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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Kings

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Kings

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.

[RELATED: Orpik to make his return to the lineup Tuesday against Kings]

Here are projected lineups for both teams:

CAPITALS 

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie  

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams  

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson  

Brooks Laich - Mike Richards - Michael Latta  

Defensive pairs

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner  

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson  

Brooks Orpik - Dmitry Orlov 

Goaltenders

Philipp Grubauer (starter) - Braden Holtby  

Injured: Jay Beagle (upper body) 

Scratched: Stan Galiev  

KINGS 

Forward lines

Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown   

Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli   

Tanner Pearson - Vincent Lecavalier - Trevor Lewis   

Nick Shore - Andy Andreoff - Jordan Nolan  

Defense pairs

Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty   

Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez   

Kevin Gravel - Luke Schenn   

Goaltenders

Jonathan Quick (projected starter) -  Jhonas Enroth   

Injured: Matt Greene (upper body), Marian Gaborik (lower body) 

Scratched: Kyle CliffordJamie McBainPeter Budaj   

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Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

Capitals listed as underdogs in their first Stanley Cup since 1998

The odds have never gone the way of the Washington Capitals.

After years of being the common pick to finally break through and win the Stanley Cup, this was most definitely not the year.

Yet, here we are with the Capitals as one of the final two teams standing.

For their upcoming Stanley Cup Final, the Caps are the underdogs against the Las Vegas Golden Knights.  The opening line from OddsShark has the Golden Knights as -135 money line favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Capitals were listed as +115 underdogs.

Vegas (the betting entity, not the team) has not exactly been the most reliable this year though. After all, the Golden Knights were 100/1 odds to win the whole thing. Now they are four games away.

In their past two series, Washington was not the favorites. The Capitals have not been favorites since the First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For years in the Alex Ovechkin era, they have been the favorites to not only go on to play for the Stanley Cup but winning it.

In 2018 they started the season tied for the fifth best odds to win the Cup (14/1), one of their lowest opening marks in the past decade. For the full perspective, Washington was tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and behind the Dallas Stars at the start of the season.

Without question this underdog role has fit them quite well, they shouldn’t want anything to change heading into the biggest postseason series in 20 years for Washington D.C.

MORE CAPITALS' NEWS:

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How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

How the Caps upset the Lightning to win the conference championship

It wasn't supposed to happen.

The Capitals celebrated too hard after beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Second Round. The Tampa Bay Lightning had been here before. Tampa Bay's roster was deeper. Their goalie was hotter. They had home ice advantage. They had easily won their first two series. Nicklas Backstrom was still injured. Washington wouldn't be able to stop the Lightning's power play.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

For all of those reasons, many did not even give the Caps a chance. Washington overcame every obstacle in their way and was, for the most part, the better team through seven games defeating Tampa Bay to win the Eastern Conference for just the second time in franchise history.

The Capitals showed in their second-round win over the Penguins that these weren't the "same old Caps." They continued to prove that in the conference final when they stunned the Lightning to win Game 1 and Game 2 both on the road.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

When Washington lost the next three, many thought that meant the real Lightning had awoken, but it was the Caps who rose to the occasion in Game 6 and Game 7 where they face elimination as they completely dominated Tampa Bay by a combined score of 7-0.

The Caps now advance to take on the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final. The Knights have lost only three games this entire postseason and will hope to carry that momentum with them into Game 1.

If there is one thing this Washington team has proven, however, it's that you should never count them out.

Here's how the Capitals were able to shock the hockey world and upset the Lightning.

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