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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Senators

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AAA Keys to the Game: Capitals vs. Senators

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.”

RELATED: Watch TONIGHT: Alex Ovechkin History in the Making - 10 p.m.

Here’s a look at tonight’s projected lineups:

CAPITALS

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Michael Latta - Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich – Zach Sill - Stanislav Galiev

Defense pairs

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov - Nate Schmidt

Aaron Ness - Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Philipp Grubauer (starter) - Braden Holtby

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body), John Carlson (lower body), Jay Beagle (upper body)

Scratched: Mike Richards, Paul Carey

Suspended: Marcus Johansson

SENATORS

Forward lines

Bobby Ryan – Kyle Turris – Mark Stone

Mike Hoffman – Mika Zibanejad – Milan Michalek

Max McCormick – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Curtis Lazar

Shane Prince – Zack Smith – Chris Neil

Defense pairs

Fredrik Claesson – Erik Karlsson

Marc Methot – Cody Ceci

Patrick Wiercioch – Mark Borowiecki

Goaltenders

Andrew Hammond (starter) - Craig Anderson

Scratched: Alex ChiassonJared CowenChris Wideman

Injured: Chris Phillips (back), Clarke MacArthur (concussion)

MORE CAPITALS: Why the Capitals are the toast of the NHL

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”

MORE CAPITALS COVERAGE:

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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

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Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!

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