Through 10 games this month, the Caps are 7-3-0. Washington earned at least eight victories in each of the first three months of the season and is seeking to match that level tonight in its January finale.
The Caps come into this one on the heels of a 5-4 home ice loss to the Predators on Wednesday, and they will be gunning for their 20th road win of the season tonight. No other team in the league has more than 15 road victories.
Power Shortage - Washington's power play unit owns a 20.5 percent success rate coming into tonight's game, the 12th best rate in the league. But when you factor in a league-high eight shorthanded goals allowed, the Caps' net success rate plummets to 15.7 percent, which ranks 21st in the league.
Although the Caps have scored on the power play in five of their last six games, four of those eight shorthanded goals allowed have occurred in just 10 games this month, leaving the Caps with a net success rate of just 7.7 percent on the power play in January, which places them 28th in the league in that department over that span.
What can the Caps do to start limiting those shorthanded goals against?
"We need to get to February," quips Caps defenseman John Carlson. "No, I think there are a lot of factors that go into them, and certainly they can be huge momentum swings against us, and for the most part they have. I think we've had a couple of times where we've been able to overcome them, but it's a number of different things that we look at all the time that we need to improve on, and I think just the mentality is the biggest one for me. When we're aggressive and not passing up opportunities on the power play, those things seem not to happen."
Video: Pregame | January 31
Washington yielded eight shorthanded goals against during the 2017-18 regular season, but has not surrendered more than eight since 2013-14 when it allowed 10.
Power Surge - Ottawa ranks 30th in the league in power play prowess with a 14.4 percent success rate, but the Sens' extra-man unit has been on a tear as of late. Ottawa is coming off a 5-2 win over the Sabres in Buffalo on Tuesday night, and the Sens went 3-for-4 on the power play in that game, their first game with as many as three power-play goals since February of last season.
The Sens have scored a power-play goal in four straight games for the first time this season, and they are a lusty 6-for-11 (54.5 percent) over that stretch.
"We spent some time on that this morning," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "You see that once you start rolling a little bit, confidence starts building, especially with some of the younger players that they have. They're executing at a high level and have been able to finish.
"So it's important that we don't take quite as many as we have been this year, and it's something we'll continue to work at. And when we do get in that situation, making sure that we're detailed and extremely hard to play against, and making sure that we're getting pucks 200 feet when we've got it on our stick."
In The Nets - Ilya Samsonov will be in net for Washington tonight against the Senators. Samsonov will be making his first appearance since earning a relief win on Jan. 18 in the Caps' last game prior to their midseason break, and he is starting for the first time since he helped his team to a 5-2 win over New Jersey on Jan. 16.
Video: Todd Reirden | January 31
"I'd like to see more of what we saw before the break," says Reirden of Samsonov. "I feel like giving him a few extra days to re-settle in after being off the ice for seven days was the right plan for him to set him up for success. Just the way he controls the play and the confidence he plays with allows our team to play a confident game as well. He has been really impressive, and this will be another test against a really hard-working and what I feel is one of the more improved teams in the league tonight in Ottawa."
Samsonov carries a 15-2-1 record into Friday's game, to go along with a 2.06 GAA and a .927 save pct. He has won 10 straight decisions overall, and he is 9-0-0 in 10 road appearances (eight starts) this season, with a 2.11 GAA and a .921 save pct.
Tonight will mark Samsonov's second career appearance against the Sens; he stopped 26 of 27 shots against them in a 6-1 Washington win at Capital One Arena on Jan. 7.
Ottawa is playing the front end of a set of back-to-back games tonight; the Sens are off to Toronto for a Saturday night date with the Maple Leafs after this one. So we're expecting the Sens to split the goaltending chores this weekend, and the tea leaves point toward rookie Marcus Hogberg getting the nod in net tonight.
Hogberg, the Sens' third-round pick (78th overall) in the 2013 NHL Draft, is 2-2-6 in a dozen appearances this season, with a 2.90 GAA and a .912 save pct. He made his NHL debut against the Caps on Dec. 29, 2018 here, stopping 21 of 24 shots in a 3-2 loss. Earlier this month in Washington, he stopped 10 of 11 shots in a relief appearance against the Caps. Hogberg has started five games since then, earning at least a point for Ottawa in each of them (1-0-4).
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Senators to line up on Friday night in Ottawa when they meet for the middle match of their three-game season's series:
8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 92-Kuznetsov, 77-Oshie
62-Hagelin, 20-Eller, 14-Panik
28-Leipsic, 26-Dowd, 21-Hathaway
7-Tkachuk, 44-Pageau, 28-Brown
90-Namestnikov, 71-Tierney, 10-Duclair
63-Ennis, 36-White, 19-Batherson
78-Chlapik, 51-Anisimov, 49-Sabourin
13-Paul (lower body)