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SKATE SHAVINGS - News and Notes from Caps' Morning Skate 11/16

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Right Back In The Fire - The goals weren't going to keep falling like rain in Seattle for the Capitals, and they weren't likely to maintain a 128-point pace over a full 82-game slate, either. The Caps dropped a 5-2 decision to the Montreal Canadiens in the District on Friday, and they'll be seeking to muster a strong response on Saturday night in Boston against the Bruins.

Washington is seeking to avoid its first set of consecutive regulation losses in 2019-20.

"This is no secret," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "This is a tough stretch of games for our team right now, finishing off a three in four and getting right back at it against Anaheim on Monday.

"I think it's important for us, and it always has been for me, it's the evaluation. When you tell the players how the [previous] game went, and you tell them truthfully how the game went, then they're able to move past it. You take your lessons from it in the morning, you work on it video-wise, and then you figure out ways of making it better.

"That's been the process we've gone through for the many years I've been here, and it's been successful for us. You correct mistakes and you hope your leadership group responds. Obviously that has been a hallmark of our team, a strong leadership group that doesn't allow us to get into too many slides."

From Oct. 10-Nov. 19, the Caps scored four or more goals in 12 of their 14 games, and they scored three in the other two contests during that run. They've been limited to six goals in their last three games and three in their last two, with only two goals at even strength in the last two contests.

"Sometimes you make some adjustments to your lines," says Reirden. "You may see some of those early tonight, just to get our offense back on track here."

A combination of injuries and salary cap constraints forced the Caps into a situation of Friday night where their lineup consisted of seven defensemen and 11 forwards. Thanks to some Saturday roster moves, they're back at a more conventional arrangement of six blueliners and a dozen forwards tonight.

On Saturday morning, the Caps announced they had sent goaltender Ilya Samsonov and defenseman Tyler Lewington to AHL Hershey and they've recalled netminder Vitek Vanecek and forward Travis Boyd from the same club. Boyd will play tonight while Vanecek will serve as the Caps' backup netminder. Forwards Nic Dowd and Carl Hagelin are both still day-to-day with upper body injuries.

Washington boasts a 9-1-1 road record this season, tops in the league. They've won four straight on the road - all of them in overtime or a shootout - and have earned points in eight straight (7-0-1) away from the District.

Boston owns the league's best home record at 7-0-3 this season, and these two clubs are each sitting atop their respective divisions as they prepare for the first of their three meetings this season on this mid-November Saturday night.

Quarter Mark - With 21 games behind them now, the Caps are a quarter of the way through the 2019-20 regular season. They've reached this point with just three regulation losses and have matched their best ever point total to this juncture of the season.

"I think it's very important to get off to a good start," says Caps center Lars Eller. "You don't want to be chasing going into December and January. That's not where you want to be. You want to be on top and to have a good start. It's just way better, I feel like. And we haven't been a great starting team, at least since I've been here. Usually we don't get going until December; that's usually when we start putting winning streaks together.

"This has been the best start since I've been here for sure. This team has been hungry from the get-go, and we had a bit of a longer summer than we had the last couple of years, so we've had time to prepare and be physically and mentally ready. Maybe that's a little bit of it, but it's just that everybody is really hungry to win, and we have a real strong culture in here."

With 32 points through 21 games (14-3-4), the Caps have built up some standings equity. They've had hot spells of roughly this length in each of the last five seasons, but as Eller notes, never right from the outset of the season. This year's start is their best since 1991-92 (16-5-0).

"Obviously it's nice anytime you have success and get points and such," says Caps goalie Braden Holtby. "If you look at the way the schedule is, in the last half the games are going to be more intense with more divisional opponents and those type of things. So you try and win as many games right now to put yourself in a good position so you can use the second half - and those hard games - to get ready for playoff style."

There are many reasons to be pleased about the Caps' first quarter performance, and some areas that could use shoring up, too.

"Our composure," answers Holtby, when queried as to the element of the team's first quarter that has pleased him the most. "The fact that when we're out of a game, we don't panic. That's probably won us a lot of games."

"I'm pretty pleased with our bottom level," says Eller, in response to the same question. "When we don't play very well, we manage to never play badly for 60 minutes, I think. We find ways to get back into games, even if we have one bad period. We figure it out on the go and make adjustments. I think that has been a big key. Even when we're not playing at our best, we've still found ways to win games. So I'd say consistency."

In The Nets - Ilya Samsonov started for the Caps on Friday night against Montreal, and immediately after the game he got the word that he was being sent to Hershey. Tonight Braden Holtby gets the net against Boston, and he will be seeking to earn his 267th career win, which would move him past Felix Potvin and into sole possession of 50th place on the league's all-time wins list.

"Wins have always been important to me," says Holtby. "It's the one thing I care about because it shows consistency, not only personally, but team-wise. It's a stat that comes directly as part of a group, so I think that's pretty cool. But hopefully there are a lot more."

Holtby is 8-0-1 in his last nine starts, and in his last four, he is 4-0-0 with a 1.96 GAA and a .938 save pct. Lifetime against the Bruins, he is 16-3-0 with four shutouts, a 1.80 GAA and a .946 save pct.

Tuukka Rask went for the Bruins on Friday night in Toronto, so ex-Cap Jaroslav Halak gets the net tonight for the Bruins. On the season, Halak is 4-1-2 with a 2.68 GAA and a .918 save pct. Lifetime against the Caps, he is 9-10-0 with a shutout, a 2.80 GAA and a .900 save pct.

All Lined Up - Both teams played last night, and neither side conducted a full morning skate on Saturday, so here's a look at how the Caps and Bruins might lineup tonight:

 

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie

13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson

14-Panik, 20-Eller, 72-Boyd

28-Leipsic, 18-Stephenson, 21-Hathaway

Defensemen

6-Kempny, 74-Carlson

9-Orlov, 33-Gudas

34-Siegenthaler, 3-Jensen

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

41-Vanecek

Injuries

26-Dowd (upper body)

62-Hagelin (upper body)

Scratches

None

 

BOSTON

Forwards

63-Marchand, 37-Bergeron, 88-Pastrnak

10-Bjork, 46-Krejci, 13-Coyle

82-Frederic, 26-Lindholm, 43-Heinen

20-Nordstrom, 52-Kuraly, 14-Wagner

Defensemen

33-Chara, 73-McAvoy

48-Grzelcyk, 25-Carlo

58-Vaakanainen, 75-Clifton

Goaltenders

41-Halak

40-Rask

Injuries

18-Ritchie (upper body)

19-Senyshyn (lower body)

27-Moore (shoulder)

42-Backes (upper body)

47-Krug (upper body)

74-DeBrusk (lower body)

81-Blidh (shoulder)

83-Kuhlman (leg)

86-Miller (knee)

Scratches

34-Carey

44-Kampfer

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