March 4 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Radio: 104.7 FM and Capitals Radio 24/7
Philadelphia Flyers 30-26-7
Washington Capitals 43-13-7
The Capitals continue their three-game homestand on Saturday night when they host the Philadelphia Flyers in the middle match of the homestand, and the last of the four games this season between the two Metropolitan Division rivals.
Washington will also be seeking to extend its franchise record 14-game home winning streak on Saturday against the Flyers. Washington earned a 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday in the homestand opener, a victory that established the franchise standard. The Capitals' previous record for consecutive home wins was 13, set in 2009-10.
Video: Rinkside Update: Paul Carey 3/3/17
During the life of the current streak, the Capitals have outscored the opposition by a combined total of 65-20. Eight of the victories have come by a margin of three or more goals and half a dozen of them have been shutouts. The Caps have taken a shutout into the third period of exactly one-third (21 of 63) of their games this season, and they've finished off 11 of those whitewashes.
Jakub Vrana scored the game's only goal on a power play just ahead of the midpoint of the third period. Both of the 21-year-old winger's two career goals have come on the power play and both were game-winners, but Thursday's was his first in front of the home crowd.
"The best feeling about is obviously that we won, right?" says Vrana. "It was a very, very tight game the whole 60 minutes. It's kind of nice to score one goal and make the team win."
Vrana's goal is the 63rd scored by Washington forwards not among the team's top six this season, and that total is one more than the Caps had from that group of players over 82 games in 2015-16. A third- or fourth-line forward has scored the game's first goal 20 times this season for the Capitals; last season the bottom six accounted for the game's first goal just 13 times for Washington.
Recalled from AHL Hershey for the fourth time this season on Tuesday - his 21st birthday - Vrana is filling in on the right side of the Caps' third line while Andre Burakovsky recovers from a hand injury. In 14 games with the Caps this season, Vrana has a couple of goals and four points, and he has had excellent possession numbers while averaging 11:29 in ice time per game.
Video: Trotz talks #CapsFlyers after Friday's practice
"We're trying to put him in a role where he can be successful, and he's doing a real good job," says Caps coach Barry Trotz of Vrana. "He scored a game-winner [Thursday] night. He's getting an opportunity and he's trying to make the most of it, so he fits in really well with the group; I think he gets more comfortable every time he is up.
"He was a first-round pick for us, and I think he's a real good talent. Hopefully he'll have a long career for us. That's the idea."
The Capitals' confidence in Vrana's ability is one reason the team did not pursue a depth forward at the trade deadline. In 75 regular season games with Hershey, Vrana has totaled 30 goals and 65 points. He has added 10 goals and 20 points in 31 playoff games, and the Caps expect him to be a fixture in Washington starting next season.
How hard is it for Vrana to be patient?
"That's the hardest thing," he says. "You kind of don't know where you are. But my goal is to improve every day. Work hard every day, and improve every day. I don't want to look too much to the future, just try to take it take by-day, improve every day and do my best to stay here as long as I can and be a part of this team for as long as I can."
Vrana's timely tally on Thursday made a winner of Braden Holtby for the 33rd time this season, pushing Holtby's streak of decisions without a regulation loss to 20 (18-0-2). Holtby only had to make 15 saves in recording his league-leading eighth shutout of the season, as his teammates combined to block two dozen shots before they got to him.
Back in the lineup after a three-game absence because of a lower body injury, Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik led the Caps with six blocked shots against New Jersey. He also led Washington with five hits in that game, all while skating alongside newcomer Kevin Shattenkirk, who made his Verizon Center debut with the Caps against the Devils.
"It was good," says Orpik, of playing with Shattenkirk for the first time since the trade that brought him to D.C. earlier in the week. "I think we're all used to playing with different guys, so I don't think anything is set in stone here. You've got to be able to adjust on the fly when we have injuries. Obviously just bringing a new guy in, it takes a little bit of time to get used to tendencies and timing and stuff."
After getting Matt Niskanen back in the lineup on Tuesday against the Rangers, the Caps got a first look at their newly configured top six when Orpik returned Thursday's game against the Devils. Washington hopes to have another key piece back in its lineup on Saturday against the Flyers.
Right wing T.J. Oshie has missed the last four games because of an upper body injury, but he has been skating and practicing with the team since Monday of this week. We'll know for sure sometime on Saturday, but it's looking as though Oshie could be set to return. He skated with usual linemates Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom at Friday's practice.
Video: Oshie updates the media on his status after practice
"I was up with Nick and O in the practice," says Oshie, "I felt pretty good, so we'll see how we go here in the next 24 hours. I think it's looking pretty good right now."
Washington is 2-0-1 in its previous three meetings with the Flyers this season; the lone blemish came in the first meeting between the two teams on Dec. 21 when the Flyers eked out a 3-2 shootout win over the Capitals.
While some expected the Flyers to be active sellers at the trade deadline, they did not overtly pack it in. Philadelphia moved out impending unrestricted free agent defenseman Mark Streit, but it also brought in center Valtteri Filppula from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The 32-year-old Filppula is in the fourth season of a five-year pact he signed with the Lightning ahead of the 2013-14 season. He paid instant dividends for the Flyers in his debut, scoring Philly's lone goal of the game in its 2-1 shootout win over the Panthers on Thursday.
On Saturday in Washington, the Flyers start a critical four-game road trip. In the trip opener against the Caps, the Flyers have a chance to put together a three-game winning streak for the first time since their 10-game winning streak was halted in mid-December.
Although the Flyers signed former Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth to a two-year contract extension earlier in the week, they've gone with Steve Mason in net for each of the last two games. Despite sitting idle for 19 days before those two starts, Mason came in and stopped 72 of the 73 shots he faced in the games against Colorado and Florida.