The Capitals (40-10-4, 84 points) take on the Los Angeles Kings (33-19-3, 69 points) tonight at Verizon Center (6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
Who’s in goal for the Caps: The Caps are expected to go with backup Philipp Grubauer (5-4-1, 2.24 GAA, .919 SP), who will give Braden Holtby a rest after Holtby played in six straight games. Grubauer last played on Feb. 2, a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. His last win came back on Jan. 10. Grubauer has never faced the Kings.
Who’s in goal for the Kings: Jonathan Quick was the first goalie off the ice after the morning skate, but coach Darryl Sutter would not confirm Quick will be starting for the first time since suffering a lower body injury on Feb. 9. Quick is 28-14-4 with a 2.23 GAA, .918 SP and two shutouts. In six career games against the Caps he’s 5-1-0 with a 2.44 GAA and .915 SP.
Call him ‘Stick:’ Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said Justin Williams probably got the nickname “Stick” because he’s “pretty skinny,” but the “Mr. Game 7” nickname came from outside the Kings’ locker room. Tyler Toffoli said he’s never called Williams “Mr. Game 7,” but might tonight. “I know he hated it," Toffoli said. “So maybe I'll say it to him on the ice.”
Demanding Sutter: Mike Richards was asked what makes Darryl Sutter a successful hockey coach and his answer was interesting.
“He doesn’t let things slide,” Richards said. “You can win 10 in a row and he’d still be on you. He demands the best from his players.”
Orpik in, Chorney out: Brooks Orpik’s three months on long-term injury finally ends tonight when he plays for the first time since suffering a lower body injury on a blocked shot on Nov. 10. The Caps were 10-4-0 when Orpik was in the lineup and have gone 30-6-4 with him.
“He’s very, very tough to play against,” said Kings center Vincent Lecavalier, who has five goals and four assists in 23 games with the Kings after arriving from Philadelphia. “He’s obviously a big boy and he plays hard. I played against him in the playoffs against Pittsburgh and he adds depth to that skilled defense.”
Lecavalier, 35, has played 84 career games against the Capitals and has 35 goals and 36 assists for 71 points.
Look for Orpik to play alongside Dmitry Orlov and Taylor Chorney to be a healthy scratch for the first time since Nov. 10.
Drought continues: Brooks Laich has one goal in 53 games this season and has not scored in his last 41 contests, dating back to his game-winner Nov. 5 in Boston. He is also a team-worst minus-8. Mike Richards (minus-1) is the only other minus player on the Caps’ roster.
Where they stand: The Caps rank first in the NHL in goals for per game (3.30) and second in the league in goals allowed per game (2.30). The Kings rank ninth in goals for per game (2.75) and sixth in goals allowed per game (2.35).
Special teams: The Caps rank first on the power play (24.4 percent) and fifth on the penalty kill (83.7 percent). The Kings rank second on the power play (23.1 percent) and 10th on the kill (81.6 percent).
By the numbers: The Caps have a goal differential of plus-7 in the first period, plus-22 in the second period and plus-25 in the third period. By comparison, the Kings are plus-2 in the first, plus-8 in the second and plus-5 in the third. That might explain why they are 31-0-1 when leading after two periods. The Caps are also 58-1-4 when leading with 10 minutes remaining in regulation under Barry Trotz.
Here are projected lineups for both teams:
Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov
Philipp Grubauer (starter) - Braden Holtby
Injured: Jay Beagle (upper body)
Scratched: Stan Galiev
Kevin Gravel - Luke Schenn
Jonathan Quick (projected starter) - Jhonas Enroth