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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Panthers

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Panthers

The Capitals (35-8-4, 74 points) and Florida Panthers (29-15-5, 63 points) return from their NHL All-Star breaks tonight at Verizon Center (7:30 p.m., NBCSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

Backup vs. backup: For the third time this season Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer (5-3-1, 2.12 GAA, .925 SP) will face Al Montoya (7-2-1, 1.92, .929). The two teams split their first two meetings, with the Caps prevailing 2-1 on an overtime goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov on Oct. 31 and the Panthers winning 4-1 on Dec. 10. Both games were in Florida. Since this is the final meeting, the teams’ No. 1 goalies, Braden Holtby and Roberto Luongo, won’t face each other (outside of an All-Star Game) until the playoffs.

Power play shuffle: With Alex Ovechkin (suspension for missing All-Star Game) and Marcus Johansson (upper body injury) out of the lineup, look for the Caps’ top power play unit to have T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams and Matt Niskanen. The second unit will be Jason Chimera, Stan Galiev, Andre Burakovsky, Tom Wilson and John Carlson).

Lots of games: Including tonight, the Caps will play 35 games in 71 days to close out the regular season. With that kind of workload, Caps coach Barry Trotz said he expects Grubauer to see 25 percent of those starts, which equates to eight or nine. That means Braden Holtby is slated to play in roughly 27 of the final 35 games. 

Future Hall of Famer? Trotz is usually reserved when it comes to making grand comparisons, but when he was asked about whom he might liken 19-year-old Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad to he brought up three Hall of Famers.

“I look at Ekblad and where he is at his age and, maybe they’re different in style, but you start throwing out names like (Chris) Pronger, (Al) MacInnis and (Nicklas) Lidstrom type of guys. If everything goes well and he keeps improving and growing as a player, I see definitely a Hall of Fame type of defenseman. It's hard to believe he's only that age. As a defenseman, you don't get into the Hall unless you're (exceptional) all around.”

How old is he? When Grubauer, 24, was asked what it’s like facing 43-year-old Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr, he quipped. “That guy is amazing. I wasn’t even born when he started playing (in the NHL).” 

Here are tonight’s projected lineups: 

CAPITALS
Forward lines

Stan Galiev - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich - Zach Sill - Michael Latta
Defense pairings
Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov- Taylor Chorney
Goaltenders
Philipp Grubauer (starter) - Braden Holtby
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body), Jay Beagle (upper body), Marcus Johansson (upper body)
Scratched: none
Suspended: Alex Ovechkin 

PANTHERS
Forward lines

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith
Quinton Howden - Nick Bjugstad - Logan Shaw
Corban Knight - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton
Defense pairings

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad
Steven Kampfer - Alex Petrovic
Goaltenders
Al Montoya (starter) - Roberto Luongo
Injured: Willie Mitchell (lower body), Dave Bolland (lower body)
Scratched: Brandon Pirri

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Braden Holtby, special teams deliver Caps a win in Chicago

Braden Holtby, special teams deliver Caps a win in Chicago

The Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks exchanged five goals in the third period, but it was the Caps who came out on top on Sunday in a 5-3 win. The game is the first of a five-game road swing for the Caps who have now won three straight.

Observations from the win

Another strong game for Holtby

The brief reset seems to have done the job for Braden Holtby who made 41 saves. He was also very good on Friday against the New York Rangers. He looked mad after giving up the third goal, but that was a tough shot from one of the most lethal scorers in the game.

Patrick Kane came in on a 2-on-1 and Holtby did not for one second think he was going to pass. Usually you can see a goalie start to cheat over in anticipation of the pass, butHoltby stayed square with Kane the whole way. I watched the game with former goalie Brent Johnson who noted the puck began to roll when Kane shot it. It looked like it was going high, but instead went through the 5-hole which may be why Holtby was annoyed.

Regardless, that was a tough shot to save and he was good overall for the night. Stringing a few solid games together should keep the talk of a goalie controversy at bay.

That’s what Carl Hagelin brings

It was a slow start to the season for Hagelin, but this was one of his better games of the season. He was especially brilliant on the penalty kill and his play to start the breakout and assist Dowd on the shorthanded goal was the turning point of the game (spoiler alert!).

Adjust your expectations when you evaluate Hagelin. He is not a big point producer, that’s not why they got him. Brian MacLellan traded for Hagelin for performances like we saw Sunday.

Nic Dowd needs to stay in the lineup

Dowd now has two goals in two games, but it’s not just about that. The fourth line just looks better with him on it, as does the penalty kill. This should not be a guy having to fight for his spot in the lineup. He’s earned it in my mind.

Turning point

Drake Caggiula tied the game at 1 in the second period and suddenly the momentum was all on Chicago’s side. Just one minute later, Chandler Stephenson was given a double-minor for high-sticking Kirby Dach. This was Chicago’s moment to take control of the game. Instead, it proved to be the turning point for Washington.

Patrick Kane turned the puck over on the power play and Hagelin picked it up and was off to the races, sparking a 2-on-1 with Dowd. Hagelin made the pass to Dowd who beat Corey Crawford glove-side for his second goal in as many games.

Chicago was given the double-minor power play exactly one minute after tying the game. Just 28 seconds after that, the Caps retook momentum with the shorthanded goal. The Blackhawks’ power play, which had looked dangerous to that point, completely fizzled through the rest of the double-minor.

Play of the night

Alex Ovechkin from the office? Been there, done that. It’s a great shot from the Great 8, but what makes this play so darn pretty is the pass from John Carlson.

A slap shot from Michal Kempny went wide of the net and curled around the wall back towards the blue line. Carlson collected it and immediately fired it on the first touch cross-ice to perfectly feed Ovechkin for the one-timer.

Stat of the night

As hot as Carlson is, this category can just be dominated by him considering the elite company he is keeping these days.

So as not to be monotonous, I’ll give you a bonus stat.

The Caps may have given up three goals on the night, but don’t let that fool you. This was a really strong game for Holtby who faced 44 shots.


Quote of the night

Tom Wilson on the netminder's performance.

"I think Holts had his calm demeanor back, for sure."

Fan predictions

Bold...but not quite.

You got the score right. Kuznetsov and Carlson both had assists, Ovechkin had one goal. Well done.

It was a relatively high-scoring game and Chicago did manage 44 shots on goal, but the Caps also blocked 31 of those shots and were perfect on the penalty kill with five kills.

He doesn’t like taking penalties either, but he took a double-minor on Sunday. That is four more PIM than he had all of last season.

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Capitals at Blackhawks Game 10: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

Capitals at Blackhawks Game 10: Time, TV Channel, Live stream, how to watch

The Capitals are riding a two-game winning streak, and are looking to continue their winning ways as they start a five-game road swing.

Their first stop is Chicago against a Blackhawks team that has cracked .500 and is also riding their own two-game winning streak.

Whose streak will come to an end Sunday? Tune in to find out.

CAPITALS-BLACKHAWKS GAME 10: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks

Where: United Center, Chicago, Ill.

When: Sunday, October 20, 7 pm.

TV Channel: Capitals-Blackhawks will be broadcast on NBC Sports. (NBC Sports channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blackhawks on NBC Sports live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

CAPITALS-BLACKHAWKS TV SCHEDULE:

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live

6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

7:00 PM: Capitals @ Blackhawks (LIVE)

9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

10:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

CAPITALS-BLACKHAWKS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals:

RW Richard Panik, upper-body injury, week-to-week

Blackhawks:

LW Jonn Quenneville, hip injury, day-to-day

CAPITALS AT BLACKHAWKS PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Michal Kempny, D, Capitals (1-0-1)

After returning to the Caps lineup against the New York Rangers Friday night, Kempny felt right at home, potting his first goal of the season. Kempny will look to beat up on the team that traded him back in 2018, and he's had success in the past against them.

Alex DeBrincat, F, Chicago (2-2-4)

Don't be fooled by DeBrincat's 5-7 frame. The shifty forward has a deadly release and notched 41 goals last season, second on the Blackhawks. In the last two seasons, he's also feasted on the Capitals, notching two goals and two assists.

Patrick Kane, R, Chicago (2-5-7)

He doesn't have the nickname "Showtime" for nothing. Kane led the Blackhawks in goals last season with 44, and leads the team in points this season.

CAPITALS at BLACKHAWKS SERIES HISTORY 

Number of all-time Meetings: 99

All-Time Series Record: 44-43-11-1

Last Meeting: Loss 8-5 (1/20/2019)

Last 10: Capitals lead 7-3

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