ARLINGTON, Va. -- With the season almost halfway done, the Caps have established themselves as one of the teams to beat.
As of Saturday morning, Washington sits atop the Eastern Conference standings by an incredible eight points. That means the Caps should expect to face the best effort from every team they face every night and Barry Trotz is OK with that.
"You have to be consistent or you're going to get your butt handed to you," Trotz said. "It's plain and simple."
Saturday's game pits two teams going in opposite directions against one another. The Caps enter as the winners of six-straight while Montreal is desperately missing star netminder Carey Price and has lost their last five.
Trotz, however, was adamant that the Canadiens would be at their best despite the way both teams were trending and told the team to expect the same Montreal team that dominated them in Montreal on Dec. 3, a game in which the Caps only won thanks to Braden Holtby's heroics.
"We didn't have one of our better games," Trotz said. "We ended up winning, but we didn't feel like we won the game."
For a Caps team that hasn't made it past the second round of the playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, Trotz believes there is a real benefit to facing the best effort from every opponent.
"It's teaching us to be consistently on our game and be consistent in terms of our approach to every game," Trotz said. "Those are some of the benefits you get. It prepares you for the next level of hockey and that's hopefully the playoffs."
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Morning skate notes:
Another non-update update on Brooks Orpik: The only player not on the ice for Saturday's morning skate was Brooks Orpik who continues to deal with a lower-body injury. When asked about the defenseman's status, Trotz said, "He's getting better everyday. He's not going to get on the ice until he's 100 percent so there's no timetable. Until he's 100 percent you will not see him on the ice."
Carrick recalled again: With Orpik out, the Caps are again down to six defensemen, prompting the team to recall Connor Carrick from the AHL. Carrick was on the ice Saturday morning.
Lines at morning skate:
Ovechkin - Backstrom - Oshie
Johansson - Kuznetsov - Williams
Chimera - Beagle - Wilson
Laich - Latta - Burakovsky
Schmidt - Carlson
Alzner - Niskanen
Orlov - Chorney
Holtby - Grubauer
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