Although the Capitals and the St. Louis Blues play in opposite conferences and only face one another twice a season, Washington and St. Louis are actually a bit more familiar with one another as they come into Wednesday night's game at Verizon Center.
Both of the two meetings between the two clubs last season came in the final nine games of the regular season, and the Caps and Blues went head-to-head twice during the 2016-17 preseason, including a game at Sprint Center in Kansas City. So setting aside the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, tonight's game will be the fifth for Washington against St. Louis in the Caps' 35 games.
"Our staff puts in as much time if we've played them five times or if we would've played them 10 times," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "But you get a little more familiar with tendencies because we've played them a little bit more. Obviously with [associate coach] Mike Yeo coming in, there are a few different types of tendencies, but not a lot. Their team is pretty well the same. They have an identity, they're a strong forechecking team, they have good structure, their [defensemen] are active off the bluelines, [they have] a good power play obviously, especially on the road here.
"They've changed their team a little bit. They used to be a really big, heavy team with a lot of grinding type guys. I think they're transitioning to a little more speed. They've still got their grind and their size, but they've added the [Robby] Fabbris and the [Nail] Yakupvos and the [Jaden] Schwartzes and the [Vladimir] Tarasenkos. [Tarasenko] is a tank. He's not overly big, but he is strong as can be.
"So I think they're transitioning a little bit, but at the same time I think the whole league is. I think we are. St. Louis is probably no different."
The Blues are coming into town on the heels of a 4-2 victory over the Bruins in Boston on Tuesday night. That win was the fourth straight for the Blues, and it also ended a four-game road losing streak during which the Blues were outscored 22-7.
"They've got some big guys, but they've also got a lot of guys who can scoot and make a lot of plays," says Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt. "It's going to be a little bit different game. Some guys will like to chip and chase, but they have some guys who like to wheel and deal in the offensive zone. Defensively, we have our work cut out for us here."