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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Predators

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Predators

The Capitals (38-9-4, 80 points) will go for their fourth straight victory tonight when they visit the Nashville Predators (25-20-8, 58 points) at Bridgestone Arena (7:30 p.m. pregame, CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

Children of the Korn: Tonight will feature a matchup of two elite goaltenders who spent time under the tutelage of Caps goaltending guru Mitch Korn. Braden Holtby (33-5-3, 2.06, .929) has gone an incredible 25-1-3 in his last 30 appearances for the Capitals. In three career games against the Predators Holtby is 1-1-0 with a 4.05 GAA and .886 SP. Pekka Rinne (20-17-7, 2.50, .904) has won four of his last six decisions and is coming off a 28-save win over the Sharks on Saturday. A three-time Vezina Trophy finalist, Rinne worked under Korn from 2007-14. In two career games against Washington Rinne is 2-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .940 SP.

Where the Caps stand: The Caps have opened up a 12-point lead on the Florida Panthers in the East and a 15-point leads on the Rangers in the Metro Division. They are also four points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks (with five games in hand) in their chase for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Where the Predators stand: The Preds followed back-to-back losses to the Blues and Flyers with a 6-2 rout of the Sharks on Saturday. They are 5-0-2 in their last seven games and hold one of the two wild-card playoff spots in the West, three points ahead of the Caps’ next opponent, the Minnesota Wild.

What the Caps are saying: “Some of these teams are in playoff mode already because they’re in the fight to get in. That’s good for us. It forces us to play intense hockey, battle-ready hockey.” - defenseman Matt Niskanen

Remember us?: Left wing Filip Forsberg, taken by the Caps 11th overall in the 2012 draft and traded to the Preds in the deal that brought Michael Latta and Marty Erat to Washington, has 15 goals and 18 assists in 53 games for the Preds this season. He scored a goal and had two assists in Nashville’s 6-2 win over San Jose on Saturday. Center Mike Ribeiro, who played one season for the Caps after being acquired from the Stars for Cody Eakin and a second-round pick, has six goals and 27 assists in 53 games for the Preds.

Statistically speaking: The Caps have outscored opponents 63-41 in third periods this season; the Preds have been outscored 55-53. The Caps lead the NHL with a power-play proficiency of 24.2 percent; the Preds are 12th at 19.5 percent. The Caps rank fifth in the NHL in penalty killing (84.1 percent); the Preds rank 23rd (78.7 percent).

Milestone watch: Nicklas Backstrom is one goal away from passing Kelly Miller (162) for 12th on the Caps’ all-time goals list. Evgeny Kuznetsov is one point shy of 100 NHL points, a milestone achieved by Karl Alzner on Sunday.

On the road again: The Caps are 18-5-2 on the road this season, ranking first in the NHL in wins (18) and road points (38). The Caps’ 18 road wins is tied for the most road victories through a team’s first 25 road games in NHL history. The Caps are 14-3-2 in their last 19 road games.

D stands for O: With goals from Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov on Sunday the Caps now rank tied for seventh in the NHL in points from defensemen with 108. Only Nashville (131), Calgary (119), Dallas (119), San Jose (114), Chicago (113) and Montreal (110) have more.

Yee-haw: Today is Andre Burakovsky’s 21st birthday. He is the youngest player on their current roster.

RELATED: Gretzky weighs in on whether Ovi can catch him

Here is tonight’s projected roster:

CAPITALS

Forward lines

Alexander Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich - Mike Richards - Michael Latta

Defense pairs

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Stanislav Galiev

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body), Jay Beagle (hand)

PREDATORS

Forward lines

Calle Jarnkrok - Ryan Johansen - James Neal

Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - Viktor Arvidsson

Colin Wilson - Mike Fisher - Craig Smith

Austin Watson - Paul Gaustad - Miikka Salomaki

Defense pairs

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Anthony Bitetto - Barret Jackman

Goaltenders

Pekka Rinne (starter) - Carter Hutton

Scratched: Cody BassPetter Granberg

Injured: Eric Nystrom (broken foot), Gabriel Bourque (upper body)

MORE CAPITALS: Is Johansson ready to return for Capitals?

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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.”