The Caps are spending the front end of the weekend in Boston, where they will take on the Bruins on Saturday night. On the heels of a 4-3 Thursday night win over the New York Islanders on home ice, the Caps are seeking to piece together consecutive victories for the first time in nearly a month, since the first two games of the season.
Boston is also coming off a Thursday night home ice win, and the Bruins are seeking to put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season. The B's have been strong on home ice this season, going 4-1-2. Aside from a brief span early in their 6-3 win over Vancouver on Oct. 19, the Bruins have not trailed on the scoreboard in their last five home games, going 3-0-2 in those contests.
Video: Rinkside Update | November 4
Critical Tilts - Over the last two seasons, the Caps were in their own stratum of the standings for much of the season, sometimes rendering games against divisional and conference foes as less than meaningful. But Washington has come back to the pack this season, and games - like Thursday's against the Islanders and tonight's against the Bruins - with other Eastern Conference clubs that figure to be in the playoff hunt are going to carry more significance for the Capitals this season.
"That was something we talked about before we played Florida [two weeks ago]," says Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik. "It's 70 games away, but I think everyone knows that group of teams that will probably be battling right up to the end to get those last couple of playoff spots.
"These are points that mean just as much now as they do in March or April. Everyone talks about the importance of those games down the stretch, but at the end of the season I've been on the other side of it where you look back at the beginning of the season and regret some of the bad games you had early on. Like I said, those points are just as important as the points in March or April, so it will be important for us to realize how deep into the season we really are, and 10 games is pretty deep in my opinion."
Although games against conference and divisional foes weren't necessarily as meaningful for Washington over the last few seasons, the Caps still fared quite well against both divisional and conference foes. The Caps were 36-11-7 against Eastern Conference foes last season, going 18-7-5 against fellow Metro Division opponents and 18-4-2 against the Atlantic Division. The Capitals had more wins vs. Eastern Conference opponents than any team in the league last season.
"We are going to have to add up as many points as we can, just to get in [to the playoffs]," says Caps goalie Braden Holtby. "It's something that we're going to have to go through mentally and figure out. Every game, you have to perform. Every game is big.
"I think in the past few years, we haven't felt any of that pressure with those two points going to the other teams we played. We played natural that way, and I think that's why we won a lot. It's about finding that comfort level and realizing that every single game has that importance. Wins are going to be harder this year; we know that. Hopefully, that can help groom us into being a better team in the long run."
Video: Barry Trotz | November 4
Productive Trio - The line of Chandler Stephenson, Lars Eller and Tom Wilson was first assembled for Washington's game against the Oilers in Edmonton a week ago. In the three games in which they've been together, that trio has accumulated three goals and eight points, the most of any of Washington's four forward lines over that brief span.
Eller and Wilson have some history together, but the addition of Stephenson - in the wake of an upper body injury to Brett Connolly - seems to have been a positive one.
"He's playing very well," says Eller of Stephenson. "I never had the chance to play with Stevie before, not even in training camp. But sometimes it's just there right away. I think Stevie has blended in very well with me and Tom, even in the first game in Edmonton. He's been great."
"It's been pretty good," echoes Wilson of his line's performance. "We've had a lot of chances. I had two or three Grade A's in Calgary, and I've just got to stay the course and hopefully those will start to go in.
"Lars is a puck carrier; he is a workhorse. I like playing with Stevie a lot. He is a smart, controlled player. We complement each other well."
That trio's recent offensive outburst has been extremely welcome as the Caps' top six has struggled of late. After supplying a dizzying and unsustainable total of 18 goals in the first six games of the season, Washington's top six forwards have contributed a total of seven goals in the last seven games.
In The Nets - Holtby gets the net for the Capitals tonight as he takes aim on his seventh win of the season. It was seven years ago tomorrow that Holtby made his NHL debut - and earned his first NHL win - in a relief appearance against the Bruins in Washington. He has had a great deal of success against the Bruins since then.
Lifetime against the B's, Holtby is 11-2-0 in 13 appearances with three shutouts, a 1.80 GAA and a .965 save pct. He is coming off a 35-save effort in Thursday's win over the Islanders, and he is seeking his third straight victory tonight in Boston.
Tuukka Rask will be in goal for the Bruins tonight. Rask stopped 28 pucks in a 2-1 victory over Vegas on Thursday, his second win of the season and his first since opening night (Oct. 5). In 16 career appearances against Washington, Rask is 1-9-5 with a shutout, a 3.07 GAA and an .889 save pct.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Caps and the Bruins to look on Saturday night when they take to the ice at TD Garden for the first of their three meetings this season:
13-Vrana, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 25-Smith-Pelly
18-Stephenson, 20-Eller, 43-Wilson
87-O'Brien, 83-Beagle, 39-Chiasson
2-Niskanen (upper body, week-to-week)
10-Connolly (upper body)
65-Burakovsky (upper body, week-to-week)
91-Graovac (upper body, week-to-week)
63-Marchand, 37-Bergeron, 88-Pastrnak
74-DeBrusk, 20-Nash, 59-Schaller
43-Heinen, 21-Szwarz, 10-Bjork
39-Beleskey, 52-Kuraly, 27-Czarnik
35-Khudobin (lower body, day-to-day)
42-Backes (colon surgery)
46-Krejci (upper body, day-to-day)
51-Spooner (right groin adductor tear)
54-McQuaid (broken right fibula)
55-Acciari (fractured finger)