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Caps Close Out Quick Trip in Colorado

The Capitals are in Denver on Thursday to take on the Avalanche in the second game of a two-game road trip against Western opponents

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / WashingtonCaps.com

Nov. 16 vs. Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center 

Time: 9:00 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Washington 

Radio: 106.7 The Fan, Capitals Radio 24/7

Washington Capitals 10-8-1

Colorado Avalanche 8-7-1

The Caps conclude a two-game road trip against Western Conference foes on Thursday night in Denver when they take on the Colorado Avalanche. Washington's trip got off to a rugged start on Tuesday night in Nashville as the Caps absorbed a 6-3 setback at the hands of the Predators. 

The win was Nashville's fifth in succession, and it thwarted the Caps' bid at a third straight victory.

Washington got off to an extremely sluggish start in Tuesday's game. By the time the Caps finally registered their first shot on goal with 2:11 remaining in the first period, they were already down 2-0 on the scoreboard, and Nashville had already amassed 16 shots on net of its own. 
Video: Barry Trotz | November 15
"You don't really worry about it for the first four or five minutes," says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen of the disparity between the two teams in the first period of Tuesday's game, specifically in terms of shots on net. "We had chances to shoot the puck that [the Preds] got sticks on, or were blocked or we missed the net. It's not like we didn't have any opportunities, but none on net. We did not play well in the first period." 

Tuesday's game put a halt to a rather excellent stretch of hockey for the Capitals. Going into the game against the Predators, Washington had won six of its previous eight games, and it had permitted a total of a dozen goals at five-on-five during that stretch. Five of the six Nashville goals on Tuesday were scored at even strength.

Nashville's victory also ended Braden Holtby's six-game winning streak. The Caps goaltender was reached for six goals - four of them in the second period - on 25 shots in 40 minutes of work. Philipp Grubauer came on in relief of Holtby in the third period. 

"I think we were just a bit behind," says Holtby. "We just didn't have enough jam tonight. [The Predators] did a good job of getting bodies in front, getting sticks on puck, winning those battles, and executing them. They earned their goals, but we have to look at this game - myself especially - and make sure it never happens again."

The six goals against matched a single-game career high for Holtby, who was excellent in the first period despite giving up a pair of goals, both of which came on deflections. He stopped 16 of 18 shots to keep the Caps in it and give them a chance to rebound, which they did early in the second. 
Video: Caps 365 | November 15
Washington struck twice in less than two minutes early in the second period, tying the game at 2-2. But Nashville regained the lead just 17 seconds later, and the Preds held the advantage for the rest of the night. 

"We got it to 2-2, we got all the momentum, and we were all over [the Predators] after having such a bad first," says Caps coach Barry Trotz, "Then we give up a quick goal. That one hurt. We stayed with it, but we needed a save from Holts and we didn't get it.

"Looking back, after the fifth one, I probably should have yanked [Holtby]. He's been so good for us for so long, I went with the long hook and I let him get through the [second] period." 

Holtby's six-game winning streak came to an end on Tuesday, and his teammates were remorseful that they were unable to bail him out after the many times he has done so for them.

"It would have been nice to help Holts out," says Caps forward Chandler Stephenson. "He always stands on his head every night and wins games for us. It would have been nice to get one for him there." 

While Washington got Niskanen back in its lineup on Tuesday night in Nashville, it also lost rookie defenseman Christian Djoos to an upper body injury. Djoos left the game after the second period. On Wednesday, Trotz said that Djoos won't play on Thursday in Denver, and there is not timetable for his return as of yet. Taylor Chorney has played in 14 of the Caps' first 19 games this season - after appearing in just 17 of 82 contests in 2016-17 - and he will likely draw back into the Washington lineup on Thursday against the Avs.
Video: Taylor Chorney | November 15
The Capitals haven't dropped consecutive contests since Oct. 21-26. Washington will now look to rebound in the trip finale on Thursday in Denver. The Caps have won six straight games against the Avalanche, and they've won three straight over the Avs in Denver. It's Washington's longest road winning streak over that franchise since it moved from Quebec to Colorado more than two decades ago.

The Avs spent last week in Sweden where they played a pair of games on back-to-back days against the Ottawa Senators. The two tilts came days after the two teams - along with the Nashville Predators - swung a massive three-team deal. Colorado came out on the short end of 4-3 scores in both of those contests, but it picked up a point in the first of those two games, losing in overtime. 

Colorado gave up disgruntled forward Matt Duchene in the deal, and the Avs got a handful of mostly future assets in return from both teams. All tolled, the Avalanche received an extremely healthy return for Duchene, getting four players and three draft choices. 

From the Senators, Colorado received veteran goaltender Andrew Hammond and center Shane Bowers, who was Ottawa's first-round draft choice (28th overall) in last summer's 2017 NHL Draft. The Avs also get a first-round pick and a third-round pick from the Senators.

Nashville shipped defenseman Samuel Girard and forward Vladislav Kamenev to the Avs, and Colorado will also receive a second-round pick from the Predators. Girard was Nashville's second-round choice (47th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft and Kamenev was a second-round choice (42nd overall) for the Preds in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft.

Girard had been on the Preds' active roster, and he remains on Colorado's roster. The 19-year-old blueliner's entry level contract will kick in if he plays in as many as 10 games, and he has played in seven contests (with a goal and four points) thus far this season.

Kamenev has three goals and a dozen points in just 14 AHL games this season, and the 21-year-old Russian has already had a couple of strong seasons at that level. He projects as a top six forward, and he was recalled from AHL San Antonio and is likely to be in the Colorado lineup for Thursday's game against the Capitals.

During his time in the Nashville organization, Kamenev got into a pair of NHL contests, picking up a pair of assists.

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