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Caps look to outshoot surging Stars


Caps look to outshoot surging Stars

After a strong effort in Detroit Wednesday night the Caps (12-4-1, 25 points) are back at Verizon Center tonight (6:30 pregame, CSN) to take on the red-hot Dallas Stars (15-4-0, 30 points). Here are our AAA Keys to the Game:

Grubauer between the pipes: After playing in a warm Joe Louis Arena that goaltender Braden Holtby described as a sauna, backup Philipp Grubauer (2-0-1, 2.59 GAA, .899) will get the call for the Caps, who are looking to build on a 6-2-1 home record.
“Grubauer’s undefeated, so it’ll work,” Trotz said two hours before puck drop. “They’re both big parts to the team. There’s no need (for Holtby) to go back-to-back when we’re playing every other night.”
This will be Grubauer’s first career game against the Stars. He’s expected to face Kari Lehtonen (8-1-0, 2.38, .921). Lehtonen has a career mark of 15-6-2 against the Caps with a 2.58 GAA and .923 SP.

No Orpik: Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik will miss his fourth straight game with a lower body injury. Trotz has repeatedly said Orpik is “close” to returning to the lineup. His next chance will be Saturday night when the Colorado Avalanche visit the Phone Booth.
Without Orpik, Nate Schmidt will remain on a top pairing with John Carlson, while Taylor Chorney will continue playing on a third defense pairing with Dmitry Orlov.

Late night: The Capitals did not arrive back in D.C. until the early morning hours of Thursday, while the Stars were already tucked into their hotel rooms, having last played Tuesday night in Buffalo, a 3-1 win.
Trotz said the late night, along with the warm building in Detroit, will make tonight’s game a greater test for his players.
“I thought Scotty (Bowman) was still in the building heating up the (locker) rooms,” Trotz said. “Guys need to make sure they get the fluids back in them. Back-to-backs are a test but it’s not an excuse.
“We’ve just got to come out and play and be mentally strong against a team that’s very strong offensively and playing well defensively. They’ve got two strong goaltenders (Antti Niemi and Lehtonen), the No. 1 power play (actually second at 29.3 percent) and they’ve got (Jamie) Benn (12-14-26) and (Tyler) Seguin, (10-17-27) who are just dynamic. They’re probably the best 1-2 punch in the league right now in terms of production.”

Run and gun hockey?: The Stars are the NHL’s top-scoring team, averaging 3.58 goals per game. The Caps rank fifth, averaging 3.00 goals per game.
But both teams have done a good job of keeping the puck out of their net. The Caps rank fifth in the NHL in goal allowed per game (2.24), while the Stars rank 14th (2.53).
“They play a fast game,” said Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen, who was a first-round draft pick (28th overall) of the Stars in 2005 and played his first four NHL seasons in Dallas. “If you turn the puck over they’ll kill you.”
While Niskanen faces the team that drafted him, Stars center Cody Eakin is facing the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2009 NHL draft (85th overall). Eakin was dealt from the Caps to the Stars along with a second-round draft pick for Mike Ribeiro in 2012. In 19 games this season he has five goals and two assists.
Historically speaking: The Stars have won seven straight games against the Capitals and are 4-0-0 in their last four visits to Verizon Center, where they are 8-2-1 in their last 11 visits.

Tonight’s game will feature two of the winningest coaches in NHL history. Stars coach Lindy Ruff is eighth on the all-time wins list with 667, five behind Mike Keenan, while Trotz ranks 12th at 614, three behind Jacques Lemaire.

Here are tonight’s projected lineups:

Forward lines
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov - Andre Burakovsky
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Justin Williams
Brooks Laich- Michael Latta - Tom Wilson

Defense pairs
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Philipp Grubauer (starter) - Braden Holtby
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)
Scratches: Stanislav Galiev

Forward lines
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Valeri Nichushkin
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Patrick Eaves
Colton Sceviour - Vernon Fiddler - Ales Hemsky

Defense pairs
Alex Goligoski - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen (starter) - Antti Niemi
Injured: None
Scratches: Jamie Oleksiak, Travis Moen

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson


GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”


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Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick


Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.

With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.

Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.

The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.

Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."