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#CapsLeafs Skate Shavings: Stopping The To And Fro

Caps continue homestand against red hot Leafs, looking to continue their own recent 9-2-2 run.

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

Two nights after a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center, the Caps continue their three-game homestand on Tuesday when the Toronto Maple Leafs make their lone visit to Verizon this season.

Tuesday's game ends a stretch in which Washington alternated single home games with single road games for more than two weeks. The Caps went 4-2-2 during that eight-game span. Now, they're in the midst of their first homestand of three or more games in more than a month, and they've got a trio of two-game road trips ahead later this month, too.

Washington has had just one road trip of more than one game in length over the last 50 days, a two game trip to Brooklyn and Raleigh in the middle of last month. 

"I think everybody would like to just have a home stretch and to get some wins," said Caps coach Barry Trotz after Washington's most recent road game, in New Jersey on Saturday. "These are the games that we have in hand over some of the teams in front of us, so just take advantage of that and see if we can get a little closer, and just keep chipping away. 

"We've got some teams that are playing very well right now [ahead on the schedule], a team like Toronto. We're going to end up playing a who's who of the NHL here in the next couple of weeks."

In the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 31 nights in which they face many of the elite teams of the NHL, being able to have actual homestands and road trips should also be an aid to the Caps' cause. 
Video: Rinkside Update: Brooks Orpik
"For sure it does," says Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik. "I think it's obviously very important that we take advantage of some of these home games in getting points on the board, especially against a good team like Toronto tonight. That's a young team coming off playing in an outdoor game. I've played in a handful of those outdoor games, and sometimes that game after the outdoor game is a tough one to get up for. 

"That being said, these guys are two or three points out of a playoff spot. I'm sure we'll see their best here tonight." 

Pretty, Pretty Good - Washington comes into Tuesday's game with Toronto on the heels of a sweep of a weekend set of back-to-back games. Heading into those two contests, the Caps had dropped four of their previous five games (1-2-2). Now, they boast an impressive record of 9-2-2 over their last 13 games. 

"It doesn't really feel that way, to be honest with you," says Orpik. "I don't know why, but I think we're probably just looking at it more as a small picture, and we're disappointed by the losses that we had surrounding the break." 

The Caps probably don't feel as though they're on a strong run because as good as they've been over the last 13 games, they've lost ground in the Metropolitan Division standings to the white hot Columbus Blue Jackets - winners of 15 straight games - during that span.

From a points percentage perspective, the Capitals own the league's fourth best record (.681) going into Tuesday's slate of NHL activity, and they're playing at a pace that would produce 115 points if they're able to maintain it over the season's final 46 games.

"We've talked at length about how competitive our division is especially," states Orpik. "Any points you can put up on the board are going to be huge whether you do it now or later on in the season. They're all worth something, and these are games now that you don't want to regret later on down the road." 

Coming In Hot - Toronto comes to the District with a five-game winning streak and it comes in on the heels of a 5-4 overtime victory over Detroit on Sunday in the NHL's Centennial Classic. The Leafs have also won five straight road games.

The Leafs feature a balanced attack through their top three lines, and they're a "high event" team. Toronto is second in the NHL with an average of 33.8 shots on goal per game, and they give up the third most shots on goal per game at 32.8.
Video: Barry Trotz talks #CapsLeafs with the media
"The Toronto Maple Leafs are a young team that has stars," says Trotz. "They've got [Auston] Matthews and [Mitch] Marner and [William] Nylander; youg stars that are coming. [Nikita] Zaitsev is a free agent pickup from Russia who is a top four defenseman. They've got a star back there in [Morgan] Rielly on the back end, and young [Jake] Gardiner is a top four guy. {Frederik] Andersen I think is a really good goaltender.

"They're a balanced team. With guys they already had like [Nazem] Kadri and [James van Riemsdyk], they're nine deep in terms of offensive talent." 

The Leafs are the league's sixth most prolific offensive team with an average of 2.97 goals per game this season. Washington has struggled with the top 10 clubs on that list, going just 4-7-4 thus far this season against the league's top 10 teams in goals per game.

In The Nets - Braden Holtby gets the start for Washington against the Leafs. Holtby has had the hot hand of late, posting a 6-2-3 record with two shutouts, a 1.60 GAA and a .943 save pct. in those 11 starts. 

Lifetime against the Leafs, Holtby is 6-2-1 with a shutout, a 1.90 GAA and a .929 save pct. HOltby enters Tuesday's game with a 16-8-4 record to go along with three shutouts, a 1.98 GAA and a .929 save pct. on the season.

For Toronto, Fredrik Andersen gets the start tonight. His record this season (16-8-6) is almost identical to Holtby's, and Andersen also has a shutout, a 2.52 GAA and a .924 save pct. on the season. Lifetime against Washington, Andersen is 2-0-0 with a shutout, a 1.00 GAA and a .966 save pct.

All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Maple Leafs to look when they take the ice at Verizon Center on Tuesday.

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, 4-Chorney

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

31-Grubauer

Injuries

None 

Scratches

88-Schmidt

TORONTO

Forwards

47-Komarov, 43-Kadri, 29-Nylander

11-Hyman, 34-Matthews, 12-Brown

25-vanRiemsdyk, 42-Bozak, 16-Marner

15-Martin, 33-Gauthier, 26-Soshnikov 

Defensemen

44-Rielly, 22-Zaitsev

51-Gardiner, 8-Carrick

2-Hunwick, 46-Polak

Goaltenders

31-Andersen

30-Bibeau

Injuries

18-Smith (lower body)

19-Lupul (sports hernia surgery)

52-Marincin (upper body)

Scratches

20-Corrado

32-Leivo

56-Froese

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