November 24 vs. Montreal Canadiens at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Montreal Canadiens (5-13-2)
Washington Capitals (11-3-5)
After a week on the West Coast and a richly deserved day off on Tuesday, the Caps are back home and back in action on Wednesday. They'll host the Montreal Canadiens in their traditional Thanksgiving Eve home game at Capital One Arena.
Washington went 2-1-1 on a weeklong trip along the West Coast and it is 6-1-1 in its last eight games. The Caps fell 5-2 to the Kraken in Seattle on Sunday in the trip finale, the first time this season they've lost by more than a goal.
Minutes before the Caps went wheels up on Monday morning to head home for the holiday week, the plane's captain announced to the traveling crew that Washington goaltender Ilya Samsonov was named the NHL's second star of the week for the week ending Nov. 21. Samsonov became the first Caps goaltender in more than 33 years to put together consecutive road shutouts during the regular season, blanking the Kings on Wednesday and the Sharks on Saturday.
Samsonov stopped all 56 shots he faced and now owns a shutout streak of 151:27 dating back to a Nov. 12 outing against the Blue Jackets in Columbus. On the season, Samsonov is now 6-0-1 with three shutouts, a 2.11 GAA and a .924 save percentage. He has pitched three shutouts in his last four starts and has six whitewashes in 46 career starts.
Including Zach Fucale's blanking of the Red Wings in Detroit on Nov. 11, the Caps have four shutouts inside of the first 20 games of the season for the first time in franchise history. They've also reached game number 20 of the regular season - Wednesday's game against the Habs - without suffering more than three regulation losses for the third time in franchise history (2009-10 and 2019-20).
What the Capitals don't have is full health, but we won't have newly updated information on the injured until Wednesday's morning skate. Just before that setback in Seattle, the Caps announced they would be without wingers T.J. Oshie (lower body) and Conor Sheary (upper body) and that both are day-to-day.
Since the start of the season, the Caps have been without center Nicklas Backstrom (hip). They've accumulated a number of injuries to other key regulars along the way and are down to just five forwards who have played in all 19 games this season: the top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson and wingers Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway.
Last season, three rookie skaters combined to play a total of just four man-games for the Capitals. Nearly a quarter of the way through the current campaign, they've gotten a total of 69 man-games from seven different rookie skaters who have combined for eight goals and 18 points. Five of the seven Washington rookies have scored their first goal of the season in these first 19 games, the first time the Caps have had as many as five players score their first goals of the season.
The Caps have been blessed with remarkable overall team health for the better part of the last half decade, and this is the first time in several seasons they've had to deal with such a spate of simultaneous ailments. The players Washington has had to summon from AHL Hershey this season have performed well, and they've been a big part of the Caps' recent run of success.
"I just think we've all bought into the system," says Caps defenseman John Carlson. "And when that happens it's a lot easier to move pieces around and expect people to be in certain positions at certain times, and then you just rely on each other. No one is taking the burden on themselves; it's spread across the whole team. And the young guys have done a great job of stepping up and being pieces to that puzzle."
On Tuesday, the Caps returned left wing Axel Jonsson-Fjallby to AHL Hershey. Jonsson-Fjallby skated in each of Washington's last eight games, picking up an assist while averaging 11:54 in nightly ice time.
Wednesday's game starts a home heavy stretch for the Caps, who will play six of their next eight games in the District, where they are 5-1-3 on the season. After playing seven games in seven cities in 11 days and playing three sets of back-to-backs during that span, the Caps have to face just one set of back-to-backs in a span of 46 days.
Montreal makes its way to town for the only time this season. The Habs have also been hobbled and hampered by injuries in the early going, all while dealing with the hangover of advancing to the Stanley Cup Final late last spring.
The Canadiens have been without goaltender Carey Price, defensemen Shea Weber and Joel Edmundson and winger Paul Byron since the start of the season, and they've also been without goaltender Jake Allen and forwards Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette and ex-Cap Mathieu Perreault more recently.
Idle since Saturday when they forged a 6-3 victory over Nashville in Montreal, the Canadiens are opening a three-game trip here on Wednesday. They're 1-7-1 on the road this season, with that lone victory coming in Allen's 4-0 shutout over the Sharks in San Jose on Oct. 28.