Both teams are playing for the second time in as many nights; the Caps engineered another comeback win on Friday at home, digging out of a two-goal hole in the third period to take down the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime while the Red Wings were on the business end of a 6-1 beating at the hands of the Flyers in Philadelphia.
Detroit has lost eight straight (0-6-2), its second eight-game losing streak of the season, but the Wings have also defeated Dallas, Boston and Vegas on home ice this season, so they can't be overlooked.
"Absolutely we can't overlook," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "I watched their game [Saturday], and the first period they carried the play vs. Philly. They're just running into some rough patches, and then when they give up a goal, now they're not able to right the ship. But they're doing a lot of good things. They've got a young team, a lot of speed, and especially at home here, they're a dangerous team. So we've got to be sharp tonight."
Video: Reirden Pregame | November 30
Show Of Strength - Washington is now 27 games into the 2019-20 NHL season, and it has earned points in 23 of those games, suffering just four regulation losses. It's the second-best start in franchise history, just behind that of the 2015-16 Presidents' Trophy-winning edition of the Caps. They've achieved that swift start largely against the best teams in the league.
Currently, only five NHL clubs have a points pct. below .500. Washington has played a total of just one game against those five clubs, a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 18. That changes tonight when the Caps face the Red Wings, the occupants of the league's basement with a lowly .304 points pct.
Of their final 55 games this season, the Caps will play 13 of them against those five teams currently in the league's bottom five.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | November 30
Hey Nineteen - Caps center Nicklas Backstrom will miss his fifth straight game with an upper body injury tonight in Detroit. But Backstrom did skate at Little Caesars Arena on Saturday morning, and he will accompany the Caps on the California leg of the trip; they depart for San Jose immediately after tonight's game.
"He did skate, and our reports are he continues to head in the right direction," says Reirden. "He'll be continuing on the rest of the trip with us to California after the game."
Washington has an off day on Sunday, and it will reconvene for a Monday morning practice in San Jose. It's unlikely that Backstrom would return before taking part in at least one full contact practice, and that clearance hasn't been granted yet.
"I think we will have to see how a full contact practice goes for him," says Reirden, "if he is cleared for that. Right now, he has not been. So we'll see once we get closer to practice time.
In The Nets - Ilya Samsonov will get the start for the Caps on Saturday in Detroit, making his first start and first appearance since Nov. 15 in a 5-2 loss to Montreal. Samsonov was sent to Hershey the following morning, but came back up a few days later, before he was able to get into a game with the Bears. This marks the longest break between starts for Samsonov this season, as Braden Holtby started each of the Caps' last six games.
It's a bit of a longer break than the Caps would have liked.
"Yeah, it was," says Reirden. "I think initially that's what we attempted to do, was to try to get him going every week. We know we've got a few back-to-backs coming up here, so he can play a little bit more often there. And it also had something to do with the calldown/sendup situation we had, so he was away from the ice for a few days. I think he is in a good spot right now to have a solid game [Saturday] when called upon."
On the season, Samsonov is 5-2-1 with a 2.65 GAA and a .912 save pct. He is 5-1-1 in his seven starting assignments.
Veteran Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard is sidelined with a mid-body injury, and Jonathan Bernier has been sick, leading Detroit to recall netminder Calvin Pickard from AHL Grand Rapids. A former second-round pick (in 2010) of the Colorado Avalanche, Pickard has 105 games worth of NHL experience after his ill-fated start against the Flyers on Friday. He was dented for six goals on 29 shots in that game, his first NHL action of 2019-20.
Detroit is Pickard's fifth NHL organization in the last two years, since Vegas chose him from Colorado in the 2017 NHL expansion draft.
On Saturday, the Wings made a deal for another goalie, sending defenseman Vili Saarijarvi to Arizona in exchange for goaltender Eric Comrie. The Coyotes claimed Comrie off waivers from Edmonton two months earlier.
Comrie won't arrive in Detroit in time for tonight's game, and Bernier has recovered from his illness, so he will get the start tonight against Washington. He is 5-6-2 with a 3.31 GAA and an .893 save pct. this season. Lifetime against the Caps, he is 4-6-0 with a 3.21 GAA and an .880 save pct. in 10 career appearances.
All Lined Up - Here is a look at how we expect the Capitals and the Lightning to look on Friday afternoon when they get together for the first time this season in the finale of Washington's three-game homestand:
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 20-Eller, 77-Oshie
14-Panik, 18-Stephenson, 72-Boyd
28-Leipsic, 26-Dowd, 21-Hathaway
19-Backstrom (upper body)
62-Hagelin (upper body)
59-Bertuzzi, 71-Larkin, 41-Glendening
14-Fabbri, 51-Filppula, 72-Athanasiou
43-Helm, 81-Nielsen, 11-Zadina
73-Erne, 70-Ehn, 29-Perlini
39-Mantha (lower body)
65-DeKeyser (lower body)
83-Daley (lower body)