LOS ANGELES -- The Capitals sent leading scorer Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman Mike Green back to Washington on Monday morning in a surprise move, given that at least Backstrom was considered closer to returning from a head injury.
Washington coach Dale Hunter didn't offer much explanation after the morning skate. He indicated that neither has suffered a setback.
"Right now there's no sense having them on an all-night flight and you get them home early and get a workout in tomorrow," Hunter said. "They're basically day-to-day. We're being cautious."
Backstrom was elbowed by Rene Bourque last Tuesday. He missed Thursday's game, but resumed practice and was thought to become available. In a reversal, he did not skate over the weekend.
Green left Saturday's game with tightness in his groin and did not skate Sunday. It was only his second game back from a strained groin muscle that forced him out of 23 games.
Hunter said they would decide Monday night on the flight home if Backstrom and Green will skate Tuesday. Asked if he would hold out Backstom against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Hunter said, "It's too early to tell right now. Basically with something like this, basically it's day-to-day."
Key matchup: Washington's seventh-ranked power play will go up against a Los Angeles Kings' No. 2-ranked penalty-killing unit that has killed 34 straight penalties.
L.A. is also known for low-scoring, tight affairs. Three of its past five games have been decided by 1-0 scores.
"We don't anticipate a 6-5 game," Brooks Laich said. "You look at the scores of the games that they're in, they're pretty tight. There's not going to be a lot of room out there. If we can keep it close, and (get) a power-play goal … we also have talent that can score goals and change a game. If we're in a close game we'll feel pretty comfortable with it."
Bernier to start: Jonathan Bernier is expected to get a rare start in goal, according to lakingsinsider.com. That's a curveball considering that Jonathan Quick is one of the hottest goalies in the NHL with a 6-1-3 record, 1.18 goals-against average and .955 save percentage over his last 10 games.
How much film of Bernier has Washington seen?
"Not a whole lot," Laich said. "I think they've got two very good goaltenders. We obviously don't see him very much. We'll pre-scout him a little bit tonight, we always do. So we'll see a little bit more of him (on tape) tonight."
Kings shuffle lines: Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter will likely mix up his lines again after the Kings were shut out for the fifth time this season, a 1-0 loss to Columbus last Saturday.
Mike Richards goes back to his second line center position while Justin Williams has been bumped up to first line right wing in an attempt to spark center Anze Kopitar.
Jarret Stoll goes from his usual center spot to right wing on the third line.