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Matt Niskanen day-to-day after brutal hit vs. Bruins; will not travel to Buffalo

Matt Niskanen day-to-day after brutal hit vs. Bruins; will not travel to Buffalo

Defenseman Matt Niskanen is day-to-day with an upper body injury, the Capitals announced on Thursday afternoon.

Niskanen will not travel to Buffalo for Friday’s game against the Sabres, the team added. It will mark the first game he's missed as a member of the Capitals, ending his streak at 189 consecutive games played, dating back to 2014. 

RELATED: CAPS DEFENSEMAN MATT NISKANEN TO BE REEVALUATED THURSDAY

Niskanen was injured in the first period of Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime over the Bruins when he was checked headfirst into the boards from behind by Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins center was assessed two minutes for boarding.

The Caps originally expected Niskanen to return, but he was eventually ruled out for the remainder of the game.

“He took a big hit,” Coach Barry Trotz said afterward. “He’s an important piece for us.”

It’s unclear how long Niskanen will be sidelined, though any amount of time he's out represents a blow to the Caps. The 30-year-old averages the second most ice time on the team and skates on both the penalty kill and power play.

After Wednesday’s game, Trotz said it was possible the team would recall a player from Hershey for the trip to Buffalo—just in case. No moves, however, had been announced as of early afternoon.

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Caps at Canadiens: Washington returns to action without Ovechkin

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Caps at Canadiens: Washington returns to action without Ovechkin

With the bye week and the NHL all-star break now over, it is back to business for the Capitals (33-11-5) who return to take on the Montreal Canadiens (22-21-7) on the road in Montreal. Tune in to NBC Sports Washington for all of the action. Pregame coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Caps FaceOff followed by Caps Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. which will take you up to the 7 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for postgame coverage with Caps Postgame Live, D.C. Sports Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here is what you need to know for Monday’s game.

In case you forgot

The Caps have not played since Jan. 18 so in case you need a refresher, Washington entered the bye week on a three-game winning streak. The final game before the break was an incredible come-from-behind win over the New York Islanders in which Washington erased a 4-1 deficit in the third period to win 6-4 in regulation. The team now returns from the bye still with the top record in the NHL with 71 points.

Washington currently boasts a one-point lead (with two games in hand) over the Boston Bruins for first in the conference and a four-point lead (with one game in hand) over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

No Ovechkin

For the first time this season, the Caps will be without Alex Ovechkin who is serving a one-game suspension for his decision not to attend the All-Star Game. That is about the only thing that can slow him down at this point as he scored eight goals in three games heading into the bye week.

Here is what the lines looked like without Ovechkin at the morning skate, per Samantha Pell:

Richard Panik - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Travis Boyd
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

Holtby in net

Braden Holtby, fresh off his appearance in the All-Star Game, will start in the first game back from the break. Heading into the bye week, Ilya Samsonov started two out of three games and came on in relief for Holtby in the only game in which he did not start. Holtby, however, remains the No. 1 for now as Todd Reirden continues to handle his rookie netminder with kid gloves.

Down the final stretch of the season, it is likely we see more of a split between the two netminders than we saw through the first 49 games (Holtby started 33 of those 49 games), but it remains unlikely Samsonov begins shouldering a bulk of the load barring any injury or a complete collapse by Holtby.

When last we met

Monday's game will be the second of three meetings against Montreal this season. These two teams last met on Nov. 15, a game in which the Canadiens won 5-2 to snap Washington's 13-game point streak. 

In a 0-0 game, Ovechkin smoked forward Jonathan Drouin with a huge hit that seemed to wake up Montreal which scored about two minutes later and would go on to score the first four goals of the game.

Here's a recap of that loss.

The power play is...still bad

The bye week was nice in that it gave everyone a break from having to think about how bad the power play has been. Now, however, it is back to reality.

Since Dec. 1, Washington's power play ranks 30th in the NHL at 14.1-percent. That is something the team needs to turn around quickly.

The Price is right

Carey Price is one of the best goalies in the world, but he has not looked like it all too often this season with a .908 save percentage. Having said that, he has been lights out in 2020 with a .935 save percentage since Jan. 1.

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Alex Ovechkin on the death of Kobe Bryant: 'I still can't believe it'

Alex Ovechkin on the death of Kobe Bryant: 'I still can't believe it'

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was at a loss for words Sunday afternoon when discussing the horrific passing of Lakers' legend Kobe Bryant.

"I was hoping that it was not true," Ovechkin said. "He always treated me well."

Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning outside Los Angeles, authorities confirmed on Sunday. He was 41 years old.



Ovi was visibly shaken while talking about his relationship with Bryant, disclosing that he had met him "three or four times", including in March of 2016 while in Los Angeles to play the Kings, when he and tennis star Novak Djokovic took a photo with Bryant.

Ovechkin was just one of many members of the Washington D.C. sports world that was taken aback by the news of Bryant's sudden passing.

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