley and Michael Hutchinson.

And yet, despite being little more than an afterthought in the team’s preparation for the game, both Copley (one goal allowed on 19 shots, .947 save percentage) and Hutchinson (one goal allowed on 11 shots, .909 save percentage) stepped in and out-performed the starters giving both of their respective teams a chance to win the game.

“It's easier in some aspects,” Holtby said of coming into a game off the bench, something he has done at various points of his career despite being the primary starter for Washington. “I think that's why you see a lot of guys go in and have success right away and have good games because you don't have that day or two days to be getting rid of your thoughts and that kind of thing.”

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. Every team dresses two goalies on the roster for a game. One starts and one sits on the bench as the backup in case he is needed because of injury or because a coach chooses to make a goalie switch. That backup is tasked with being ready at all times to step into the game knowing full well that, if all goes according to plan, he will not get to play at all.

Holtby and Reimer had prepared for Friday’s game knowing they were going to start. Both players took warmups in order to prepare them to play a full game while Copley and Hutchinson had little reason to think they would see any action at all.

By the end of the second period, however, both Holtby and Reimer had been replaced. Copley at least had an intermission to prepare as he came on at the start of the second period while Hutchinson had to step in midway through the second period.

“I guess it can be a little challenging,” Copley said, “But I feel like as long as you’re kind of paying attention to the game and your mind's kind of in that hockey mindset then if something happens, I'll be ready to go.”

Professional athletes are creatures of habit. To have to step into a game unexpectedly with little to no warning or preparation and be expected to perform at the highest level is an incredibly tough mental challenge.

And yet, in many ways, it can be easier than starting.

“The whole thing about mental preparation is so that you go out there not thinking about anything, not worrying about any of that,” Holtby said. “When you're forced in with a matter of 30 seconds, there's no time to think about anything. You just go in and play.”

For goalies, not starting does not mean having the night off. Both coaches and teammates alike can lean upon a backup netminder as an extra set of eyes.

“Sometimes they'll ask a question like did it look like I had room there?” Copley said. “Was it a shot or missed? Did you see what happened on this play? So I just try to be there and watch.”

Some coaches even give goalies assignments in game, though that practice seems to be on the decline.

“I know [Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock] makes them look at faceoffs or something,” Holtby said. “It's pretty archaic. There's guys that do that now that are better than the backup goalie at looking at things.”

In truth, there is no defined in-game requirements for most goalies in the NHL when they sit as backups and that is true of the Caps’ tandem. That makes the job of a backup a very simple one.

“I just try and be ready if I have to go in,” Copley said. “Make sure I'm physically and mentally ready and be a good teammate.”

Holtby put it even more succinctly as he said, “Don't do anything stupid.”