BOSTON - The Bruins' four-game, pre-Christmas homestand comes to an end on Monday night against the league-leading Washington Capitals at TD Garden in another matchup of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. And with eight losses in their last nine games, Boston would like nothing more than to go into the holiday break with a victory.
"It would obviously be huge," Jake DeBrusk said following Monday's pregame skate at Warrior Ice Arena. "We don't like how we've been going here, no one has…we understand it's against Washington as well - for us to come out on top, it's not gonna be easy. There's lots of things that have to go right.
"We understand that and if we can pull out the win, that would be good to go into the holidays feeling good about ourselves. That's kind of what we're looking to do."
That will be no easy task, however, given the Bruins' struggles against the Caps in recent years. Washington has won 16 of the last 17 meetings between the teams, including both matchups this season, the most recent being a 3-2 Caps victory on Dec. 11 in D.C.
"Definitely go over some video, we'll watch some more tonight," said David Krejci. "We had a good game [last time]. It wasn't too long ago, wasn't [even] two weeks ago. We felt like we played well but even that wasn't enough, so we've got to be even better than that."
Video: Locker Room Raw: Jake DeBrusk
Here's everything else you need to know ahead of the Bruins' tilt with the Caps (7 p.m. ET on NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub):
Moore Steps In
With Zdeno Chara sidelined by a jaw procedure, John Moore will step back into the lineup after missing the last two contests with an illness. The 29-year-old will slide right into Chara's spot alongside Charlie McAvoy on Boston's top pairing.
"I want to make sure I'm pulling my weight," said Moore. "I think the biggest thing is communication. That's the only thing we really stress among each other. Doesn't matter who's in or who's out, who's playing with who. Everyone is good and you've just got to make sure you're on the same page, talking on the ice, talking on the bench."
Moore has played in six of nine games since his return from offseason shoulder surgery on Dec. 5 and feels that his performance is slowly but surely evening out.
"It's tough without a training camp to jump right in," said Moore. "Success is rarely linear like that. There's gonna be speed bumps along the way, but I've stuck with it, tried to learn from everything, good and bad. I feel like I'm making progress. I've missed a lot of time with my shoulder but I feel like I'm only gonna get better the more I play."
Video: Locker Room Raw: John Moore
Wagner Sits Out
After rotating Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie into the lineup for Joakim Nordstrom and David Backes on Saturday night, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is making another tweak to his bottom six. Nordstrom will return to the lineup in favor of Chris Wagner against the Caps as Cassidy attempts to rekindle some of the magic Boston's fourth line put forth last season.
"It will be good to get secondary scoring from that line, but that's a bit of a bonus," said Cassidy. "They've chipped in, but at the end of the day, the trio of Nordstrom, [Sean] Kuraly, and Wagner, they haven't been at the level they were last year. Sometimes that expectation gets up there as well, so maybe we're judging them too harshly. Nordy missed some time in training camp, so I think he chased the game a little bit.
"I'd like that line to get back to where they were the second half of the year where we know exactly what we're getting every night and teams can't stand playing against them. That's our goal and maybe juggling them in and out for a while will help us achieve that."
Wagner, who has missed just one game this season, has seven points (three goals, four assists) in 36 contests - though just two (both goals) in his last 22.
"He was playing through an injury for a while and I think that affected his play," said Cassidy. "Now it's just a matter of we're healthy and we're gonna use different players and different lineups. Sometimes the message is you're a solid player, but there's other solid players around you, we need you to be better."
Video: Press Room: Bruce Cassidy
The Capitals remain the NHL's best team entering Monday's matchup, as they pace the league with 57 points and a 26-6-5 record in 37 games. Washington leads the league in scoring (3.54 goals per game) and is 10th on the power play (21.8%), while checking in at second on the penalty kill (85.7%) and eighth in goals against (2.76 per game).
"They're deep, they're skilled and they can really score at will with the players that they have over there," said McAvoy. "Defensively they're strong and they take care of the puck and their goaltender is good. They're a deep team and we respect them.
"Going into tonight, we realize it really starts in here. No matter who we're playing against, it's always about what's going on in here. We've just got to make sure we're doing the right things."
Defenseman John Carlson paces the Capitals in scoring with 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) in 37 games, while Alex Ovechkin leads the team in goals with 22. Jakub Vrana (15), T.J. Oshie (14), Evgeny Kuznetsov (12), and Tom Wilson (12) also check in with double-digit goal totals.
"Very deep team," said Moore. "They're getting offense from everybody throughout their lineup. Obviously high-end skill and a great power play, so it will be a really good test for our hockey team tonight. We're looking forward to it."
Washington goalie Braden Holtby is 17-4-4 this season with a 2.75 goals against average and .911 save percentage. He is 18-3-0 with four shutouts, a 1.82 GAA and .944 save percentage in 21 career games against Boston.
Video: Locker Room Raw: Charlie McAvoy
Monday's Projected Lineup
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk - David Krejci - Danton Heinen
Joakim Nordstrom - Charlie Coyle - Anders Bjork
Sean Kuraly - Par Lindholm - Brett Ritchie
John Moore - Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Connor Clifton
Video: Locker Room Raw: David Krejci