Dec. 6 vs. Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center
Time: 10:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Washington Capitals 21-4-5
Anaheim Ducks 12-12-4
Washington concludes its weeklong four-game road trip on Friday night in Anaheim against the Ducks. Friday's game also finishes off the season's series between the Caps and Ducks; the Caps prevailed 4-2 on Nov. 18 in Washington in the first meeting between those two teams.
The Caps bring a five-game winning streak into Friday's game, and they are looking to run the table on the road trip, which began with a 5-2 win over the Red Wings in Detroit on Friday. Washington then swept a set of back-to-back games in San Jose on Tuesday and Los Angeles on Wednesday, and it took Thursday off to recover after grinding through two sets of back-to-backs in the last week.
With their 3-1 win over the Kings in Los Angeles on Wednesday, the Caps put themselves in a position to do two things they haven't done in more than two decades, sweep a four-game road trip and sweep a three-game season's series in the state of California. A win on Friday in Anaheim would achieve both of those rarities for Washington.
The last - and only - time in franchise history the Caps won all four games of a four-game road trip was from Feb. 9-16, 1993 when they won in Minnesota, St. Louis, Los Angeles and San Jose, respectively. That was a season before Anaheim's arrival as an expansion entrant on the NHL scene, and the only time Washington ever won all three road games against the trio of California clubs was in 1993-94, in Anaheim's maiden season in the circuit.
The Caps won in all three California cities in 1993-94, but not on same trip, a feat they could achieve for the first time ever in 2019-20. In October of 1993, the Caps went on a five-game Western trip that took them to Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, finishing with a set of back-to-backs in Anaheim and San Jose, respectively, and they won both of those last two contests. They went to LA at the end of a three-game trip that started in New York against the Rangers and stopped in St. Louis, beating the Kings 6-1 on Feb. 12, 1994.
With Wednesday's win in Los Angeles, the Caps also swept a second straight set of back-to-back games in less than a week.
"I think the first game, it's really important to play a simple game, and to not hem yourself into the [defensive] zone for a lot of minutes," says Caps right wing T.J. Oshie of sweeping back-to-backs. "Those [defensive] zone minutes get to be pretty hard, especially on our D-men. I thought we did a good job [Tuesday] night in San Jose of playing pretty direct, getting a lot of pucks deep, which a lot of our offense actually came from.
"Next night, same thing. Just play simple. They play a system we used to play over there - the 1-3-1 - and it can get frustrating. But I think the guys - especially the D-men - did a good job of getting the puck deep, and really just sticking with our game and finding ways to win, which we did."
The Caps have played five of their 12 sets of back-to-backs this season, and they are 3-1-1 on the front half and 4-1-0 on the backside.
"I think it's something that we don't hide from," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of his team's success in back-to-backs. "We talk about it, we address it, we talked about it [Tuesday]. When we're playing the game [Tuesday], that 'Hey, we've got a game the following day. Let's not make it more difficult on ourselves than we need to, especially when we get a lead.'
"And then in thought today our penalty kill does a good job, and we have a fresh goaltender go in there that was sharp. It was one missed play that he had which kept him from keeping a blank slate, but other than that I thought he had a real strong game.
Friday's game also finishes a stretch of six games in 10 nights for the Capitals, and they can run the table on that six-pack of contests with a win over the Ducks.
Washington has been without center Nicklas Backstrom since it last met the Ducks on Nov. 18 in DC. Backstrom is on the trip and has practiced, but has yet to play since the team's last meeting with Anaheim. The Caps are off on Thursday, and Backstrom remains questionable for Friday's trip finale.
"It's possible," says Reirden. "Every day we're re-evaluating things, and again I'm going to say it and come back to it until we put him out there, I'm not going to put him out there until he is 100 percent. We obviously had a pretty heated game against Anaheim last time, so we're expecting a battle in their building. We need to take [Thursday] and get some rest, and get prepared to try to finish this trip off properly."
Anaheim has been idle since Monday night when they defeated the Kings by a 4-2 count at Honda Center, for just their third win in their last 13 games (3-6-4) That triumph is one of only two victories for the Ducks in their last seven games (2-5-0); they also blanked the New York Islanders 3-0 here on Nov. 25, riding a 26-save performance from John Gibson in goal. Gibson missed the win over the Kings because of illness, but is likely to recover in time to take on the Caps on Friday.