January 13 vs. Chicago Blackhawks at Verizon Center
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: WFED 1500 and Capitals Radio 24/7
Chicago Blackhawks 27-12-5
Washington Capitals 27-9-5
Washington's three-game homestand continues on Friday night at Verizon Center when the Chicago Blackhawks come to town for their only visit of the 2016-17 season. Friday's game against the Hawks is the Capitals' fourth game in their last five that comes against a team either even with or ahead of Washington's point total in the NHL standings.
Despite the extremely strong level of competition the Capitals have faced recently, Washington has met every challenge. The Caps carry a seven-game winning streak into Friday's game against Chicago. It's the team's longest winning streak in more than a year, since a nine-game run from Dec. 12-30, 2015.
The Caps come into Friday's game on the heels of a 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night in the homestand opener. Caps captain Alex Ovechkin scored on the game's first shift just 35 seconds after opening puck drop, notching the 1,000th point of his NHL career in the process.
Ovechkin is the 37th player in league history to reach 1,000 points with the same franchise, and he is the 84th player in the league's history to achieve the milestone. In reaching 1,000 in his 880th career contest, Ovechkin is the second fastest active player to attain the plateau, trailing only Florida's Jaromir Jagr (763 games). Ovechkin is the 24th fastest to reach 1,000 of the 84 who have done so, and he has the second most goals (545) through the first 1,000 points of any player's career, trailing only Brett Hull (560).
Washington center Nicklas Backstrom assisted on Ovechkin's milestone marker, and added a goal of his own and two more helpers later in the game. Backstrom has had three multi-point games against the Penguins this season, and has three goals and 11 points on the 14 goals Washington has scored in three games against Pittsburgh this season.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, Backstrom's 11 points is the most any one player has recorded against any one team in the NHL this season, and it's also the most any one player has recorded against the Pens since New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk notched 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in six games against Pittsburgh during the 2011-12 season.
Less than a week after scoring the goal on which Backstrom recorded his 500th career assist, Caps winger T.J. Oshie also had a hand in Ovechkin's milestone, picking up the other assist on the captain' first goal of Wednesday's game against the Pens.
Video: Rinkside Update: T.J. Oshie 1/12/17
"It was pretty cool," says Oshie. "I was able to be a part of Nicky's 500th assist and Ovi's thousandth point. Obviously I haven't been here for a lot of those points; those guys have connected quite a bit. But to see what they've been able to do - and for Ovi to get a thousand points in that amount of games - is phenomenal. I'm really happy for him."
Despite encountering some bumpy road early in the season, with Wednesday's win the Capitals reach the midpoint of the 2016-17 season with 59 points. That's just two points off the pace from last season's 120-point, Presidents' Trophy season.
"We're starting to hit our stride a little bit, on a full 60 minutes," says Caps right wing Tom Wilson. "We had glimpses of it early on, but we weren't consistent and we weren't consistent enough for our liking. The last couple of games - this little streak here - we've been playing well. We've been playing against good teams for a full 60 minutes. It's such a hard league that if you take a period off or a couple of periods off against anyone, it's going to come back to bite you. We've just got to stay consistent and if we're playing our game and staying consistent, we'll be all right."
Caps goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced in Wednesday's win over the Penguins. The only shots to get past Holtby came while Pittsburgh enjoyed the man advantage; Holtby has not permitted an even-strength goal in any of his last four starts.
Holtby earned his 20th win of the season on Wednesday against the Pens, putting him halfway to becoming just the third netminder in NHL history to record three straight seasons with 40 or more victories. Martin Brodeur (2005-08) and Evgeni Nabokov (2007-10) are the only two goaltenders in league history to achieve the feat previously.
When the Capitals and Blackhawks met for the first time this season in Chicago on Nov. 11, Washington cooled the hot Hawks 3-2 in overtime on a Marcus Johansson goal in the extra session. That put a halt to the Hawks' seven-game winning streak, and Chicago will have the opportunity to return the favor on Friday in the District.
Chicago's aforementioned seven-game winning streak ran from Oct. 28-Nov. 9 and it remains the team's longest this season. The Hawks had a five-game run in mid-December and they'll hit town with a four-game winning streak. Chicago is 11-4-2 in its last 17 games.
Most recently, the Hawks earned a 4-3 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings in Chicago on Tuesday. The Hawks generated 43 shots on net in that game, one of two games during their current winning streak in which they've reached that lofty shot total.
Going into Friday night's slate of NHL activity, the Hawks hold a two-point lead over the Minnesota Wild the Central Division standings. The Wild holds four games in hand on the Hawks, and after facing the Capitals in Washington on Friday, the Hawks head back home to host Minnesota on Sunday at United Center.
Sunday's meeting between the Hawks and Wild is the first between the two top teams in the Central this season. Chicago visits Minnesota twice next month and the Wild comes back to the Windy City for the finale of the regular season series between the two rivals in mid-March.