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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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T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

T.J. Oshie puts on a memorable performance in 300th game as a Capital

300 games. 108 goals. 108 assists.

Just so you're tracking, those are T.J. Oshie's stats through 300 games as a member of the Washington Capitals.

In an outstanding 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers, Oshie scored two power play goals. It was the second time in his career that Oshie recorded two such goals.

Another shot on goal — he had four in the game — would have put him at a nice-and-even 620 during his tenure with the Capitals, but hey, we can't all be perfect.

The statistical-evenness is certainly satisfying, but even if you're not a fan of quirky stats, the man has logged 216 points in 300 games. That's pretty darn good.

T.J. Oshie will seek to continue putting up great numbers as the Capitals embark on a two-week road trip. Their first stop will be Sunday in Chicago for a showdown against the Blackhawks.

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A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

A return six months in the making for defenseman Michal Kempny

It took six months of toil and effort for Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny to make it back to an NHL game. 

He last played March 20 when a torn hamstring in a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning ended his season just a few weeks before the Stanley Cup playoffs began. That was brutal. 

A spring to heal after surgery, a summer to rehab the injury and weeks getting back in hockey shape were the steep price paid. And then it took him all of 15 minutes to score his first goal on Friday in a game against the New York Rangers. Welcome back, Michal. 

“I felt pretty good, actually. My legs felt good,” Kempny said. “Obviously not an easy situation for me. But I got to say just thank you to all of the staff, whole organization, my teammates, my family, my friends who were supporting me all the way through here and help me. It means a lot to me.”

It was an organizational project. Kempny meant so much to Washington during its Stanley Cup run of 2018. The Capitals felt his absence on the top pair with John Carlson during the first-round series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Washington coach Todd Reirden credited team trainers Jason Servis and Mike Booi and strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish with putting Kempny in position to return early in the season.  

“Six months of investment of their time to get him back,” Reirden said. “I thought Michal looked really good.”

The goal came at 15:16 of the first period and gave Washington a 2-1 lead. Kempny jumped onto a loose pucked batted around by teammate Alex Ovechkin, quickly corralled it and beat Henrik Lundqvist for the goal. It was a pretty play and another indication that Capitals' defensemen are taking chances when they see them on the offensive end. 

In his first game back, Kempny had 14:24 of ice time. That’s about the goal the Capitals had in mind for him. He started on the third pair with fellow Czech Radko Gudas, but also played 3:42 with Carlson, who mobbed Kempny after his goal and gave him a celebratory facewash with his glove. They’re happy to have him back. 

“I just grab the puck and there was open net, so a little lucky for me,” Kempny said. “I was just excited.”

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