Feb. 17 vs. Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center
Time: 9:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, FAN 106.7
Washington Capitals 32-19-7
Anaheim Ducks 22-27-9
The Caps head to southern California for the Presidents' Day holiday weekend, and there they'll play a set of back-to-back contests against the league's two Los Angeles-area teams. First up is a Sunday evening meeting with the Ducks in Anaheim.
Sunday's game is the third game of a six-game road trip for Washington. After starting off the trip with a dud of a game in a 3-0 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Tuesday, the Caps redeemed themselves on Thursday night in San Jose. Facing a Sharks team that entered with a six-game winning streak and an 18-4-4 record on home ice, the Caps turned in one of their best 60-minute performances of the season in a thorough 5-1 victory.
Video: Oshie scores twice to earn 500th career point in win
T.J. Oshie led the Caps' attack with a pair of goals and an assist against the Sharks, and Braden Holtby earned his 20th victory of the season with a 25-save effort in San Jose. Oshie reached the 500-point plateau for his NHL career, and Holtby became the first goaltender in Washington franchise history to string together seven straight seasons with 20 or more victories.
Washington fell down early but never wavered, rebounding for five unanswered goals and stifling San Jose's potent offensive attack. Now, the Caps seek to build on that performance as they try to string together some wins. Since putting together a 16-3-0 run from mid-November to late December, the Caps have had difficulty putting a string of wins together. They're just 8-9-4 since Dec. 31, but they are a more formidable 5-2-1 thus far in the month of February.
"I think there are some wins that mentally mean a little bit more than others," sais Oshie after Thursday's victory over the Sharks. "But I feel like you don't really know what those are until after the season is over and you look back and reflect and see when guys started jumping on board and everyone started pulling the rope."
Thursday's win over the Sharks was the Caps' fourth game in six nights, so they took Friday off and then conducted a midday practice on Saturday in Anaheim, in preparation for Sunday's contest against the Ducks.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | February 17
"Those two teams in particular are pretty good at home," says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen of the Ducks and the Kings. "So let's keep building and moving forward. We are trending in the right direction - minus the Columbus game - so we want to keep this going."
This weekend's set of back-to-back games is the second of three such sets for the Caps in the span of 14 nights. The trip-opening loss in Columbus on Tuesday finished a set of back-to-backs that started with Monday's 6-4 win over the Kings in Washington. The Caps will finish this trip in Buffalo on Feb. 23, and they'll host the New York Rangers at home the following afternoon.
Sunday's contest with the Ducks finishes the season's series between the two teams. When the Caps faced Anaheim in Washington on Dec. 2, they caught the Ducks at arguably the team's high water mark of the season. The Ducks waddled into the District with a three-game winning streak, their first since opening the season with three straight wins. Anaheim fell down 5-1 in the second period to the Capitals on that Sunday afternoon in Washington, but the Ducks rallied for five unanswered goals and stunned the Caps, handing them a 6-5 regulation setback.
Anaheim kept that roll going through mid-December, winning nine of 10. On the morning of Dec. 18, the Ducks were tied for second place in the Pacific Division standings, just three points behind front-running Calgary. But Anaheim has cratered since.
Video: Todd Reirden | February 16
The Ducks have won only three of their last 23 games (3-16-4), and last weekend they parted ways with head coach Randy Carlyle. A seven-game losing streak in which they were outscored by a combined 37-8 spelled the end of Carlyle's second separate tenure as the Ducks' head coach; he led Anaheim to its lone Stanley Cup championship in 2007.
General manager Bob Murray has assumed the coaching reins on an interim basis, and the team has at least tightened up defensively since he took over. The Ducks managed a 1-0 win over Vancouver in Murray's s debut on Wednesday in the homestand opener. Most recently, Anaheim was on the wrong side of a 3-0 shutout loss to Boston on Friday night.
Two dozen games remain for the Ducks in 2018-19, a team that has deployed 46 players - four goaltenders, 14 defensemen and 28 forwards - to accrue 53 points in 58 games.
Sunday's game finishes a three-game homestand for Anaheim. The Ducks then embark upon a four-game trip to Minnesota and Western Canada, concluding in Vancouver on Feb. 25, hours after the NHL's trade deadline. One or two players who depart with the Ducks on that trip might not make it back to Anaheim at journey's end.