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Caps Host Philly on Thanksgiving Eve

Two banged up divisional rivals seek to shake off skids on Wednesday night in the District

by Mike Vogel @vogscaps / washingtoncaps.com

November 23 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Capital One Arena

Time: 7:30 p.m.

TV: TNT

Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 The Fan

 

Philadelphia Flyers (7-8-4)

Washington Capitals (7-10-3)

Two Metro Division rivals in the midst of tailspins will tangle on Wednesday night in Washington's annual Thanksgiving Eve game at Capital One Arena. The Philadelphia Flyers are in town to provide the opposition in the middle match of the Capitals' three-game homestand.

The Caps are looking to shake off a four-game losing streak (0-3-1) and to rebound from a 4-0 loss at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche in the homestand opener on Saturday. Philadelphia is lugging a seven-game losing streak (0-5-2) and both teams are missing several key players as they reach the quarter mark of the 2022-23 campaign.

Wednesday's game against the Flyers marks the first time in 13 games the Caps will go into their next game with the luxury of more than a day between games, and it is just the fourth of Washington's 26 games against fellow Metropolitan Division denizens this season. The Caps are 1-1-1 in divisional games to this point in the season.

Washington conducted a pair of practices and enjoyed an off-day on Tuesday, so it should be rested. The Caps are hoping to have one or both of injured defenseman Dmitry Orlov (lower body) and right wing T.J. Oshie (lower body) back in their lineup on Wednesday, and if not, then soon. Orlov practiced on Sunday but not Monday, and Oshie took part in both practice sessions. Orlov has missed each of the last seven games and Oshie has been sidelined for the last 11.

"We'll get guys back in repetition here, guys who have been out of the lineup, so that's a good thing," says Caps coach Peter Laviolette of Orlov and Oshie. "The guys that are coming back are also power play guys, so that's a good thing. They get involved in the reps and they get involved in the specialty teams for whenever that entry back to our team is."

As they embark upon the season's second quarter, the Caps need upward movement in the standings more than anything else. But they need consistency to fuel any climb in the standings, and they'll likely need improved health to spark that consistency. Playing with a lead would also be welcome; the Caps haven't held a lead at any point at all in five of their last six games, going 1-3-2 over that span.

"There's a drain to chasing games," says Laviolette. "You're down two goals, you're down three goals, there is a drain to it. For two games, I thought we handled the challenge really well and pushed really hard and didn't even get a win. But that's the disadvantage of coming from behind and pushing from behind. And then last game [against Colorado] it just seemed to drift away from us instead of us pushing towards it.

"The Tampa game at home [on Nov. 11] was nice. You score, you get the next one and you're pushing. We've got to find a lead and play more hockey from ahead than we are from chasing, and especially from chasing bigger numbers. It's one thing if you're down a goal at the end of the first period. You score in the second, and all of a sudden it's 1-1. But you drop down and they score the third one and it's 3-0, those are big holes. It takes a lot to win a game."

Until this three-day oasis near the quarter mark, the Caps' schedule had been challenging and unrelenting. It becomes that again starting on Friday when the team starts a stretch of 19 games in 21 nights on the road, a span that includes a remarkable total of six U.S./Canada border crossings. Coming off a three-day break and with two more home games before that road-heavy stretch, the Caps are hoping to return from this short respite recharged and rejuvenated as they seek to salvage what has been an underwhelming November (2-6-2).

"It's very challenging," says Caps defenseman John Carlson. "We expect a lot out of ourselves, and I know that I can speak to myself not living up to expectations of myself, and of the team and everything. It's very frustrating, it weighs on a lot of guys.

"If you're just going to look at a 10-12 game segment, there's been almost every year probably that we've had a bad one of those, and there's obviously a lot more pressure from here until the end now. But that's how we've got to think of it, and to keep coming to the rink and working at things that need to be worked on.

"And I think morale [matters] too. If you're going to come in and feel sorry for yourself, the momentum is not going to change. That's on us to keep it fun and keep it engaged and keep it in a good spot where guys want to be here, want to be in a good spot and want to work through this and make it worth it on the other side."

Like the Caps, the Flyers will be busy over the Thanksgiving holiday. Both teams are starting a stretch of three games in four nights on Wednesday, but the Flyers will be traveling for each of their three games over that span. Philly comes into the game in Washington on the heels of a 5-2 setback to Calgary on home ice on Monday night.

Also like the Capitals, the Flyers were missing seven regulars from the lineup when they last played, on Monday against the Flames.

The Flyers have yielded at either four or five goals against in each of the seven losses during their current slide. They've been scuffling on both sides of the special teams coin, too. Philly is 2-for-23 (8.7%) with the extra man in its last eight games and it has been successful on only half (8-of-16, 50%) of its penalty killing assignments in its last half dozen contests.

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