February 5 vs. Los Angeles Kings at Verizon Center
Time: 12:00 p.m.
Radio: 104.7 FM, 1500 AM and Capitals Radio 24/7
Los Angeles Kings 27-21-4
Washington Capitals 35-11-6
The Caps start a four-game homestand and finish off a weekend set of back-to-back games on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center when they take on the Los Angeles Kings in Washington's annual Super Bowl Sunday matinee.
Washington comes into Sunday's afternoon game in the wake of a 3-2 road win over the Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday. As they've now done 37 times in 52 games this season, the Capitals got on the board first in Saturday's game, getting a Jay Beagle goal before the game was even five minutes old.
Beagle's goal came on his first shift of the game, and the Capitals never trailed at any point of the contest. Montreal closed to within a goal of the Caps at 3-2 before the midway mark of the final frame, but Washington's penalty killing outfit and goalie Braden Holtby combined to keep the Habs at bay and to cement the Caps' second win in succession.
"We gave him a little bit of work [in the third]," says Caps coach Barry Trotz of Holtby, who earned his 26th win of the season and the 175th of his NHL career on Saturday against the Canadiens. "They really didn't have much going on at all the first two periods; I looked at the chances and they were very minimal. And then once they got the second goal, I thought they had a little push there and we had to scramble. We haven't had to do that for a while, so it was good practice for sure. And Braden is always the guy who can backstop us. Those are tough games. When you're not getting a lot of work, and then all of a sudden they have a little flurry, it's a little tough."
Philipp Grubauer is likely to get the start on Sunday against Los Angeles. Grubuaer is 9-3-2 on the season with a pair of shutouts, a 2.13 GAA and a .924 save pct.
Saturday's win followed a 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday in the Caps' most recent home game. That win was Washington's eighth in succession on home ice, and they'll be seeking to extend that streak to nine on Sunday against the Kings. The home winning streak is the Caps' longest since they won 12 straight at Verizon Center last season. Washington has outscored the opposition by a combined 40-12 and has authored three shutouts during the life of its eight-game home winning streak.
The Capitals are 22-4-3 over the last two months, and they're 12-1-1 at home over the same period of time. Both home ice losses and six of their seven losses overall in the last two months have come by the margin of a single goal.
As they make their lone visit to Verizon Center this season, the Kings are coming in hot on Sunday afternoon. Facing his former Flyers teammates in Philadelphia, Jeff Carter netted the only goal of the game in overtime on Saturday as Los Angeles earned a 1-0 win over the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
The victory was the fifth in a row for the Kings, matching the team's longest winning run of the season. Los Angeles reeled off five straight victories from Nov. 17-26, winning four of those five games on home ice.
The Kings' current streak is more impressive, as four of the victories have been achieved on the road, and three of them have come via the shutout route. During the life of its current five-game winning streak, Los Angeles has outscored the opposition by a combined total of 15-3.
Peter Budaj has been in net for all five of those Los Angeles victories. Relegated to the American Hockey League for the better part of the last two seasons after a few seasons as a starter in Colorado and a few more as Carey Price's understudy in Montreal, Budaj gained a new lease on NHL life way back in October when Kings goalie Jonathan Quick suffered a serious injury in the first game of the season.
Los Angeles was forced to summon Budaj from Ontario of the AHL, and he and Jeff Zatkoff have shared the Kings' netminding duties since. Budaj's shutout of the Flyers was his seventh this season, the most in the NHL. He entered this season with 11 career shutouts in 297 games, and with three whitewashes spread across 100 appearances over his last five seasons in the league.
The 34-year-old Czech goaltender, a 2001 draft choice of the Colorado Avalanche, Budaj led the AHL with 60 appearances, 42 wins, nine shutouts and a 1.75 GAA last season. In his first 10 NHL seasons, Budaj won more than 20 games just once, going 31-16-4 with Colorado in his sophomore season in the league in 2006-07. Budaj has already won 25 games this season, and his 1.96 GAA leads the league.
Carter's game-winner against the Flyers was his 27th goal of the season. Along with Tanner Pearson (15 goals) Carter is one of only two Kings players to achieve a double-digit goal total thus far this season. Los Angeles does have half a dozen other skaters with at least seven goals on the campaign to date.