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With playoff position secure, Caps call up a couple from Hershey for finale

With playoff position secure, Caps call up a couple from Hershey for finale

The Capitals have recalled forwards Garrett Mitchell and Chandler Stephenson ahead of Sunday’s regular season finale against the Panthers.

The moves could mean that Coach Barry Trotz intends to rest a couple of players in a game that means nothing in the standings.

The Capitals, already locked into the top seed, are waiting to learn whom they’ll face in the first round. The Panthers, meanwhile, have been eliminated from postseason contention.

It’s unclear whom Trotz would consider sitting out or if anyone suffered an injury in Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Bruins.

At this time of the year, though, there’s no shortage of players who are nursing an ailment and could benefit from a breather.

The Caps are off Monday, will return to practice Tuesday and are expected to open the playoffs at home against either Boston or Toronto on Thursday.

RELATED: UPDATED NHL PLAYOFF PICTURE

Assuming Mitchell, the Bears’ captain, suits up against the Panthers, it’ll be his NHL debut. The 25-year-old was drafted in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. He’s played 352 games in Hershey without an NHL recall.

Stephenson, on the other hand, has been up with the Capitals a few times already this season. He has no points in three games.

The status of defenseman John Carlson and forward Brett Connolly also remains unclear. Carlson (lower body injury) has missed three games but is a possibility for the Florida game, Trotz said Saturday. Connolly (ill) also missed the Boston game.   

In addition to the lineup intrigue, there’s something else for Caps fans to keep their eyes on this evening: the Columbus at Toronto game.

The Caps, in fact, will know their first-round opponent before they’re done playing, since the Jackets-Leafs game starts an hour earlier.

If the Leafs earn a point against the Jackets, the Caps get the Bruins. If the Leafs lose in regulation, the Leafs will open in Washington.

The Caps have done well against both teams this year and in recent seasons.

RELATED: ARE THESE THE 10 BEST CAPITALS PLAYERS OF ALL TIME?

Alex Ovechkin and Co. have won nine straight games against the Bruins, including all three meetings this season after Saturday’s triumph in Boston. Meantime, the Caps have won two of three meetings with the Leafs this season and seven of the last eight games overall, including a dominant 4-1 victory in Toronto last week.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Marcus Johansson told CSN after Saturday’s game. “I don’t think it matters for us who will we play. We’re all ready for anything. You’re going to have to go through all the best teams in the league to win. We’re all just ready and the excitement is building up.”

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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