Six nights after they met for the first time this season at Verizon Center, the Capitals and the Ottawa Senators hook up again, this time at Canadian Tire Center. The Caps edged the Sens 2-1 in that New Year's Day game last weekend, finishing off a sweep of a weekend set of back-to-back games in the process.
Video: Coach Trotz talks after morning skate in Ottawa
"Very quick, a good transitional team," says Caps coach Barry Trotz of the Senators. "They've got some weapons, some real good shooters. Their back end has got some dynamic people there and they've got some structure when it comes to that. They like to line match and get their match-ups, all those type of things. They're a dangerous team, and I think they're a high quality team, no question."
Ottawa has been idle since that game last weekend, enjoying their "bye week" while the Caps continued a three-game homestand with victories over Toronto and Columbus, respectively. Washington brings a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game, and the Capitals will bee seeking their third winning streak of at least five games in length. The Caps won five straight from Oct. 29-Nov. 5 and enjoyed a six-game winning streak from Dec. 5-16.
The Senators will be seeking to halt a three-game slide (0-2-1), which matches their longest losing streak of the season. While the Sens were taking a break, they watched the surging Toronto Maple Leafs climb into a three-way tie for second place in the Atlantic Division with Ottawa and Boston.
As we head into Saturday's slate of NHL activity, a total of two points separates five teams - the second-place through sixth-place clubs - in the Atlantic Division.
Video: Rinkside Update: Matt Niskanen 1/7/17
"They're going to fresh, rested and probably motivated," says Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen of the Sens. "But sometimes with that much rest without a couple of skates beforehand, they may be a little sluggish or a little off with their hands, their timing might be off. If we can come out fast tonight, we might be able to get a leg up on them early in the game.
"With that being said, you don't know how a team is going to react out of a break like that. It's an unusual situation. We're going to have to be on our toes. We can't think that this is going to be an easy one, because they have a lot of skill and a lot of speed, so we better be ready to skate and to compete for our ice."
Scoring Spread - One of the keys to Washington's current four-game winning streak is scoring spread and secondary and even tertiary scoring. The Capitals got six goals from six different scorers a week ago in a 6-2 win over the Devils. They got six goals from six different scorers in a 6-5 overtime win over Toronto on Tuesday, and they got five goals from five different scorers in a 5-0 whitewashing of Columbus on Thursday.
Nineteen skaters have suited up for Washington over the course of the four-game streak, and 14 of them have scored a goal during that span. The Capitals have had five different defensemen score in just the last three games.
"To be successful in this league, you can't rely on one line anymore," says Caps goalie Braden Holtby. "That's just the way it is. The last little while, we've had a consistent lineup, which helps. It definitely helps those last two lines build that chemistry and get some confidence together, and it's showing. Guys are really buying into the system we need to play, realizing where our identity is, and it's showing."
Video: Holtby talks after morning skate in Ottawa
Familiar Foes - Caps center Lars Eller spent most of his NHL career toiling for the Montreal Canadiens. Playing for the Habs, Eller was conditioned to hate Ottawa, Toronto and Boston, the Canadiens' fierceset rivals.
Eller has been playing consistently excellent hockey for the Caps for several weeks now, but he seemed to dial it up a notch or two higher for games against Ottawa and Toronto in the last week.
"I still dislike those teams as much as I did before," admits Eller. "A lot of the faces on both teams, I played a lot of games against. So it's a little extra motivation. You don't forget the past easily."
Power Outage - The Caps are 5-1-2 in their last eight games, and they've forged that impressive mark with very little help from their power play unit. The Caps have gone just 1-for-23 (4.3%) with the extra man in those eight contests.
Washington hasn't had very many extra-man reps of late, though. During the life of the team's current four-game winning streak, the Caps have faced 24 shorthanded situations - killing off 22 of them - but they've had only a dozen power play opportunities of their own during the same stretch.
In The Nets - Coming off a 29-save shutout on Thursday night against the Blue Jackets in Washington, Holtby gets the net for the Caps again tonight. He faced the Sens last Sunday in Washington, making 23 saves in the Capitals' 2-1 victory.
In his last 13 starts, Holtby is 7-2-3 with a 1.67 GAA and a .941 save pct. Lifetime against Ottawa, he is 5-3-1 with a 2.11 GAA and a .931 save pct.
Mike Condon gets the start for Ottawa on Saturday. Condon was in goal for last Sunday's Caps win over the Sens, stopping 22 shots.
Condon has played in 14 straight games for the Sens, posting a 6-4-3 record with a 2.52 GAA and a .909 save pct. during that span. Lifetime against the Capitals, Condon is 1-3 with a 2.80 GAA and a .905 save pct.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Senators to took on Saturday night when the two teams tangle once again in Ottawa:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams
10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky
26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson
18-Dzingel, 7-Turris, 9-Ryan
15-Smith, 19-Brassard, 61-Stone
68-Hoffman, 44-Pageau, 10-Pyatt
22-Kelly, 27-Lazar, 25-Neil
41-Anderson (personal reasons)