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03/16/2014
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Capitals host Maple Leafs before West Coast trip

Saturday, 03.15.2014 / 7:06 PM

MAPLE LEAFS (36-24-8) at CAPITALS (31-27-10)

TV: SNET-O, CSN-DC

Last 10: Toronto 6-2-2; Washington 5-4-1

Season series: The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Washington Capitals 2-1 in a shootout on Nov. 23 at Air Canada Centre; the Capitals won 3-2 on Jan. 10 at Verizon Center.

Big story: Following a successful road trip through California, the Maple Leafs return east with possession of second place in the Atlantic Division. The Capitals remain on the outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will head to California to face the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks next week.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Toronto went 2-1-0 against the Ducks, Sharks and Kings last week, an impressive feat considering that three of the other 14 teams that traveled to face the NHL's California-based teams in succession this season have earned at least four points.

"What we brought back from the West Coast is a belief that we can play with the top teams in the League," forward Joffrey Lupul said Saturday.

James Reimer, who stepped in against L.A. and stopped all 31 shots he faced after Jonathan Bernier left with a lower-body injury, is expected to start in goal. Bernier may need an MRI.

Capitals: Washington faces an uphill climb as it attempts to secure its seventh straight postseason appearance. This is the Capitals' last home game until March 25, and eight of Washington's final 14 games are against teams that began the weekend among the top 10 in the overall standings.

After defeating the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 Friday, coach Adam Oates was not particularly pleased.

"We had a 3-1 lead," Oates said. "They tie it up, [Capitals goaltender Jaroslav Halak] made a couple big saves and then we got it done. We figured out a way to get it done. It wasn't a great night. Some great moments in that game, but it wasn't a great hockey game for us. But we figured out a way to get it done, which was good.”

Who's hot: Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner has three goals in his past four games. … Capitals rookie forward Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up his first three NHL points, all assists, Friday.

Injury report: Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (flu-like symptoms) did not practice Saturday, but coach Randy Carlyle said he's probable for Sunday. Bernier (lower body) did not practice and will not play Sunday. … Capitals forward Brooks Laich (groin) is a game-time decision; he has missed two of the past five games.

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