The Capitals come out to California just once a season to face the three NHL teams from the Golden State. As they prepare to finish this season's three-game journey through the far western reaches of North America, the Caps suddenly find themselves in the rare position of carrying a three-game losing streak.
After dropping the first two games of the trip out west, the Caps have lost three straight games in regulation for the first time in more than two years.
"Awkward," says Caps coach Barry Trotz of the feeling of dropping three straight games. "We haven't done that for a while. We'll have to fight through it, and the only way to do it is together, as a group.
"We'll see what we can do [Sunday]. The great thing is we get to right the ship [Sunday] with a game."
The Caps finish the California trip on Sunday night in Anaheim against another formidable foe, the Ducks. Washington will be seeking to salvage something from the journey, which began with twin 4-2 losses to the Sharks in San Jose on Thursday and to the Kings in Los Angeles on Saturday.
Video: Trotz talks to media before #CapsDucks
Shattenkirk Sits - Kevin Shattenkirk was whistled for three minor penalties in Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, and the last of those three - a charging penalty for running roughshod on Los Angeles defenseman Kevin Gravel - drew the attention of the NHL's Department of Player Safety.
Shattenkirk had a telephone hearing with the league's DPS on Sunday, and justice had to be meted out quickly with the Caps having a game on tap tonight in Anaheim. The verdict is a two-game suspension without pay for Shattenkirk, a punishment that will cost the Washington defenseman more than $47,000 in salary.
"I think the league looks at it," says Trotz. "I listened on it with Kevin from here with the league, They go through it thoroughly and they've got a lot of people with practical knowledge of the game from the league's standpoint and player safety and all that. We know that they watch everything. It's two games, and we'll deal with it and go from there.
"Kevin is not that type of player. He understands. [It was] unfortunate that on that hit it went sort or awry. It's a fast game, and it's just a little human error."
After facing the Ducks on Sunday, Washington returns home for a two-game homestand against Minnesota and Nashville. Shattenkirk will be eligible to return to action on Thursday against the Predators.
Washington blueliner Nate Schmidt has been a healthy scratch in each of the Capitals' last five games, but he is likely to return to the lineup in Shattenkirk's absence.
Scoring Struggles - Washington has scored two or fewer goals in five straight games, the team's longest extended spell of scoring anemia since a similar five-game stretch from Dec. 9-18, 2010. The Capitals have also been limited to two or fewer goals in nine of their last 11 games, and they are averaging 2.18 goals per game in their last 11 contests, since returning from their bye week in mid-February.
Caps captain Alex Ovechkin has not scored in nine straight games, matching the longest drought without a goal in his 905-game NHL career. Ovechkin has not scored at five-on-five since the last game before the All-Star break, when he scored against the Devils in New Jersey on Jan. 26.
In his last nine games, Ovechkin has three assists, all accumulated in two games against Philadelphia.
He's not the only Caps forward who is scuffling right now, either. Justin Williams has one goal in his last 14 games. Marcus Johansson collected an assist in Saturday's loss to the Kings, marking just the second game in the last 11 in which he recorded a point. And Evgeny Kuznetsov is without a point in four straight games, matching his longest point string of games without a point this season.
"The last 10 games, we haven't scored as much as we want," says Trotz. "Our [scoring] chances are probably in that same range of what we've been normally getting, but we're not finishing and we're not finding the back of the net. So you find other ways to win. You've got to win those 2-1 hockey games. We've done some of that a little bit on the way, but at the same time, when you're playing teams that are getting to that third and fourth goal, you've got to find a way to get that third and fourth goal as well."
Ten Years After - The Ducks are feting their 2006-07 Stanley Cup championship team tonight, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the first California team to win the Stanley Cup.
Several former Ducks are in attendance, and the '06-07 Ducks team also includes a trio of players who were named to the list of the NHL's 100 Greatest Players earlier this year. Defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger and winger Teemu Selanne are the three members of the '06-07 Ducks who are also on that 100 Greatest Players list.
In The Nets - Philipp Grubauer started on Saturday against the Kings, so Braden Holtby gets the net for Washington on Sunday night in Anaheim.
Holtby will be taking his third crack at earning his 35th win of the season. He was in goal for losses to Dallas and at San Jose earlier in the week, and is also seeking to avoid a third straight regulation loss for the first time since Feb. 22-27, 2015.
In two career starts against Anaheim, Holtby is 2-0-0 with a 2.41 GAA and a .900 save pct.
For the Ducks, we're expecting to see Jonathan Bernier on Sunday. He earned his 100th career win in his previous start, defeating Chicago. Lifetime against the Capitals, Bernier is 3-4-0 with a 2.90 GAA and an .894 save pct. in seven appearances.
All Lined Up - Without benefit of a morning skate on Washington's side, we won't know for sure how the lineup will look until warm-ups, but here's our best guess as to what we expect the Capitals and the Ducks to look when they meet at Anaheim's Honda Center on Sunday:
90-Johansson, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 14-Williams
26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 13-Vrana
67-Rakell, 15-Getzlaf, 18-Eaves
7-Cogliano, 17-Kesler, 33-Silfverberg
86-Kase, 50-Vermette, 10-Perry
48-Shaw, 44-Thompson, 21-Wagner
3-Stoner (lower body)
6-Despres (concussion-like symptoms)