Last Stop Before Break - The Caps finally reach the end of a tough stretch of January scheduling in which they play 12 times in 21 nights with three sets of back-to-back games and four road trips in two weeks. The fourth of those trips is to Toronto, where the Caps will face the Maple Leafs on Wednesday night in their final game before a weeklong break from the rigors of the rink, the league's mostly annual All-Star break coupled with the Caps' bye week.
For some perspective, the Caps made those four road trips in a span of 14 days to play exactly four road games. Their next four road trips after returning from the break will cover a span of 44 days, and they'll play a total of a dozen road contests - or roughly 30 percent of their entire road schedule for the season - on those journeys.
Washington plays three sets of back-to-back games in that span of 21 days: it finishes the third set tonight against the Leafs. The Caps will play three more sets of back-to-back games over the entire remainder of the season after the upcoming break, a span of 65 days.
Slip Sliding Away - At this time last month, the Caps were in the midst of their best stretch of hockey this season, winning 16 of 19 games (16-3-0) to vault themselves into the top spot of the Metro Division standings. Washington outscored the opposition by a combined total of 53-31 at five-on-five in those 19 contests, and that plus-22 goal differential was best in the league over that time span.
Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | January 23
But the Caps have own just three of 12 games (3-6-3) since then, and they carry a six-game losing run (0-4-2) into Wednesday night's game with the Leafs, Washington's longest slide in five years. They've been outscored 26-34 at five-on-five in the last dozen games, but have been bleeding goals against during the life of their current six-game slide.
The Caps are on the wrong side of an 11-21 goal differential at five-on-five during their six-game skid, and they netted just one goal at five-on-five in the first four losses of that streak.
Washington has scored five goals at five-on-five in each of its last two games, but it lost both contests because it surrendered eight and seven goals, respectively. It's the first time since Oct. 7-8, 2005 that the Caps have yielded seven or more goals in consecutive games. That previous occurrence was in the second and third games of Alex Ovechkin's NHL career.
In The Nets - Braden Holtby will start in goal for Washington tonight, starting both ends of a set of back-to-back games for the second time this season. Holtby will also be starting for the third time in four nights on Wednesday against the Maple Leafs; he started Sunday's 8-5 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago, but was pulled after allowing four goals on 11 shots in 22:30 of work.
Lifetime against the Leafs, Holtby is 8-4-1 with a shutout, a 2.20 GAA and a .928 save pct. Against Eastern Conference opponents in 2018-19, Holtby is 14-5-1 with two shutouts, a 2.39 GAA and a .927 save pct.
Frederik Andersen will get the net for Toronto against the Capitals. Since coming off injured reserve just over a week ago, Andersen is 1-2-0 in three starts with a 3.04 GAA and a .913 save pct. He has 21 wins on the season, and owns a 4-1-1 career regular season mark against Washington, with two shutouts, a 2.72 GAA and a .912 save pct.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | January 23
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Maple Leafs to look when they meet on Wednesday night at Scotiabank Arena:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov 43-Wilson
25-Smith-Pelly, 20-Eller, 10-Connolly
18-Stephenson, 72-Boyd, 65-Burakovsky
29-Djoos (lower body)
11-Hyman, 91-Tavares, 24-Kapanen
12-Marleau, 34-Matthews, 16-Marner
28-Brown, 43-Kadri, 29-Nylander
26-Lindholm, 33-Gauthier, 42-Moore