The Capitals (31-7-3, 65 points) begin the second half of their season tonight when they take on the Ottawa Senators (19-16-6, 44 points) at Verizon Center (6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
An-tic-i-pation: Alex Ovechkin is one goal away from becoming the fifth-fastest player to reach 500 goals. After his thrilling two-goal performance in New York on Saturday, he now has 499 goals in 800 NHL games.
Trotz said he thinks Ovechkin is feeling less pressure to score his 500th goal than he was to score his 484th, which moved him past Sergei Fedorov and into first place among Russian-born NHL Players.
“Just his demeanor,” Trotz said. “We all know he’s going to get 500.”
Ovi vs. Hamburglar: Ovechkin has never scored a goal against Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond, who expects him to bring an arsenal of shots tonight.
"When he scored 499 [Saturday], Hammond said to me, 'This guy is going to have 500 shots tomorrow night, he is going to shoot from everywhere,'" Senators forward Bobby Ryan told the Senators’ website.
"That guy seems to pass a milestone every week for the past little while here. It will be a special moment for him but let's just hope he can wait a few days. ... I don't hope he shoots from everywhere but you know he is going to."
Hammond is 3-3-2 this season with a 2.35 GAA and .927 SP.
Grubi Nights: Caps backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer (4-3-1, 2.39 GAA, .914 SP) will make his eighth start of the season and first since New Year’s eve when he stopped 33 shots in a 4-2 loss in Carolina, a game in which Barry Trotz said his team “wasted” a solid effort by their goalie. Grubauer lost his only other career appearance against the Senators.
Mojo out, Sill in: Caps forward Marcus Johansson will serve the second game of his two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey. However, Zach Sill will return from his two-game suspension for his hit from behind on Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid. Sill is expected to replace Paul Carey on the Caps’ fourth line, but Trotz said there are lots of forwards with “bumps and bruises” and there is a chance Carey stays in the lineup to replace one of those forwards.
Where they stand: The Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning are tied for the final wild card spot in the East with 46 points, one behind the Bruins. The Sens have lost four of their last five and seven of their last nine. The Caps have won three straight and are 12-1-1 in their last 14 to open up a 16-point lead over the Rangers and Islanders.
Injury update: Defenseman John Carlson will miss his seventh straight game with a lower body injury, while Brooks Orpik will sit out his 27th straight game, also with a lower body injury. Both players could hit the ice at Kettler on Tuesday following a day off on Monday, but Trotz was giving no assurances before Sunday’s game.
“We’ll see where they are on Tuesday,” Trotz said. “It’s up to them and the trainers. There’s no urgency. We’ll make sure they are 100 percent and then we’ll throw them back in the fold.”
Here’s a look at tonight’s projected lineups:
Scratched: Mike Richards, Paul Carey
Suspended: Marcus Johansson
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