The Flames were in action on Saturday night, blanking the Blue Jackets in Columbus before arriving in the District in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The Caps will be the more rested team tonight, and they defeated the Flames by a 5-3 count in Calgary on Oct. 22.
Aiming for a fourth straight win at home and overall, the Caps can refer back to the success they had in victories over Toronto and Rangers when those teams came to town on short rest, as well as their previous and recent triumph over the Flames in Calgary.
"Obviously it's an advantage," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We know that, especially traveling for them. With that being said, it's an advantage you have to take control of and really make the most of, because they don't happen all the time and you know how you feel when you are the opposition, and how difficult a game it can be.
"So it's really important we play to our team identity tonight, right from the drop of the puck. And if we can play that heavy physical game where we're forechecking, we feel strong about our team every night, let alone on a night when a team is coming off a back-to-back. That will be a real priority for us tonight, getting to our game."
Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | November 3
Five Long Years - Washington's recent five-game road trip through Western Canada and other destinations was an unqualified success, as the team brought back nine of a possible 10 points from the journey, its longest of the season.
In each of the five games on that trip, the Caps permitted three or more goals against. It's the first time in five years the Caps have been dented for three or more goals in as many as five straight games, and typically, teams can't expect to have the success the Caps had in those five games, results-wise.
"Over the course of 82 games, you've got to find different ways to pull out games, and collect points," says Caps right wing Tom Wilson. "At times, we weren't playing our best hockey defensively, maybe, but we found a way to get it done against some pretty good teams.
"It's early in the year. We're changing some things, so there might be holes here and there that we're trying to tighten up. That being said, the group has come together and found a way to battle back in the games, and even if they're scoring on us, we're finding a way to answer it, for the most part."
"That's obviously an area that we can continue to work on," says Reirden. "We know that we can be better defensively in a couple of different ways, and we're going to continue to be a work in progress with that. Especially just with combining aggressiveness in conjunction with making sure that it's smart aggression. That's a little bit of the trade-off that we're going through right now, and sometimes you have to learn some heard lessons on that, and we certainly have in a game like Edmonton, where we were giving up far too many odd-man opportunities, making improper reads, and we were not acting as a five-man unit.
"Those are things we're working towards, and that's only going to come with more reps and playing games and getting better. It's a credit to our team that that has allowed us to score at a higher rate, but I'd certainly like to give up a lot less."
In introducing some new wrinkles into their game early in the season, the hope is that the Caps can smooth out the wrinkles in those new tweaks by midseason, and that those new adjustments will make them a more formidable team when it matters most, as the playoffs are getting underway.
"With a coach like Todd, he spends a lot of time scouting systems and how we can implement them into our game, and how we can always get better and how we can always adapt. You don't want to be a team that is doing the same thing over, and over, and over. In the age of video, it's too easy for the opposition to scout. So we always want to be changing, and with that comes an adjustment period.
"We're working on it. We're building our identity, and we're coming together. And we're ironing out the wrinkles. When we hit our stride - hopefully in the middle of the season - we'll be a well-oiled machine and we can just keep moving forward."
The last time Washington allowed three or more goals in five straight games was Oct. 26-Nov. 4, 2014, early in the team's first season with Barry Trotz as head coach and Reirden as an assistant coach. The Caps went 0-4-1 in those five games five years ago.
Video: Rinkside Update | Alex Ovechkin
It Takes Two - The Caps will dress 18 skaters for tonight's game with the Flames, and any one of them can help the team match an obscure but impressive club record that has stood for more than three decades.
In each of their last five games, the Caps have had at least one player score two goals. The club record is six straight, and it was set more than 32 years ago, from Feb. 7-24, 1987.
The current run began in Calgary on Oct. 22 when John Carlson scored twice. Two nights later in Edmonton, Alex Ovechkin had a pair of goals. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Michal Kempny each had two goals in Washington's Oct. 25 win over the Canucks in Vancouver, and Carlson and Ovechkin each struck twice in Tuesday's triumph in Toronto. Finally, on Friday night against Buffalo, Jakub Vrana had a pair of lamplighters.
Craig Laughlin started the Caps' record spree in 1987, scoring twice on Feb. 7 in a loss to the Rangers. Bobby Gould netted a pair in the Caps' next game, a 5-3 win over the Oilers in Edmonton on Feb. 15. Mike Gartner scored twice in a 7-4 loss to the Kings in LA on Feb. 18, and he scored two more the very next game in Vancouver on Feb. 20. Alan Haworth ran the streak to five straight games with a pair of goals at Calgary on Feb. 22, and Gartner and David Jensen each struck twice when the Caps returned home to thump Detroit 8-2 on Feb. 24.
The Caps' current streak marks the 10th time in franchise history that they've had a player with two goals in at least five straight games, and it's the first time it's happened in nearly 10 years (Nov. 28-Dec. 7, 2009). This is the third time the Caps have turned the trick in the last 26 years.
Over the 100 years plus of the league's existence, there have been 285 instances of a team going at least five straight games with a player scoring twice. The last time a team extended that run to six games was Dec. 15-28, 2018 when the Toronto Maple Leafs had a six-game run.
In The Nets - Ilya Samsonov gets the net tonight against Calgary, as he makes his second home start of the season. Samsonov is 4-1-0 in this, his rookie campaign in the league, and he is a perfect 4-0-0 in his four starts. Overall, he has a 2.46 GAA and a .913 save pct. on the season.
With the Caps in the midst of a three-week stretch between sets of back-to-back games, it was important for Reirden to find a start for Samsonov, and ideally to do so without disrupting Braden Holtby's recent run of success. Following a four-start winless streak early in the season (0-1-2), Holtby has helped the Caps to a point in each of his last six starts (5-0-1).
"He is just getting started on his NHL career," says Reirden of Samsonov. "This will be good just to get him a home start here in a situation where we are the rested team. I like to continue to put him in different opportunities and give him opportunities that he has earned. We'll see how he does tonight with that situation and continue to keep him as active as we can, but still keep Braden sharp."
For the Flames, Cam Talbot is the likely starter against the Capitals. David Rittich was in goal last night for Calgary, and he made 43 saves in picking up his second shutout of the season and the third of his NHL career. Rittich has started five straight for the Flames, helping them to a 3-1-1 mark in those games.
Talbot is expected to see his first action since Oct. 22, when he faced the Caps in Calgary. Washington reached him for four goals on 29 shots in that one, dropping him to 1-2-0 on the season.
Lifetime against the Caps, Talbot is 3-6-0 with a 2.64 GAA and a .911 save pct. in 11 appearances.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | November 3
All Lined Up - This is how we expect the Caps to look on Sunday night - and how the Flames lined up in Columbus on Saturday - in the District when they finish off their 2019-20 season's series with Calgary at Capital One Arena:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
62-Hagelin, 20-Eller, 21-Hathaway
28-Leipsic, 18-Stephenson, 72-Boyd
14-Panik (upper body)
26-Dowd (lower body)
13-Gaudreau, 23-Monahan, 28-Lindholm
19-Tkachuk, 11-Backlund, 67-Frolik
88-Mangiapane, 10-Ryan, 93-Bennett
17-Lucic, 77-Jankowski, 89-Quine
8-Valimaki (lower body)
27-Czarnik (lower body)