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Caps Host Flyers

Caps start run of three straight Metro games on Wednesday, facing their nearest pursuer

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

March 4 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Capital One Arena

Time: 7:00 p.m.

TV: NBCSN

Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN

 

Philadelphia Flyers 38-20-7

Washington Capitals 40-19-6

In the midst of a stretch of schedule in which they play five of six games on the road, the Caps come home to host the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night in their lone home game during that span. Wednesday's game is the regular season finale between Washington and Philly, and it starts a stretch of three games in four nights against Metro Division opponents.

The Caps come into Wednesday's game on the heels of a 4-3 road win over the Wild in Minnesota on Sunday. That victory gives Washington three wins in its last four games, and it now works to build on that success as it starts one last Metro-heavy stretch. The Caps have 17 games remaining in their 2019-20 regular season slate, and six of them are against Metro foes. Three of those six will be played between now and Saturday.

Washington seems to have turned a corner in terms of shaking off a case of mid-season doldrums, but this upcoming stretch of four games in six nights against formidable opponents should also tell us a lot in that regard. The Caps have tightened up their defensive game some, and even though they yielded 40 shots on goaltender Braden Holtby in Sunday's win in Minnesota, they held a hot Wild team to just one goal at 5-on-5, an area that pleased Caps coach Todd Reirden.

"There are still obviously areas to improve on," said Reirden after Sunday's win, "but the important thing for me is that in even-strength goals against, it's got to stay at that level for us to have a chance. We had blocked shots and I thought Holts was really solid tonight."

Holtby earned his third straight win and he will get the net on Wednesday against Philadelphia as well, going up against Brian Elliott. The game against the Flyers is also the front end of a set of back-to-back contests for the Capitals, and Ilya Samsonov will get the net on Thursday night when Washington opens a three-game road trip in New York against the Rangers.

Video: Reirden | March 3

Wednesday's game marks the Flyers' second trip to the District in less than a month; they blew the Caps out on a Saturday night here on Feb. 8, winning 7-2. When the puck dropped that night in D.C., the Caps led Philadelphia by a dozen points. That lead is down to three points as the two teams tangle for the last time in the regular season.

The Caps claimed a 2-1 shootout win over the Flyers in Philly in the first meeting between the two teams this season on Nov. 13, but they've lost the last two in regulation.

"I think the fact that we lost the last two against them is going to add enough [to Wednesday's game[," says Caps left wing Carl Hagelin. "It's a big game for us. It's time for us to string some wins together. We can't just play well one game and then play bad the game after. I think this is going to get our excitement level up. I think it's one of those games where you'll see a good Washington Capitals team."

The Caps weren't at their best the last time they faced the Flyers. Washington was in the midst of a 2-5-0 stretch, its worst seven-game run of the season. Now, they're catching the Flyers at their best. Philly has reeled off six straight victories, and the Flyers started a 9-2-0 spree with that win in D.C. last month.

"You know they're a team that's been hot, and you obviously want to break that winning streak they have," says Caps center Nicklas Backstrom of the Flyers. "It used to be good games against each other, a good rivalry. I'm sure it will be high intensity [Wednesday]."

Video: Caps 365 | March 3

Philly has outscored the opposition by a 27-13 total during the life of its winning streak, scoring four or more goals in all six games and allowing two or fewer in four of the six.

"They're playing really well as a five-man unit," says Reirden of the Flyers. "I think they're getting contributions from a bunch of different people through their lineup. You don't see guys that are at the 100-point number like you have in Edmonton or something like that.

"I think that they're well-coached, and systematically they're buying into what they've been doing there, and at home they've been obviously the best home team in the league. So this is a situation for us where we didn't like the last time we played them, and we need to respond with a stronger game and know that they're right there along with the rest of the Metro teams in a very tight division race."

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