SENATORS (21-19-9) at CAPITALS (22-19-8)
TV: RDS, TSN, CSN-DC
Last 10: Ottawa 6-2-2; Washington 2-5-3
Season series: This is the third and final game between the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals. The Senators won the previous two, 6-4 on Nov. 27 and 3-1 on Dec. 30. The Capitals went 0-2-1 in 2012-13 against Ottawa and haven’t beaten the Senators since Dec. 7, 2011.
Big story: The Capitals could be without Alex Ovechkin as they return to Verizon Center following a 0-3-0 road trip in which they were outscored 13-5. He's considered a game-time decision with a lower-body injury. The Senators, meanwhile, should be happy to get away from home for a while. They open a four-game road swing after losing both games in a modest two-game set at Canadian Tire Center.
Senators: Ottawa's recent 6-1-1 run was halted by two straight losses, including a 4-1 home defeat Saturday to the New York Rangers. The Senators are 3-1-1 in their past five games away from home and need to keep playing well on the road if they want to keep climbing up the standings in the Atlantic Division.
Coach Paul MacLean gave his players an off-ice day Sunday, letting the Senators spend the afternoon working out and attending to any required off-ice maintenance. Based on the team's casual practice schedule since the loss Saturday, it appears MacLean will not make any major changes to his lineup and is not too worried about his team's recent slide.
"Since the first of December we've been a pretty consistent team game in and game out," MacLean said after practice Sunday. "You have to look at the big picture and say 'We're looking to be in a good spot after 82 games, not 49 games.' We need to have a maintenance day to get everybody back up and running and get ready for our next game."
Capitals: Washington is scrambling to find answers having lost 11 of its past 14 games. A tough stretch reached a new low last week when the Captials fell behind 3-0 early in back-to-back road games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Rangers. Starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer was pulled in favor of Braden Holtby in both games.
"It's not the way I wanted it to go, but it's part of the job. A player gets benched, a goalie gets pulled," Grubauer said after getting pulled in New York. "It's my job to stop the puck, I didn't stop it today. I've got to work on that and move on."
Washington coach Adam Oates has been experimenting with numerous forward line combinations in an effort to improve a team that ranks 20th in 5-on-5 goals. Washington's 19th-ranked penalty kill has also been issue, mostly because of the nature of the Capitals' penalties.
"You talk about it and hopefully the guys control themselves and learn," Oates said Sunday. "Veteran guys play in this League for a long time for a reason. Lately it just seems to be happening at the wrong times for us."
Who's hot: Erik Karlsson has five points in his past three games for Ottawa. … Ovechkin has three goals in his past four games.
Injury report: Ottawa will be without forward Mark Stone (undisclosed) and defenseman Marc Methot (undisclosed). … Washington is missing defenseman Jack Hillen (tibia surgery) and could be without Ovechkin as well.
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