The Caps and Stars met earlier this week, on Tuesday night in Washington. The Caps dominated the first period of that game, and they played fairly well in the second, too. But despite a significant advantage in territory and possession, they led by a single goal, 2-1, heading to the third.
Dallas turned the tables on Washington in the first half of the final frame, scoring twice to take a 3-2 lead. The Caps needed a Nicklas Backstrom goal with the netminder pulled in the final minute to pull a point; they lost on Tyler Seguin's goal in the first minute of overtime.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | October 12
Both the Caps and the Stars enter Saturday's game coming off blown third-period leads in their previous outings. On Thursday night in Nashville, Washington led four different times - including a 4-2 advantage entering the third - but ultimately lost 6-5, the first time they weren't able to earn a point in five games this season.
Hosting Calgary on Thursday, Dallas led 1-0 entering the third period, and it doubled that lead just nine seconds into the frame. But the Flames rallied and won 3-2 in a shootout, leaving the Stars with their fourth loss in five games this season.
For the Caps, having had a recent look at the Stars should help in pre-scouting for Saturday's game.
"That's the important thing. When pre-scouting an opponent, sometimes it can be pretty dated," says Caps defenseman John Carlson. "Just the fact that we did a lot of good things against them and we did a lot of bad things against them, it's pretty clear to see. It's a pretty clear visual of when we're working and when we're playing to our identity, we're a really good team. And when we get away from that, we struggle.
"Just that comparison is big, especially early on, to have a clear and definite view on what's happening."
Video: John Carlson Pregame | October 12
That clear and definite view will show that the Caps had a lot of success against Dallas playing the way they did in the first period of Tuesday's game, so the ideal is to find a way to replicate that. Washington was forechecking hard and getting pucks to the net, with many of those shots coming from the points. The Caps had forwards down low for tip opportunities, and although they didn't score, they created a fair amount of havoc for Dallas to try to deal with.
"I think sometimes we can try to be a little bit too perfect," says Carlson, "and everyone can try to find an open space - whether it's to get open for a shot or what[ever] - but I think sometimes we shy away from getting to the interior a little bit, just thinking of other options of how we can attack teams, like we've shown in the past. Those are kind of just foundation things. We've got to get some more people to the interior there, and when you do, anything can happen, as we've seen early on. I think if there is a guy, or a threat in front of the net, we should always take that opportunity, and it's just about getting it there a little bit more."
The Slim - Both the Caps and the Stars have played five games thus far this season, and both teams have played five one-goal games. The Caps have played just over 300 minutes of hockey (308:38) this season, and they've played just over half of that time (155:12) with the score tied. They've been up by a goal for 90:12 and down by a goal for 36:59.
Washington has been within a goal of its opponent on the scoreboard - one way or the other - for 282:33 this season, which is tops in the league, and more than 91 percent of all the hockey they've played to date. Second on that list is Dallas at 277:08.
Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | October 12
"Yeah, a lot of competitive games, even in the preseason," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "That's how it's been. It's a competitive league, and every night it's a challenge. Especially in terms of tough travel or when you're going through something like we did last year. It's a very competitive league where every team has a chance to win every night, and you're never out of a game. It makes for every minute to be a little bit more important than maybe in past years."
Just under eight minutes into their opening night contest against the Blues in St. Louis, the Caps were down by two goals. Alex Ovechkin pulled them to within a goal less than eight minutes after that, and Washington hasn't trailed by more than a goal since.
"It's great," says Caps winger Garnet Hathaway. "We're all excited about playing games like that. Right now I think it's about sorting out some details and getting on the same page a little more. Points are important no matter where you are in the season, so tight games will happen. We've just got to work on them."
Video: Garnet Hathaway Pregame | October 12
In The Nets - Washington will go with Ilya Samsonov in net tonight. Samsonov is making his second start of the season, and the second of his NHL career. He debuted on Oct. 4 against the Islanders in New York, playing quite well in a 2-1 Washington victory, the first of his NHL career.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him in his second start," says Reirden. "He was solid in the first one, and hopefully we can do a better job of insulating him than we have Braden [Holtby] lately. So that will be important against a very offensive group of Dallas Stars, especially here at home."
For Dallas, Anton Khudobin gets his second starting assignment of the season as well. In 11 career appearances against the Capitals, the 33-year-old Kazakhstan-born Khudobin has a 5-4-2 record with a shutout, a 2.58 GAA and a .917 save pct.
In his only start of this season thus far, Khudobin stopped 29 of 33 shots and took the loss against Detroit on Oct. 6.
All Lined Up - This is how we expect the Caps and the Stars to look when they conclude their 2019-20 season's series on Saturday night in Dallas:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 77-Oshie
62-Hagelin, 20-Eller, 14-Panik
28-Leipsic, 26-Dowd, 21-Hathaway
6-Kempny (lower body)
14-Benn, 91-Seguin, 47-Radulov
13-Janmark, 24-Hintz, 16-Pavelski
18-Dickinson, 12-Faksa, 38-L'Esperance
11-Cogliano, 49-Gardner, 17-Caamano
15-Comeau (lower body)
40-Hanzal (spinal fusion surgery)