Both the Capitals and the Boston Bruins played on Tuesday night, and both will be back in action on Wednesday as they go head-to-head for the second of three times this season in the league's featured Wednesday "Rivalry Night" match-up.
The first meeting between the two teams this season was also a Rivalry night event back on Dec. 7. Washington coughed up a 3-0 third-period lead but managed to wrangle a 4-3 overtime victory on a Nicklas Backstrom overtime goal. The Caps are now 17-0-0 all-time in games in which Backstrom registers a point against the Bruins.
As they did in December, the Bruins come to town with a modest three-game winning streak, matching their longest spree of the season. The Caps will again be seeking to quell that streak at three, and Washington will also be seeking to avoid back-to-back regulation losses. The Caps have gone two straight games without a point only twice in their last 145 regular season games, dating back to March of 2015.
Considering they hadn't played in four nights, the Caps played fairly well in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn, their first game back in action after the All-Star break. Coming out of a four-day break and jumping directly into a set of back-to-back games may seem extreme, but Backstrom doesn't think so.
"I think that's actually good, so you can get into it right away," says the Caps' center. "The first period [on Tuesday], the lungs were burning a little bit. But other than that, I think it's good that we play [Wednesday] again, especially after a loss like this. Hopefully we can get back on the winning track."
January Heat - Last January, Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov was named the NHL's No. 1 star for the month after he totaled four goals and 16 points in just 10 games in the first month of 2016, a performance that led to his appearance in the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville.
Fast forward a year, and Kuznetsov is once again the league's No. 1 star for the month of January 2017. The 24-year-old pivot put up a league-leading 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 15 January games, accounting for more than half of his full season total of 39 points (10 goals, 29 assists) in just one month.
The turn-of-the-calendar surge has lifted Kuznetsov into the league's top 40 in scoring; he's currently tied for 36th in the circuit in that department.
Fellow teammate Andre Burakovsky has also shown a proclivity for January production. Burakovsky totaled 10 points (four goals, six assists) in as many games in January of 2016, and he put up 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 15 January games this year. Burakovsky also tied an NHL record last month, scoring the game's first goal in four straight contests.
In Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Islanders - the Caps' final game of the month - Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist, and both players came in for some postgame praise from Caps coach Barry Trotz.
"Kuzy had a lot of pop and was very dangerous all night," says Trotz. "Andre had a lot of pop. If I go through the [scoring] chances, I'll bet you they had probably 80 percent of the chances, those two lines."
There's No Place Like Home - The Capitals are carrying a seven-game home winning streak into tonight's game against the Bruins. Washington has outscored the opposition by a combined total of 35-9 and has authored three shutouts during the life of its current home winning streak.
Washington is 19-5-1 overall at Verizon Center this season, but hasn't been home much of late. The Caps have played six of their last seven games on the road, playing just one game at Verizon Center in the last 16 days. Only Pittsburgh (21-3-2) has suffered fewer regulation losses on home ice than the Capitals in 2016-17.
In The Nets - After representing the Capitals and the Metropolitan Division at the NHL's All-Star Game in Los Angeles this past weekend, Braden Holtby makes his first start since earning his 24th win of the season with a 5-2 triumph over the Devils in New Jersey last Thursday.
Holtby is 15-5-1 with five shutouts, a 1.68 GAA and a .934 save pct. on home ice this season. Lifetime against the Bruins, he is 10-2-0 with three shutouts, a 1.69 GAA and a .948 save pct. in a dozen regular season appearances.
For the Bruins, Tuukka Rask is expected to start for the second time in as many nights. Rask, who represented the Bruins and the Atlantic Division at the All-Star Game last weekend, has appeared in 10 straight games and 16 of the last 17 for the Bruins.
In his last 13 appearances (12 starts), Rask is 6-5-1 with a 2.78 GAA and an .882 save pct. During the course of his NHL career, Rask is 1-8-5 with a shutout, a 3.00 GAA and an .894 save pct. against the Capitals.
In the event Rask does not start, the Bruins would go with rookie Zane McIntyre, who is still seeking his first NHL victory. McIntyre, recalled from AHL Providence earlier in the day, is 0-3-1 with a 3.95 GAA and an .860 save pct. in five appearances (three starts) - all of them on the road - this season.
All Lined Up - Both the Capitals and the Bruins were in action on Tuesday night, so neither team conducted a full morning skate prior to Wednesday night's Rivalry Night contest. For that reason, we're not certain as to how the teams' lineups will shake out and won't be until pre-game warm-ups. Here's our best guess, though.
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams
10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky
26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson
63-Marchand, 37-Bergeron, 88-Pastrnak
72-Vatrano, 46-Krejci, 42-Backes
39-Beleskey, 51-Spooner, 20-Nash
59-Schaller, 28-Moore, 11-Hayes
86-K. Miller, 6-C. Miller