WASHINGTON - The Bruins are in the nation's capital for a Wednesday night showdown with the Washington Capitals, a matchup that pits the top two teams in the National Hockey League against each other. Washington sits atop the league standings with 49 points, while the Bruins are three points back with a game in hand.
"Tonight is another challenge where a team that's - we beat them once in here last year - but typically over the years they've had the better of us, so we better be ready to play," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Secondly, their record this year backs up how good they are. For us, we're trying to find our game. They lost the other night. They had a big winning streak. I don't know where they're at. I'm sure they'll be fine. We're more concerned about ourselves, but still, the opposition tonight should get our attention."
The Bruins, who have dropped three straight games, are hoping the intensity of a contest against the league's top team will help them elevate their urgency level, which has been lacking during their recent skid.
"They're obviously a very dominant team, especially against us over the last number of years," said Brad Marchand. "They've had our number, so it's definitely one that we tend to pay a little more attention to. It's always a hard building to play in - loud, obnoxious crowd, they gain a lot of energy off of that. It's a game that we have to be prepared for. It doesn't always go our way, but hopefully this one will."
The Capitals have won 15 of their last 16 games against the Bruins, including a 3-2 shootout victory on Nov. 16 at TD Garden, during which Washington tied the game with under a minute to play and the goalie pulled.
Here's everything else you need to know for Wednesday's matchup (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN and 98.5 The Sports Hub):
Like the Bruins, Washington is coming off of just its fifth regulation loss of the season on Monday night - a 5-2 setback to the Columbus Blue Jackets, which snapped the Caps' six-game winning streak.
Washington ranks third in the NHL in scoring (3.56 goals per game), just ahead of the fourth-ranked Bruins (3.45). Alexander Ovechkin paces the Capitals with 21 goals, good for second in the NHL behind David Pastrnak's 25.
Blue liner John Carlson leads Washington in scoring with an eye-popping 43 points (11 goals, 32 assists) in 32 games. Evgeny Kuznetsov (12-18-30), Jakub Vrana (15-12-27), T.J. Oshie (11-11-22), Tom Wilson (11-9-20), and Nicklas Backstrom (5-15-20) round out a potent offensive attack which has seven players at or above the 20-point plateau.
Bruins killer Braden Holtby is expected to get the start in goal for Washington. The netminder is 17-3-0 with a 1.81 goals against average and .944 save percentage in his career against Boston.
"He's one of the best goalies in the world, so he's never easy to play against," said Marchand. 'A goalie like that, the only thing you can do is try to get in front of him and try to put pucks there while there's bodies in front.
"It's not always easy because they're pretty good at blocking shots and getting bodies out of the front of the net. If he sees it, he's gonna stop it, so you've got to try to take his eyes away."
Video: Marchand talks Capitals ahead of tonight's game
Up for Debate
There could be a lineup change on the back end for the Bruins, as Cassidy contemplates how he'll deploy John Moore and Connor Clifton for the back-to-back with Washington and Tampa Bay. "We're gonna play Moore and Clifton one of each these two," said Cassidy. "We wanted to give Johnny a break on the back to back. We're still mulling over who will go in tonight and who will go tomorrow in that regard."
Video: Cassidy talks about lineup, challenges against WSH
Wednesday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Brett Ritchie
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
John Moore/Connor Clifton - Matt Grzelcyk
Scratches: David Backes, Par Lindholm, John Moore/Connor Clifton
Video: Bruins Take on Capitals