With the month of March upon us and the NHL's trade deadline in the rear view, the Caps and the rest of the league now turn all of their attentions back to the ice for the final quarter of the season.
Washington has played just one home game over the last 18 days, but the Caps are back in the District and ready to start a three-game homestand on Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils.
"Everybody is getting into playoff mode," notes Caps coach Barry Trotz. "Let's make sure we're in playoff mode. Let's not go around games, let's go through games. I think that will harden us for the playoffs. It will also harden us for what's ahead and prepare us for what's ahead."
Video: Trotz talks #CapsDevils with the media
Cooking At Home - The 2016-17 edition of the Capitals is seeking to carve out a spot in the team's record book tonight as well. Washington is taking aim on a 14th straight home victory, a streak that would be the longest in franchise history. The Caps' current 13-game home winning streak is tied for the longest in franchise history; the 2009-10 crew also rolled up 13 straight wins at Verizon Center.
During the life of the Caps' current winning streak, they've outscored the opposition by a combined total of 64-20. When the 2009-10 team was in the midst of its 13-game home winning streak some seven years ago, it owned a slightly less impressive 56-26 goal differential.
The Caps' impending three-game homestand also fits neatly into the team's scheduling sweet spot; the games come every other day. Washington sports a rather otherworldly 28-2-2 record this season when playing on exactly one day's rest.
Video: Wilson on his increased minutes
"We've had a tough schedule, and we've had some guys go won [with injuries]," notes Caps right wing Tom Wilson. "We've been playing with a different lineup almost every night the last couple of weeks, but those are all excuses. Whether you want to use them or not, they are what they are.
"We've found a way to win some big games, but we love playing at Verizon and we love coming home and we're looking forward to the homestand here. We've had some good fortune here, and we're going to hopefully keep that rolling."
Temp Bump - With right wing T.J. Oshie out of the lineup again tonight and missing a fourth straight contest with an upper body injury, Wilson again fills in for Oshie on Washington's top forward line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
That line proved to be problematic for the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, running roughshod over the opposition in the Blueshirts' end of the ice, particularly during the final 40 minutes of the game.
"The first period, there was obviously a little bit of an adjustment," says Wilson. "It was my first time playing with those guys in a long time and where they go on the ice and how they play. It's obviously two very special players and a pleasure anytime you get to go out and play with those guys.
Video: Winnik on the Caps' trade deadline
"I think [Ovechkin] and I had some fun getting in on the forecheck and playing that style, creating chances off of hits and being in the right area. The second period, we played fairly well. I felt like I had good chances and our line was creating chances. I just need to bear down and bury them."
Wilson finished that Tuesday game with 19:34 in ice time, the most of any Washington forward in the game and nearly seven minutes over his single-game average for the 2016-17 season. That figure also represents the most ice time the 22-year-old Wilson has ever skated over the course of his 293-game NHL career.
In The Nets - A day after he was named the league's third star of the month for February, Braden Holtby gets the net for Washington on Thursday against New Jersey. Holtby is 17-0-2 in his last 21 starts, with four shutouts, a 1.79 GAA and a .933 save pct.
Holtby's stretch of 19 straight decisions without suffering a regulation loss is the third longest in franchise history; Jose Theodore had a 23-decision run (20-0-3) in 2009-10 and Holtby himself came up one shy of that (20-0-2) just last season.
Lifetime against the Devils, Holtby is 11-3-2 with three shutouts, a 1.92 GAA and a .929 save pct.
For New Jersey, Cory Schneider gets the start in Washington. Schneider is getting his first start against the Capitals this season; he played 29 minutes in relief of Keith Kinkaid against the Caps on Jan. 26 in Newark. Kinkaid drew the starting assignment for the Devils in each of the first three meetings between New Jersey and Washington this season.
Schneider has started 11 of the Devils' last 12 games, going 5-3-3 with a 2.53 GAA and a .923 save pct. during that stretch. During his career against the Capitals, Schneider is 3-5-2 with a shutout, a 2.25 GAA and a .920 save pct.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Devils to look when they take to the ice at Verizon Center on Thursday for the last of their four meetings in 2016-17
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 43-Wilson
90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams
10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 13-Vrana
26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 28-Carey
77-Oshie (upper body)
9-Hall, 19-Zajac, 21-Palmieri
44-Wood, 14-Henrique, 8-Bennett
13-Cammalleri, 40-Coleman, 23-Noesen
64-Blandisi, 58-Rooney, 25-Smith-Pelly
16-Josefsen (upper body)
Stick tap to Carter Myers for some of the statistical date contained herein.