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#CapsFlyers Skate Shavings: No Place Like Home

No morning skate for either side prior to Sunday's Caps-Flyers matinee match, but here are some news and notes relating to the game.

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

The Caps finish off a three-game homestand on Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia Flyers. Washington is seeking a second straight sweep of a three-game homestand, which would extend the team's overall winning streak to nine. The Caps are aiming for their sixth straight victory on home ice; they're 9-1-1 in their last 11 games at Verizon Center. 

The Capitals have allowed a grand total of 11 goals in their last nine home games, with five of those coming a in a single contest, Washington's 6-5 overtime win over Toronto on Jan. 3. 

If Washington is able to earn a ninth straight win on Sunday, it will match its longest winning streak since forging a franchise record 14-game winning run during the 2009-10 season. The Caps have won nine straight twice since then, doing so in 2010-11 and 2015-16. 

Celebrated Center - The Caps will honor center Nicklas Backstrom prior to Sunday's game against the Flyers, conducting a short pregame ceremony to recognize his 500th NHL/Capitals assist.

Backstrom achieved that milestone last Saturday night in Ottawa in a 1-0 win over the Senators when he set up linemate T.J. Oshie for the game's only goal early in the first period. 

Backstrom enters Sunday's game with a five-game points streak (three goals, seven assists), his longest of the season. Backstrom has also scored a goal in three straight games, matching the longest such streak of his career. This is the fourth time he has netted goals in three straight games since coming into the NHL in 2007-08.

Every Other Day - The Caps take the ice today on the heels of a thorough and impressive 6-0 throttling of the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night, meaning they're coming into Sunday's game on one day's rest. That's the Capitals' sweet spot; they're 20-2-2 this season when playing on exactly one day's rest.

Even It Up - Washington didn't have a single power play opportunity in its 6-0 Friday night win over the Blackhawks, scoring all six of its goals at even strength. That's been the pattern lately for Washington. The Caps have outscored the opposition by a combined total of 31-6 at even strength during the life of the team's current eight-game winning streak.

Since Dec. 5, the Caps have gone 15-2-2 over their last 19 games. They've outscored the opposition by 67-31 during that stretch, and they own a 55-23 advantage in even-strength scoring in those 19 games.

Slightly more than a month ago, Washington was in the bottom third of the league in five-on-five goals. Coming into Sunday's NHL action, the Caps are tied for fifth in the circuit (with the New York Islanders) with 90 five-on-five goals. 
Video: Coach Trotz on Sunday's #CapsFlyers matchup
"We weren't finishing before," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "I just think we have more finish. We are executing off the rush a little bit better, a little more crisply. We got into a little bit of a rhythm.

"You go through streaks, like Justin Williams early couldn't find the back of the net [despite] getting tons of chances. Now he's finding the back of the net. It may be as simple as that really, because we chart the chances for and against all the time, and our chances aren't higher. I think we're just executing at a higher level and our shooting percentage is probably coming back to what normal shooting percentages would be for us."

When Washington finished second in the league with 166 five-on-five goals last season (Dallas had 167), it averaged 2.02 five-on-five goals per game. Thus far this season, the Caps have nudged that average up to 2.14 five-on-five goals per game.

Roster Move - The Caps recalled forward Chandler Stephenson from AHL Hershey. Stephenson debuted with the Capitals early last season, appearing in NHL contests with Washington in 2015-16. 

Thus far this season with Hershey, Stephenson has six goals and 23 points in 36 games with the Bears. The 22-year-old pivot was Washington's third-round choice (77th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft.

In The Nets - With a set of back-to-back games looming for the Caps starting with Sunday's matinee against the Flyers, Washington will split the goaltending chores this weekend. Our best guess is that Philipp Grubauer will get the crease on Sunday against the Flyers with Holtby returning to the net on Monday when the Capitals travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins.

Grubauer is making his first start of 2017; his most recent starting assignment came on New Year's Eve in New Jersey when he earned a 6-2 win over the Devils, making 21 saves. He picked up a win in relief of Braden Holtby on Jan. 3 against Toronto, and Grubauer is 5-0-1 with a 1.90 GAA and a .930 save pct. in his last six appearances (five starts). 

Grubauer will be aiming for his eighth won of the season on Sunday against Philly. Lifetime against the Flyers, he is 1-1-0 with a 2.56 GAA and a .906 save pct. in three appearances. He made his first career NHL appearance in relief of Holtby against the Flyers in Philadelphia on Feb. 27, 2013.

Ex-Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth started and was reached for five goals on 38 shots in Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Bruins in Boston, so it would seem likely that Steve Mason would get the nod in net on Sunday for the Flyers.

Mason is 14-14-6 with a 2.87 GAA and a .901 save pct. on the season. he has collected just one win in his last 11 appearances (1-6-3), but that victory came at Washington's expense, a 3-2 shootout victory on Dec. 21 at Philadelphia. 

Lifetime against the Capitals, Mason is 9-5-2 with two shutouts, a 2.65 GAA and a .911 save pct.

All Lined Up - Because neither side conducted a morning skate in advance of Sunday's homestand finale in the District, we won't know until pregame warmups how the teams will actually lineup come game time. But here's how we expect the Capitals to look on Sunday, and here's how the Flyers looked on Saturday afternoon when they faced the Bruins in Boston:

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie

90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams

10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky

26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson 

Defensemen

27-Alzner, 74-Carlson

9-Orlov, 2-Niskanen

44-Orpik, 88-Schmidt 

Goaltenders

31-Grubauer

70-Holtby 

Injuries

None 

Scratches

4-Chorney

18-Stephenson


PHILADELPHIA

Forwards

12-Raffl, 28-Giroux, 11-Konecny

52-Cousins, 14-Couturier, 93-Voracek

22-Weise, 10-Schenn, 17-Simmonds

76-VandeVelde, 78-Bellemare, 13-Lyubimov

Defensemen

9-Provorov, 47-MacDonald

15- Del Zotto, 23-Manning

32-Streit, 3-Gudas 

Goaltenders

35-Mason

30-Neuvirth 

Injuries

24-Read (lower body)

Scratches

53-Gostisbehere

55-Schultz
 

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