CAPITALS (20-15-6) at WILD (21-17-5)
TV: CSN-DC, FS-N
Last 10: Washington 3-3-4; Minnesota 3–7-0
Season series: This is the second and final game of the season between the teams. Marcus Johansson scored with 3:08 remaining in regulation to force overtime and Nicklas Backstrom scored the only goal in the shootout as the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 at Verizon Center on Nov. 7.
Big story: The Capitals, sitting second in the Metropolitan Division with 46 points, start a crucial stretch through the end of January, playing 10 of their next 14 games on the road. The game Saturday marks Washington's first outside the Eastern Time Zone since a 4-1 loss at the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 10.
Capitals: Despite winning just three of their past 10 games, the Capitals have been efficient in defeat, earning at least a point in four losses over that stretch. Catching the Pittsburgh Penguins for the division title will be tough (the Pens have 59 points), but Washington's ability to grab at least a point in several recent defeats has kept the Capitals ahead of five other teams in their division with at least 40 points. Only six points separate the second-place Capitals from the seventh-place Columbus Blue Jackets and all six teams have played 41 games. Washington will play at Columbus twice later this month.
"We're not playing our best hockey, but we are finding a way to get some points in the mix," defenseman Steve Oleksy said Thursday following a 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. "Obviously, we have some games that we probably should have had two points, but you are still getting some valuable points."
Wild: Minnesota was happy to get any points Thursday as the Wild snapped a franchise-record six-game losing streak in regulation with a dominant 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. After losing four straight road games at the end of December, the Wild came home for a critical four-game stretch on home ice. It hasn't been pretty, but a win over the Capitals on Saturday would salvage a .500 homestand and mark Minnesota's first back-to-back wins in three weeks
"You can't express how good it feels to get that monkey off our back," Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner said Thursday following the win against Buffalo. "There were some tough games, some tough losses. … Those are deflating. This is something everyone can build off and hopefully everyone gets a little more confidence."
Who’s hot: Over his past 11 games Backstrom has 18 points for the Capitals, including a pair of four-assist games. His linemate, Alex Ovechkin, leads the NHL with 31 goals but it's Backstrom who leads the Capitals in points. His 35 assists are fourth-best in the League and his 45 points are fifth-best. … Jason Pominville scored the game-winning goal against the Sabres on Thursday and his 18 goals this season lead the Wild. Despite Minnesota's struggles since Thanksgiving, Pominville has maintained his stellar play, scoring five goals and assisting on seven others over the Wild's past 16 games. Pominville's five game-winning goals this season are fifth in the NHL.
Injury report: Forwards Michael Latta (lower body) and Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau) are out for the Capitals … Forward Zach Parise (lower body) and goaltender Josh Harding (illness) are out for Minnesota. Defenseman Jared Spurgeon (undisclosed) and forward Justin Fontaine (undisclosed) are questionable.
|Back to top|