The Capitals (44-11-4, 92 points) face the Minnesota Wild (27-24-10, 64 points) tonight at Verizon Center (7 p.m.). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:
No Carlson: Caps defenseman John Carlson is sitting out the game with a lower body injury. Carlson missed 12 games from Dec. 28 through Jan. 19 with a lower body injury. He took part in every drill during Friday’s morning skate and gave no indication he was hurting until he missed pregame warmups.
With Carlson out, the Caps are going with Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney on their second unit and Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt on their third.
Keumper for Minny: The Caps will get their first look at Wild backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who enters the game with 6-3-5 record with a 2.26 GAA and .920 save percentage. Braden Holtby gets the call for the Caps. Holtby is 9-0-0 following losses this season.
"We're just focused game in and game out," Holtby said. "We're focused on getting better. You look at it as you want to bounce back from a loss but at the same time you try to win every game and keep that focus that way."
Where they stand: The Caps are coming off Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens and are shooting for becoming the first NHL team since the 1976-77 Canadiens to go an entire season without back-to-back regulation losses.
Last we met: The Caps beat the Wild 4-3 in Minnesota back on Feb. 11. Two days later the Wild fired coach Mike Yeo and replaced him with John Torchetti. The Wild lost their first game under Torchetti then ran off four straight wins before losing two in a row. They are coming off a 3-2 loss in Philadelphia Thursday night in which Michal Neuvirth earned the Flyers two point with a diving stick save on Charlie Coyle in the final seconds of regulation.
Here are starting lineups:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Marcus Johansson – Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich – Mike Richards - Stan Galiev
Injured: Jay Beagle (hand), Michael Latta (flu)
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt – Dmitry Orlov
Brooks Orpik – Taylor Chorney
Braden Holtby (starter) – Philipp Grubauer
Jordan Schroeder - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle
Chris Porter - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek
Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville
Ryan Carter - Jarret Stoll - Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba
Mike Reilly - Christian Folin
Darcy Kuemper (starter) – Niklas Backstrom
Injured: Zach Parise (upper body), Jason Zucker (concussion), Jonas Brodin (foot)
Scratched: Nate Prosser, Devan Dubnyk