The Caps have also been busy of late, as tonight's game is their fifth in the last eight nights. With a pair of shootout wins, the Caps finished last week with a 2-1-1 mark, but they are 12-1-2 over their last 15 games, dating back to the middle of last month.
Washington has seen plenty of the Western Conference early in the 2019-20 campaign; tonight's game against the Ducks is their 13th of a total of 30 games against Western foes, and it's the seventh of 15 games against Pacific Division clubs. The Capitals are 7-2-3 against Western foes and they are 4-0-2 against Pacific opponents.
Starting with tonight's game against the Ducks, the Caps will play five of their next nine games against Pacific Division opponents. Monday's game is the first for Washington against the Ducks with Dallas Eakins behind the bench. The former Caps draft pick and farmhand was promoted from AHL San Diego to coach the Ducks over the summer, and he has had many current Anaheim players during his stint with their AHL affiliate.
"There is definitely a difference in their style from what they've showed us in the past," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of the Ducks. "They still have some of the same players on their team that right now is going through some injuries on their back end. So it is important for us that we really focus on our game, which is we need to get in on the forecheck and be physical when we arrive there, and play in the offensive zone for longer stretches than we have probably recently, especially against this team, otherwise they're dangerous offensively and still have the ability to transition.
"But they're a really well structured and hard working team, and their coach has done a good job with them so far."
Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | Nov. 18
A Little Bit Is Better Than Nada - For much of the first quarter of the season, the Caps were getting goals by the bunches. They were averaging around four goals a game and leading the league in that department, but last week's offensive dry spell has dropped them down to 3.68 goals per game, tied with Nashville for second in the circuit.
More importantly, the resourceful Caps have found a way to keep the points coming in despite their recent - and hopefully temporary - dearth of offense. They've scored only three goals at 5-on-5 in their last three games, and two of the three came from Washington's fourth line. Washington has also generated only four power play goals in eight games this month - they had 13 in their first 14 games - though it should be noted that the Caps scored a pair of 6-on-5 goals last week, which are similar to extra-man tallies although they're not counted as such.
Reirden juggled his top six forwards to good effect ahead of Saturday night's 3-2 shootout win over the Bruins in Boston, as his team reached the 40 mark in shots on goal for the first time in 23 games this season. Only a stellar netminding performance from Jaroslav Halak kept the Caps from scoring four or five times in that contest.
"We've moved it around a couple of times even this year, and also in the past as well," says Reirden of his top six pieces. "Sometimes it's just a little bit of a different feel, different energy, when you're looking for something to give you something build off of in terms of going into back-to-backs. Sometimes you give something fresh, so that was the idea going into that game, and we'll start the same way tonight.
"It's a coaching strategy to just be able to get a little bit of extra energy out of your guys, and to do it with a new setup. We'll take a look at it again tonight, and we obviously know the other combinations work as well. It's a great luxury to have, and to me it really creates a difficult match-up for us either way for the opposition, so it's important - especially when we have home ice tonight - for me to be able to take advantage of those match-up opportunities."
The Caps are 6-1-1 in November, but after scoring 20 goals in their first four games this month, they've netted just eight in their last four games. Washington scored only 10 goals in its first four games this season, but grabbed points in all four (2-0-2), and it is 2-1-1 in its last four currently.
"It's comforting to know that when our top scores aren't finding ways to put pucks in the net, that we've got guys on the other lines that can come in and save the day and contribute offensively. That's one thing that's nice about being here is I think our team is so deep that we've got guys that are on the third and fourth line that maybe on some other teams could be moved up a line or two.
"That's a good problem to have, a lot of offense up and down the lineup. But it is hard to sustain, and I'm glad we've gotten into some lower scoring games so we can be more comfortable in those."
Video: Two-Man Advantage | November 18
In The Nets - Braden Holtby is back in the crease for the Caps tonight, two nights after notching his 10th win of the season in Boston. Holtby has helped the Caps to at least a point in each of his last 10 starts (9-0-1), and - although he has started fewer games than both goalies - he is tied for the league lead in victories with Vegas' Marc-Andre Fleury and Montreal's Carey Price.
Now among the league's top 50 all-time goaltenders in career victories, Holtby will pull even with ex-Caps goaltender Don Beaupre (268) with his next win.
Over the life of his current point streak, Holtby has fashioned a 2.44 GAA and a .924 save pct. in 10 starts. Lifetime against Anaheim, he is 3-4-0 with a 3.99 GAA and an .860 save pct. in seven appearances.
John Gibson is expected to be in goal for the Ducks on Monday night in Washington. Only Calgary's David Rittich (17) has made more starts than Gibson this season, and the Pittsburgh native is 7-9-0 with a 2.83 GAA and a .918 save pct. in his 16 starts for Anaheim in 2019-20.
Lifetime against Washington, Gibson is 1-2-2 with a shutout, a 3.21 GAA and a .901 save pct. in half a dozen appearances.
All Lined Up - Here is a look at how we expect the Capitals and the Ducks to lineup on Monday night in the District for the first of their two meetings this season:
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
14-Panik, 20-Eller, 72-Boyd
28-Leipsic, 18-Stephenson, 21-Hathaway
26-Dowd (upper body)
62-Hagelin (upper body)
67-Rakell, 15-Getzlaf, 49-Jones
37-Ritchie, 14-Henrique, 33-Silfverberg
29-Shore, 34-Steel, 25-Kase
20-Deslauriers, 38-Grant, 24-Rowney
44-Del Zotto, 4-Fowler
42-Manson (lower body)
47-Lindholm (lower body)