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AAA Keys to the Game: Dads watching Capitals vs. Panthers

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AAA Keys to the Game: Dads watching Capitals vs. Panthers

The Capitals (19-5-2, 40 points) visit the Florida Panthers (13-11-4, 30 points) tonight at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. (CSN pregame 7 p.m.). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

What can Brown do for you: On each of his fathers’ trips coach Barry Trotz likes to give every player a chance to play in front of his father and tonight Chris Brown will make his season debut on a fourth line with center Michael Latta and left wing Brooks Laich. Brown injured his hand in a preseason game and missed the first month of the season. He had one goal in five games with the Caps last season. That will leave Andre Burakovsky and Stan Galiev as healthy scratches, along with defenseman Aaron Ness. All three could get into the lineup Saturday night in Tampa.

Grubi’s turn: Philipp Grubauer (2-1-1, 2.70 GAA, .900 save percentage) will make his first start in three weeks. Grubauer stopped 26 of 27 shots in the Caps’ last visit to Sunrise on Halloween night, a 2-1 overtime victory sealed by Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal in extra time. The Panthers will turn to Al Montoya, who will make his first start since Dec. 4. Montoya is 3-1-1 with a 2.09 GAA and .926 save percentage for the Panthers. His overtime loss came to Grubauer and the Capitals on Oct. 31.

Trending: The Metropolitan Division-leading Caps have gained at least a point in eight straight games (7-0-1) and can extend their one-point lead over the Rangers with a win tonight. The Caps have three games in hand on the Rangers. The Panthers followed a five-game win streak with consecutive 4-2 losses to the Devils and Senators. 

Nicky on 600: Caps center Nicklas Backsrom has two goals and five assists during a six-game point streak. He played I n his 600th NHL game on Tuesday.

“It’s nice,” he said. “It’s gone so fast though. When I thought about it yesterday it was like, ‘I’m at 600 already. It’s gone quick. I guess you have to enjoy every moment even more now so it doesn’t end that quick.” 

Fun in the sun: The Caps have earned a point in 14 consecutive games against the Panthers (12-0-2) and are 22-4-3 against the Panthers since the start of the 2009-10 season. The Caps have outscored the Panthers 105-65 in that span. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has recorded 69 points (32 goals, 37 assists) in 53 career games against Florida, marking the fourth-most points he has registered against an NHL franchise (Winnipeg: 85, Tampa Bay: 77, Carolina: 74). Backstrom has 43 points (9 goals, 34 assists) in 40 career games against the Panthers, marking the third-most points he has earned against an NHL team (Carolina: 49, Tampa Bay: 44). Brooks Laich has earned more points against Florida (30) than any other NHL franchise. 

Taming the Panthers: Trotz described the Panthers’ top line of left wing Jonathan Huberdeau, center Aleksander Barkov and right wing Jaromir Jagr as a “heavy, puck protection” line, and their second line of Brandon Pirri, Vincent Trocheck and Reilly Smith as “scooters who can wheel and deal.” Florida’s third and fourth line are anchored by “hard” centers Derek MacKenzie and Dave Bolland. 

Jagr has 90 points in 78 career games against the Capitals. In parts of three seasons in Washington (2001-04) he recorded 201 points in 190 games (83 goals, 118 assists).

Road warriors: The Caps are an impressive 8-2-1 on the road this season, while the Panthers are 6-6-2 at home. The Panthers are 11-3-2 when scoring first and 8-2-0 when leading after the first period. The Caps are 13-1-0 when scoring first and 6-4-2 when allowing the first goal.

Special teams: The Caps rank third in the NHL on the power play (25.3 percent) and sixth on the penalty kill (84.1). The Panthers rank 12th on the power play (19.4) and 18th on the kill (79.8).

Shootout prowess: The Caps are 3-for-6 in shootout attempt this season, with Alex Ovechkin (1-for-1), Evgeny Kuznetsov (1-for-2), T.J. Oshie (1-for-2) and Nicklas Backstrom (0-for-1). Braden Holtby (2-0) has stopped all six shots he’s faced in shootouts.

Do it for Dad: The Caps are conducting their eighth annual mentors’ trip. Since 2008, the Capitals have posted a 9-4-0 record with their mentors in attendance.
Atlantic dominance: The Caps are an incredible  22-1-3 in their last 26 games against Atlantic Division foes.

Here is a look at projected lineups: 

CAPITALS

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Tom Wilson - Jay Beagle

Brooks Laich - Michael Latta - Chris Brown

Defense pairs

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Philipp Grubauer (starter) - Braden Holtby

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)

Scratches: Andre BurakovskyStanislav GalievAaron Ness

PANTHERS

Forward lines

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Brandon Pirri - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith

Quinton Howden - Derek MacKenzie - Jussi Jokinen

Connor Brickley - Dave Bolland - Logan Shaw

Defense pairs

Willie Mitchell - Brian Campbell

Dmitry Kulikov - Erik Gudbranson

Steven Kampfer - Aaron Ekblad

Goaltenders 

Al Montoya (starter) - Roberto Luongo

Injured: Nick Bjugstad (upper body), Alex Petrovic (lower body)

Scratches: Shawn Thornton

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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. 

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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.”