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Caps seek breathing room—and a spot in the record book—with Columbus in town

Caps seek breathing room—and a spot in the record book—with Columbus in town

When the Blue Jackets visit Verizon Center on Thursday night, the Capitals will have the chance to accomplish a couple of things: they can open a little breathing room between themselves and Columbus and they can tie the franchise record for most home wins in a season.

“As I just said to the guys, games like tonight, if you’re a coach or a hockey player, that’s what you play for,” Coach Barry Trotz said after the morning skate, “to get games where there’s a lot of meaning. We’ve prepared all year for this, so let’s get at it.”

Entering Thursday’s games, the Caps had 102 points, the Penguins owned 101 and Jackets checked in with 100. So a win, obviously, would give the Caps a four-point edge on Sergei Bobrovsky and Co. with nine games remaining for both clubs.

Washington, Pittsburgh and Columbus are 1-2-3 in the league standings, as well.

“It’s not that much distance,” defenseman Brooks Orpik cracked, asked about possibly opening a four-point advantage on the Jackets, who lost to the Maple Leafs, 5-2, on Wednesday night.

Orpik added: “But, yeah, it’s a little bit of distance against them. We know they played last night and had a pretty physical game against Toronto. So hopefully that works to our advantage. Hopefully we’re smart and make them go 200-feet for their chances tonight.”

RELATED: SHATTENKIRK STILL WAITING TO NET HIS FIRST GOAL

The game marks the fourth of five meetings between Washington and Columbus this season. The Caps won the last meeting, a win-streak-snapping 5-0 decision on F Street back on Jan. 5. The Jackets, however, won the first two meetings—a 2-1 overtime triumph on Nov. 15 and a controversial 3-2 win five days later.

The teams close out their season series in Columbus on April 2.

“Anytime you’re that close in the standings and you’re in the same division, it’s a big game and you can kinda distance yourself,” winger Tom Wilson said. “But they’re a good team. They’re going to be coming hard and they’ve beat us twice this year already, so that’s in our minds.”

To get two points, though, the Caps are going to need to solve Bobrovsky, who leads the NHL in goals against average (2.04), save percentage (.931) and wins (39).

“I think he’s a top 2 or top 3 goalie in the league, in my opinion,” Alex Ovechkin said of the fellow Russian. “When he’s on his game, it’s very hard to score. He controls the game well. He likes the big moments. He likes the pressure.”

Goals won’t come easily. And neither will a ‘W’. But if the Caps earn one, they’ll also tie the franchise record for wins in a season with their 30th. None of the wins have come in the shootout. The last time they won 30 games without the benefit of a shootout victory? Way back in 1985-86. Washington also won 30 games at Verizon Center in 2009-10, but that mark included four wins in the shootout.    

MORE CAPITALS: SUDDENLY, HERSHEY'S BLUE LINE IS STACKED

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How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

How does Capitals' Evgeny Kuznetsov get ready for a Game 7? He watches TV

Everyone remembers Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-clinching overtime goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018. That goal now overshadows another series-clinching goal Kuznetsov had in 2015. In Game 7 against the New York Islanders, Kuznetsov scored what would prove to be the winning goal to break up a 1-1 tie. Clearly he knows how to get ready for a big game. His secret? Television.

Kuznetsov appeared on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Greatest Hits show on Monday to talk about his 2015 performance and the topic of the locker room came up. Both teams went into that game knowing their season was on the line and Kuznetsov was asked if the feeling was any different in the locker room before the game, a question he did not know exactly how to answer.

"I'm never in the locker room," Kuznetsov said. "I'm always by the TV watching TV shows."

Yes, when Kuznetsov arrives at the arena, he apparently likes to watch TV before the game and said he is not in the locker room until only about 30 minutes before warmups. He enjoys watching soccer, but also likes a good movie.

"It's usually soccer games," Kuznetsov said. "If it's not the soccer game, it's whatever the movie's going."

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He went on to say he was thankful for the team subscribing to whatever channel it was that he watches movies on.

If this seems odd to you, there is a method to the madness.

"Usually it's movie because that way I'm not thinking about hockey," Kuznetsov said. "I like to be loose before games."

Hey, if that's what he was doing before Game 7 in 2015 and before Game 6 in 2018, it's hard to argue against it.

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Capitals Greatest Hits: How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-winning goal

Capitals Greatest Hits: How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's series-winning goal

In need of Memorial Day plans? Look no further as NBC Sports Washington presents the fifth and final edition of Capitals Greatest Hits on Monday, May 25, at 7 p.m. 

For this holiday edition of Capitals Greatest Hits, NBC Sports Washington will reair Game 7 of the 2015 Eastern Conference First Round playoff series between the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders. 

As a special treat, Evgeny Kuznetsov, who delivered the series-winning goal for the Caps, will make a special appearance on the broadcast to talk about his Game 7 heroics from the win-or-go-home showdown.

What better way to cap off a holiday weekend than by reliving some Caps playoff glory with The Birdman himself?

How to Watch: Capitals’ Greatest Hits

Who: New York Islanders @ Washington Capitals — April 27, 2015

When: May 25 at 7 p.m.

Where: NBC Sports Washington (channel finder), stream on the NBC Sports MyTeams app

Guest: Washington Capitals star Evgeny Kuznetsov

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Broadcast Schedule

6:00 PM Capitals Greatest Hits Capitals vs Thrashers from March 21, 2008 (R)

7:00 PM Capitals Greatest Hits Capitals vs Islanders from April 27, 2015 (P)

8:00 PM 2018 Stanley Cup Championship Films: Washington Capitals (P)

10:00 PM #HockeyAtHome: The Great One & The Great Eight (R)

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