The Capitals' season-long five-game road trip - their longest trip in more than six years - comes to an end tonight in Toronto when they take on the Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
By virtue of its 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Sunday night, Washington has already ensured a winning trip; the Caps have won three of the first four games on their journey. But with a regulation win over the Leafs tonight and a Columbus victory over the Penguins in Pittsburgh, the Caps would clinch a second straight Metropolitan Division title.
The clinching of the Metro top perch is the only business remaining for the Caps to conduct on this lengthy business trip.
Video: Walton and Vogel break down the game in Toronto
"First of all, we want to get all the points we need and can get," says Caps forward Marcus Johansson. "We want to get that first spot. There is no point in us not playing our best hockey right now and stepping it up for the playoffs. These are all games that you can learn from. This playoff mentality that are in these games is really important to us, and we're going to go out and do everything we can to win and get ready for the playoffs."
After more than a week on the road, the Caps are ready to sleep in their own beds once again. But first, more business.
"It's tough," says Caps right wing Tom Wilson. "It's the longest road trip of my career, a five-gamer. Bascially, you can look at it as a six-game road trip, because we go home and tomorrow you get a quick little sleep in and you're playing again.
Video: Wilson talks about finishing up the trip strong
"We're going to focus on tonight, we're going to hopefully get the job done tonight, and then going home you'll have a bit of a refresher, even playing back-to-back. To be able to go home, open your bag and dump your stuff on the floor and start some laundry is a good feeling after a long road trip of being in hotels and being on the road.
"It's been a lot of fun. We've got a great group of guys, but around the 10th day you're maybe ready to go home and see the Verizon Center again."
Washington has won six of its last seven games against the Leafs, and the Caps have collected at least a point in 10 of their last 12 games (9-2-1) against Toronto.
Star Power - Johansson was named the NHL's second star of the week on Monday for his fine work over the previous seven days. Johansson led the NHL in assists (seven) and points (eight) last week, helping the Caps to a 3-1-0 mark in the first four games of their road trip in the process.
Video: Johansson talks Second Star, Toronto and 500 games
"It's obviously a big honor," says Johansson. "It's really cool, but nothing I ever thought of or expected. It's a cool thing, but as long as the team is doing well, I think all the success for everyone in here will come automatically, and if feels like that's kind of the way it's going for the whole team."
With 23 goals and 56 points this season, Johansson has established single-season career bests in both categories.
Toronto Turnaround - You wouldn't know it from listening to the local media's line of questioning this morning, but the local hockey team here is actually on the cusp of clinching its first playoff berth in four springs and just its second in the last dozen seasons.
With rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander leading the way offensively, the Leafs have finally righted the ship and appear to have a bright future for the foreseeable future.
"You've got to take the Leafs seriously," says Caps goaltender Philipp Grubauer. "They're a really good hockey team. They improved so much over this year. Maybe not at the start of the season because of all the rookies, but now you see how much they've changed and they've made it close to a playoff spot, to locking up a spot.
"So they're a really good team. They play defense, they've got a really good goalie there and they can snipe."
Video: Caps goalie Philipp Grubauer talks before #CapsLeafs
In The Nets - Grubauer starts for Washington against the Maple Leafs last night. Grubauer earned his 11th win of the season in his previous start, a 5-3 win over the Avalanche in Colorado last Wednesday. He picked up the victory when the Caps and Leafs last met, on Jan. 3 in Washington, coming on in relief of Braden Holtby at the start of the second and gaining the win when the Caps came from behind for a 6-5 overtime win over the Leafs.
After going two and half weeks between his last two starts, Grubauer is now likely to start at least three times over the season's final 10 days.
"Even now, it's more important for me to finish those last games up and for the group to finish those last games up," says Grubauer. "We all need to get our game back on track and go with the right mind and play the right way going into the playoffs.
"It's going to be a waiting game for me [in the playoffs] and I want to make sure I'm going to be ready so I'll take the last couple of games and learn from them and take it as momentum into the playoffs for me."
Lifetime against Toronto, Grubauer is 2-0-0 in two career appearances with a 2.39 GAA and a .913 save pct.
Toronto played last night in Buffalo, taking a 4-2 win behind Frederik Andersen, so we're expecting backup Curtis McElhinney to get the net for the Leafs tonight. In five career appearances against Washington, McElhinney is 1-2-0 with a 4.28 GAA and an .852 save pct.
Video: Coach Trotz talks to the media before #CapsLeafs
All Lined Up - The Caps come the last stop on their season-long five-game road trip on Wednesday night in Toronto. Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Maple Leafs to look for that game:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams
10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky
26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson
11-Hyman, 34-Matthews, 29-Nylander
25-van Riemsdyk, 42-Bozak, 16-Marner
47-Komarov, 43-Kadri, 12-Brown
15-Martin, 24-Boyle, 28-Kapanen
19-Lupul (sports hernia surgery)
23-Fehr (upper body)