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Game 44: Canucks at Capitals (1.14.16)

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks kick off their final Eastern road swing of the season tonight when they head into the U.S. capital to battle Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

Some critics may say the Canucks have had a hard time adopting an identity this season but one thing they have become known for is snapping impressive streaks. They did it to Montreal earlier in the season when they put an end to the Habs' franchise-record nine game win streak to begin a season. On Monday, they kiboshed the longest win streak by an NHL team this season when they defeated the Panthers 3-2 in overtime ending Florida's run of 12 straight victories. They'll look to bust another streak tonight when they take on the Capitals, who put a 10-game home win streak on the line as well as an overall four-game win streak. A win by Washington tonight would equal the longest home win streak in the league this season set by the Flames at 11.

The Canucks could get some good news on the injury front with Luca Sbisa potentially making his return to the line-up following a 16-game absence with a hand injury. Jannik Hansen, who has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury, is also inching closer to getting back in although he is not expected to play tonight. Ryan Miller, who has not started a game since December 20 after suffering an injury that night, is expected to get the call in goal for the Canucks and go head-to-head against one of the league's best this season in Braden Holtby. The most interesting line-up note, however, is that it appears the tonight's linemate for the Sedins will be Derek Dorsett based on yesterday's practice. The Capitals earned a 3-2 victory over the Canucks back on October 22 at Rogers Arena in a game that saw Alex Ovechkin notch the winner with less than five minutes left in regulation. Vancouver has been victorious in five of their last six visits to Washington.

Puck drop at 4 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet 360, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.

Regular Season Record

17-16-10 32-7-3

2015.16 Season Series

0-1-0 1-0-0

All-Time Series

40-39-11 41-39-10

Last 10 games

6-2-2 8-1-1

Last 10 head-to-head

7-3-0 3-7-0
 

Scouting Report

When the Capitals came through Vancouver back in late October, they looked like a team that was on the verge of something special. With half a season now in the books, they're clearly on a path towards greatness. The Caps are the frontrunners for the Presidents' Trophy and are the first team this season to reach the 30-wins mark doing so in their 40th game of the season. A year ago, they did not reach the 30-win mark until their 57th game of the campaign. The Capitals, since the arrival of Alex Ovechkin, have always been a team known for their offensive prowess and this season it's no different. Only the Dallas Stars have averaged more goals per game than Washington's 3.26. It's easy to point out Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom as being their biggest weapons, but they're not alone.

The Capitals have just one player – Backstrom – averaging a point-per-game pace at the moment but they have eight players already with 20-or-more points and seven players with 10-or-more goals. The Canucks, by comparison, have just three players with 20-or-more points and three players with 20-or-more points at the moment. What truly makes this year's Capitals team the real deal, however, is their defensive play. They average just 2.12 goals against per game – the lowest in the NHL. They have a top-five penalty kill, which goes nicely with their top-five power play. Goaltender Braden Holtby has the lowest GAA in the league (minimum 20 games played) at 1.93, and has the league's best save percentage (minimum 20 games played) at .932. Simply put, the Capitals are as good as it gets when it comes to elite teams in the NHL.

Keys to the Game

Miller time. As a team player, Ryan Miller had to be ecstatic about Jacob Markstrom's strong play during his absence. With that said he'll want to get back in there and prove tonight that he's still the number one guy and still is the best option on any given night.

Better score first. The Caps are a hard enough team to beat when you get an early jump on them. When you don't, they're near impossible to defeat. Washington is 24-1-0 when they open the scoring in a game. Let's just say that first goal will be a big one.

Don't rest on 500. Don't expect Alex Ovechkin to take it easy despite reaching a major milestone last game. The Caps captain rarely takes a night off and his team will count on him to be the offensive leader as he looks to extend his goal streak to four games.


Canucks Gameday Road Report, Presented by Toyota

By the Numbers

4

Game active point streak for Bo Horvat (4-2-6), one game shy of tying a career-high.

4

Straight games the Canucks have scored a power play goal (4-for-13 during that stretch).

6

Game active point streak for Washington's Nicklas Backstrom (3-6-9), leading all Capitals.

10

Home wins in a row for the Capitals entering play tonight, second longest in team history. Their franchise record is 13 set in 2010.

22

Starts in a row for Braden Holtby without a regulation loss (19-0-2, one no-decision). His last regulation loss was November 10.

25

Days since Ryan Miller last saw game action. His last start was December 20 against Florida.

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