Beginning with a home game against Arizona this past Monday night, the Caps started a stretch in which they'll play six games in 10 nights, with travel required after each of the six. Washington played at Philadelphia on Wednesday, and will play at Boston tomorrow. They'll return home to host Anaheim on Monday before heading north again to face the Rangers in New York on Wednesday.
Thirteen - The Caps carry a 13-game point streak (11-0-2) into Friday's game with Montreal. This is the sixth time in franchise history that Washington has had a point streak of at least 13 games in length, and the current streak is just two games shy of the club record of 15 straight games (14-0-1) established from Jan. 13-Feb. 10, 2010.
With 32 points (14-2-4) through 20 games, the Caps have fashioned the best 20-game start in franchise history, two points better than the previous best start of 30 points (15-5-0) in 1992-92.
The Hurting Business - We are now 20 games into the 2019-20 regular season, and Caps coach Todd Reirden still has not been able to see and to deploy the optimal lineup he has in mind for his team in the wake of its offseason improvements and acquisitions. Defenseman Michal Kempny started the season on injured reserve, and center Evgeny Kuznetsov was suspended for the first three games.
By the time Kempny returned on Oct. 18, winger Richard Panik had suffered an upper body injury and was played on long term injured reserve. By the time Panik was ready to return to the lineup this week, Carl Hagelin was out with an upper body injury. On Thursday in Philadelphia, center Nic Dowd suffered an injury that will keep him out of tonight's game against the Canadiens.
That's life in the NHL, injuries happen and adjustments must be made, often on the fly and always within the parameters of the league's salary cap. Dowd's injury takes the Caps down to 11 healthy forwards, and at Friday's morning skate, that left a hole in the middle of the team's fourth line between wingers Brendan Leipsic and Garnet Hathaway.
Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | November 15
"There will be a recall made from Hershey for a player tonight," Reirden told reporters after Friday's morning skate. "We're going to meet and make that decision here in the next little while."
After the meeting, the Caps recalled defenseman Tyler Lewington from AHL Hershey, doing so less than a week after the blueliner had been loaned to the Bears. For tonight's game, Lewington is the lone recall option available to Washington because of the salary cap, so the Capitals will hit the ice tonight against Montreal with seven defensemen and 11 forwards.
The team's coaching and hockey operations staff will huddle up again and regroup after tonight's tilt, and the indication is that there will be additional roster moves coming ahead of Saturday's game in Boston against the Bruins.
Both Dowd and Hagelin are listed as day-to-day with upper body injuries. Neither has been ruled out for Saturday's game in Boston, but it didn't sound promising for either to play in that game, either.
"We'll have to see tonight," says Reirden when asked about possible availability of either of the two forwards on Saturday, "But I'd say right now it's leaning towards that. But I can't say for certain."
In The Nets - With a set of back-to-back games this weekend against a pair of Atlantic Division teams, the Caps faced an interesting decision as far as how to deploy their two goaltenders. No. 1 netminder Braden Holtby has excellent career numbers against both Montreal and Boston, and typically the No. 1 guy will get the net for the home game, the first game, and/or the game against the most formidable of the two foes.
Additionally, Holtby is on a roll right now, and over the course of his NHL career he has typically performed better when he is in the rhythm of playing every other day, as he would be if he started tonight against Montreal. In this case, however, the Caps are opting to start Ilya Samsonov tonight in the home game against the Canadiens, and they'll save Holtby for the second half of the back-to-back set, on Saturday night against the Bruins in Boston.
"Braden seems to play well in Boston, so that was a thought of ours," says Reirden, "And just looking at different opponents, and a number of other decisions as well that went into it, but we're going to go with Samsonov tonight, and Holtby will play [Saturday]."
Another factor in all of this is that the Bruins are in Toronto tonight to take on the Maple Leafs, so they will also be playing on short rest on Saturday night.
For the Canadiens, Carey Price gets the net tonight in Washington. The Habs are also playing on Saturday; they return home to host the New Jersey Devils tomorrow. Price is 9-4-2 on the season with a 2.65 GAA and a .916 save pct., and he is 7-2-1 in his last 10 starts. Lifetime against the Capitals, Price is 7-14-5 with a shutout, a 3.34 GAA and an .890 save pct. in 26 appearances.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | November 15
All Lined Up - This is how we expect the Caps and the Habs to look on Friday night when they take to the ice at Capital One Arena:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
18-Stephenson, 20-Eller, 14-Panik
26-Dowd (upper body)
62-Hagelin (upper body)
92-Drouin, 24-Danault, 11-Gallagher
41-Byron, 13-Domi, 40-Armia
90-Tatar, 14-Suzuki, 62-Lehkonen
21-Cousins 44-Thompson, 43-Weal