Washington has faced a relatively rigorous schedule thus far this season, too. The Caps have played 18 games to date, and have yet to face any of the league's seven worst teams in terms of points percentage. This week, things thicken up a bit for Washington in terms of scheduling.
On Thursday, the Caps will finish a stretch of 20 days without any back-to-backs, and tonight against the Coyotes the Caps start a run of six games in 10 nights. Starting on Friday, they head into a stretch in which they'll play three sets of back-to-back games in 20 days.
"They're playing good hockey," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of the Coyotes. "Especially out west, I've seen a lot of teams continue to improve their games, and some of their young players mature and get better.
"Their [defensemen] are involved in a lot of the rush plays with some offensive guys back there. [Phil] Kessel brings that winning attitude with him, to coach along with their coach [Rick Tocchet] who has had a lot of success in prior spots. So it's a difficult team that's committed and bought in, and they've got some good young players that are now maturing. So [Clayton] Keller is that much better, and you can go right down the list of dangerous forwards that they have."
Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | Nov. 11
Back In The Saddle - Caps winger Richard Panik returns to action tonight after a 10-game stint on the long term injured reserve list. Panik suffered an upper body injury in a collision with teammate Jonas Siegenthaler in an Oct. 16 game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Tonight, Panik draws back into the lineup against his former team, where he spent the last season and a half.
"I'm really excited," says Panik of getting back on the ice tonight. "It's been a long road, but finally I'm 100 percent, and I'm get excited to jump on the running train."
After signing with Washington as an unrestricted free agent last summer, Panik skated in each of Washington's first eight games before the injury. He is still looking for his first point in a Caps sweater, but seemed to be finding his game just as the injury came along.
"It wasn't a good start for me," admits Panik. "But now that I was sitting out, I could think about it, like, 'What should I do better? How should I play? What should I bring to the team?' So I think it's a good opportunity for me to start over."
Video: Richard Panik | November 11
Move With Me - To make room for Panik and his $2.75 million annual salary cap hit, the Caps made a pair of transactions on Monday. Defenseman Tyler Lewington was placed on waivers on Sunday, and he cleared at noon on Monday and was sent to AHL Hershey.
Recalled from Hershey when Panik went down with the injury last month, forward Travis Boyd's latest stint with Washington was less than 10 games and 30 days, so he was able to be returned to the Bears without passing through waivers. Boyd was also returned to Hershey on Monday.
Century City - Reirden notched his 100th game as Washington's head coach in Saturday's 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights. Reirden has fashioned a 61-28-11 record over that span, and of all coaches with at least 100 games coached in league history, his .665 points percentage ranks second, trailing only Tom Johnson who managed a .738 points percentage in 208 games behind the Boston bench from 1971-73.
"For me to tell you that I knew it was my 100th game, I wouldn't have known," says Reirden, when asked how he has changed over those hundred games. "Nothing has really changed in how I prepare - the detail, the time I put in. From that standpoint, every day is a new day and a new challenge ahead of me and my staff and our team.
"But definitely I've changed in the last 100 games, no doubt about it. Every situation is a little bit different, and the experience I've been able to gain - I had a lot of it in this league, but not as a head coach in this league. In situations now, I can remember back and I do a - some may say a little over the top - recording of daily events, and making sure that I can go back to use as reference, so that I can build on things that I think went well, or correct mistakes that happen.
"I use that a lot as a way to keep myself continuing to grow and not make the same mistakes if I've made them before. That experience, you can't put a possible value on it. Every day is a situation where I feel like I'm improving as a coach. There is still lots of room for growth, so I'm looking forward to game 101, tonight."
Like Johnson, Reirden took the reins of Stanley Cup champion team whose coach resigned within days after winning the Cup.
After Boston won the Cup in 1970, Harry Sinden resigned as Boston's coach and returned to private business (briefly, as history shows). In the same year in which he was voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player, former defenseman Johnson came down from his front office perch - he was an assistant GM with the 1970 Cup champs - to replace Sinden behind the Bruins' bench.
Back in the day of the 78-game regular season slate, Johnson piloted the Bruins to a remarkable 121-point season (57-14-7) in 1970-71, but the Bruins were bounced from the first round of the playoffs in a stunning upset, a Game 7 defeat at the hands of Ken Dryden and the Montreal Canadiens.
In 1971-72, Johnson and the Bruins then went on to do exactly what Reirden and the Caps are seeking to do this season, winning a second Cup championship in a three-year span. The '71-72 Bruins rolled up a 54-13-11 mark for 119 points, the team's second straight season with the league's best record in that pre-Presidents' Trophy era.
The Bruins went 12-3 in the 1972 Stanley Cup playoffs, en route to a second Cup in three seasons. In those days, teams needed only to win three best-of-seven series to claim hockey's ultimate prize.
Give Me Just A Little More Time - Through all NHL games of Sunday night, there were 74 players in the circuit with six or more goals scored thus far this season. Only two of those players are averaging less than 14 minutes a night in 2019-20, and they're both playing in Monday's game.
Washington's Jakub Vrana has nine goals in 18 games, and he recently poured home five goals in a span of two contests. He is averaging 13:55 in ice time per game, and all nine of his goals have come at even strength. Vrana is one of four players tied for second in the league in even-strength goals, trailing only Edmonton's Leon Draisaitl (13).
Sophomore Arizona winger Conor Garland has seven goals in 17 games, and scored at even strength as well. Garland is tied for ninth in the league in even-strength goals, and his average of 13:04 per night is lowest among the league's top 71 goal getters.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | November 11
In The Nets - Ilya Samsonov gets the net for Washington tonight against the Coyotes. Samsonov is making his sixth start of the season, and he will be seeking his sixth victory. With a 25-save effort against Calgary on Nov. 3, Samsonov won his most recent start, becoming the first goaltender in Caps history and just the 18th in league history to win each of his first five career starts.
Samsonov is 5-1-0 on the season, with his lone loss coming in a relief effort on Oct. 14 against Colorado. He has a 2.38 GAA and a .915 save pct. this season.
After taking on the Caps, the Coyotes are off to St. Louis for a Tuesday night date with the Blues, so Arizona is almost certain to deploy both of its goaltenders in the first two games of its road trip. On Monday against Washington, Antti Raanta gets the net.
Raanta makes his sixth start of the season on Monday in Washington. He is 2-1-2 on the season with a 3.12 GAA and a .912 save pct. Lifetime against the Capitals, Raanta is 1-1-0 in three appearances, with a 2.59 GAA and a .906 save pct.
All Lined Up - This is how we expect the Caps and the Coyotes to look on Monday night in the when they get together to finish up Washington's brief homestand:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
18-Stephenson, 20-Eller, 14-Panik
28-Leipsic, 26-Dowd, 21-Hathaway
62-Hagelin (upper body)
18-Dvorak, 8-Schmaltz, 81-Kessel
9-Keller, 21-Stepan, 13-Hinostroza
67-Crouse, 34-Soderberg, 83-Garland
40-Grabner, 15-Richardson, 36-Fischer
4-Hjalmarsson (fractured fibula)