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SKATE SHAVINGS - News and Notes from Caps' Morning Skate 11/9

Caps face Knights for first time in nearly a year, Washington's PK has been consistently solid in spite of a heavy workload, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Call Of The West - The Caps play their 18th game of the still young 2019-20 season tonight when they host the Vegas Golden Knights in the opener of a two-game homestand. Saturday's game against the Knights is the 11th of those 18 contests to come against a Western Conference opponent, and the Caps will be halfway through their 30-game Western Conference slate before the first week of December is over.

Thus far this season, Washington is 6-2-2 against Western foes, and it is 6-0-1 against its fellow Eastern Conference denizens.

The Caps and the Knights went toe-to-toe in the Stanley Cup Final series in 2018, with the Caps emerging victorious from a five-game series. The Caps and the Knights played more games in that series than they have in their regular season history; tonight marks their fifth meeting ever in the regular season, and their first in more than 11 months.

Despite the fact that they see one another sporadically, there is probably more of a rivalry between the Caps and the Golden Knights than there is between Washington and any other Western club.

"Obviously with that Stanley Cup Final, it's kind of inevitable that there is a rivalry," says Caps forward Chandler Stephenson. "I'm sure Boston and St. Louis have it from last year. It's just something where emotions ran high during that time, and things happen and some guys carry that on. I think it's just something that is always going to be there, whether it's us and Vegas, Boston and St. Louis, or this year, whoever it is. There are just sometimes when emotions run high."

Kill City - Seventeen games into the 2019-20 season, the Caps are one of only four teams in the league that have yet to yield multiple power-play goals in any one single game. Florida, Pittsburgh and Winnipeg are the other three teams that can still claim that distinction, but what's interesting is that those other three teams are also the three least penalized teams in the NHL thus far.

Florida has been shorthanded a total of 40 times in 15 games, and the Panthers haven't had to handle more than four penalty killing situations in any one game as of yet. They've had as many as four only three times in those 15 games.

Video: Tom Wilson | November 9

Pittsburgh has gone down a dude a total of 38 times in 16 games, and the Pens had one game where they were tasked with six kills. But like Florida, Pittsburgh has also had only three games where it has faced as many as four penalty killing situations.

Winnipeg is a surprise team on this list, because the Jets have been typically among the most penalized teams in recent seasons. The Jets were the ninth most penalized team in the league last season, and that's their best showing since 2012-13; they've been among the top six most penalized team in the circuit every other season since.

But this year's Jets have been shorthanded only 36 times in 17 games. Not only that, they've had just one game where they've been down a man four times, and in 13 of their 17 games, they've had two or fewer penalty killing situations.

As for the Capitals, they've been shorthanded 63 times in 17 games, tied for fourth most in the league. In 11 of their 17 games this season, the Caps have dealt with four or more penalty killing missions, and five times - all of them on the road, by the way - they've faced more than four.

Washington has been consistent on the kill; the Caps are at 85.7 percent on the season, and they're at 85.7 percent at home as well as on the road.

"Being the most penalized team in the league is something we don't want," says Stephenson. "That puts you behind the eight ball right away in games, against teams with good [power plays]. If you give them enough chances, one is bound to go in. It's just how the stats lay out. If a team has five or six power plays a game, one is bound to go in, no matter how good your [penalty kill] is.

"As a group, we've got to try to limit penalties. It will obviously help our PK out, and help us in the long run."

Washington had a run of 16 straight games without allowing multiple power-play goals in middle of last season, but this season's run is one game longer heading into Saturday's game against Vegas. The Caps still have a long way to go to match the franchise record in that regard. Back in 2015-16, the Caps permitted two or more power-play goals only twice all season, setting a franchise record that will be extremely difficult to top. The Caps finished second in the league with a kill rate of 85.2 percent that season, and they allowed only 38 power-play goals against, also a franchise record.

Video: Two-Man Advantage | November 9

In The Nets - Two nights after earning his seventh win of the season with a 32-save outing against the Panthers in Florida, Braden Holtby is back between the pipes for Washington once again. Since winning only one of his first five starts (1-1-2) of the season, Holtby has helped the Capitals to earn a point or more in each of his last seven starts (6-0-1).

Lifetime against the Golden Knights in the regular season, Holtby is 1-2-0 with 3.02 GAA and an .895 save pct. in three starts.

Marc-Andre Fleury is the expected netminder tonight for Vegas, which is starting a set of back-to-backs on Saturday in Washington; the Golden Knights will finish off a four-game road trip on Sunday in Detroit.

With 448 career NHL wins, Fleury ranks seventh on the league's all-time list, and he is second only to the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist (453) among all active goaltenders. Fleury turns 35 on Thanksgiving Day, but he sshows no signs of slowing down yet. He appeared in his 800th career game earlier in the season, and he is off to a 9-3-1 start to the season, with a shutout, a 2.40 GAA and a .924 save pct.

Lifetime against the Capitals in the regular season, Fleury is 23-13-2 with four shutouts, a 2.59 GAA and a .912 save pct.

All Lined Up - This is how we expect the Caps and the Golden Knights to look on Saturday night in the District when they meet for the first time in nearly 11 months:

 

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie

13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson

18-Stephenson, 20-Eller, 21-Hathaway

28-Leipsic, 26-Dowd, 72-Boyd

Defensemen

6-Kempny, 74-Carlson

9-Orlov, 33-Gudas

34-Siegenthaler, 3-Jensen

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

30-Samsonov

Injuries

14-Panik (upper body)

62-Hagelin (upper body)

Scratches

78-Lewington

 

VEGAS

Forwards

81-Marchessault, 71-Karlsson, 19-Smith

67-Pacioretty, 26-Stastny, 61-Stone

73-Pirri, 21-Eakin, 9-Glass

28-Carrier, 92-Nosek, 75-Reaves

Defensemen

3-McNabb, 88-Schmidt

14-Hague, 27-Theodore

15-Merrill, 22-Holden

Goaltenders

29-Fleury

30-Subban

Injuries

89-Tuch (upper body)

Scratches

5-Engelland

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