With a 3-1-1 mark on the homestand to date, the Caps will be looking to put a positive coda on the homestand in tonight's game against the Kings. Washington owned a seven-game winless skid (0-5-2) when it started the homestand, and the Caps have been able to make some noticeable improvements in their game, although they realize there is still work to be done along those lines.
The six-game homestand followed the Caps' weeklong break for All-Star break/bye week, and the combination of some rest followed by some home cooking has been positive.
"The last couple of years, it didn't do us very good," says Caps center Lars Eller of the midseason break. "It always took us a couple of weeks to find our game after the breaks. But this year for some reason it has been a little different. But we also didn't play very well before, so I don't think it could have gotten a lot worse than it was before the break. It really didn't look like the team that I knew.
"But here after the break, we've been doing some stuff a lot better, and the first thing is we are letting in a loss less goals. That makes it a lot easier to win games when you don't have to score six or seven goals. So there have been some very good improvements after the break, and considering how our team was trending before the break, it was necessary."
Video: Todd Reirden | February 11
Changing It Up - For Monday's finale against Los Angeles, the Caps have tweaked their lineup a bit. Alex Ovechkin has been reunited with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson, while the duo of Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie has been reunited with Jakub Vrana.
Ovechkin still leads the NHL with 37 goals, but he has not scored in four games on the homestand; he sat out the opener because of a league suspension for missing the NHL All-Star Game. Ovechkin has four assists in those four games. He went six games without a goal at the end of December, his longest dry spell of the season. Ovechkin also went four games without a goal in early November, and those three dry spells are the only times he has gone as many as four games without lighting the lamp this season.
"I think that's when we've been at our best, is moving them around again," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "At different times, different guys are going. For me, Kuzy has made a big push in his play from the end of the break to the start of this homestand. He has really [been] commanding and really deserving of more opportunity. He will get a different line combination tonight to hopefully continue to generate some offense for us."
Eller's line remains the same; they've been hot for the duration of the homestand, and they contributed three of the team's four goals on Saturday night. Nic Dowd holds down the middle of the fourth line as he did in Saturday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Panthers, but tonight Dowd will have new wingers on both sides as Chandler Stephenson and Devante Smith-Pelly both draw back into the lineup after sitting out Saturday's game.
Washington's fourth line has been a revolving door of those three players plus Travis Boyd and Dmitrij Jaskin. All five have had their moments this season, and they've played well considering that their linemates - and sometimes their positions - can change on a game-to-game basis.
Video: Rinkside Update | Nic Dowd
"It is [challenging]," says Dowd. "It's no secret, everyone wants to be playing more, everyone wants to be in the top six, and that's what guys work towards. But it does have its challenges, playing with different guys every night. Different guys have different tendencies, and guys also forget that maybe a guy hasn't played in four games when he comes in, and he's trying to play well and he's trying to get his timing back.
"So there are a lot of things that go into it. I think benefit is that the guys who are rotating are really good players, and they want to make an impact - so when they come in, they want to play well and they're prepared to play well, and they give themselves every opportunity to play well. That then allows the other two guys to perform as well.
"There are 14 really good forwards on this team. So whoever plays, it's their responsibility to stay in the lineup and to make it hard on the coaches."
Dowd will be skating in his fourth game of the homestand tonight. He has a goal and an assist in his previous three appearances since the break, and his first-period goal against Calgary on Feb. 1 was Washington's first goal of the homestand. That tally got it off to a good start, and the Caps will be seeking to finish with a flourish tonight against the Kings.
"I think we've done some decent things on this homestand," says Reirden. "It hasn't been perfect, but we've been able to gather some points. Tonight will be a good finish to it, a little bit of a different look at some lineup decisions up front in particular, and see how it goes."
In The Nets - In the finale of the homestand, Pheonix Copley gets his second start of the six-game stay at home. Copley is coming off a 4-3 overtime win against Colorado on Thursday in his most recent starting assignment. He made 34 stops against the Avs to earn his 11th victory of the season.
Copley has made seven appearances at home this season, five of them starts. He owns a 4-1-2 record to go along with a 2.65 GAA and a .917 save pct. at Capital One Arena this season. Monday marks his first career appearance against Los Angeles.
For the Kings, we're expecting to see veteran Jonathan Quick in net. Quick missed several weeks of action with a knee injury sustained early in 2018-19, returning to action in late November. He earned his 300th career victory on Jan. 5 against Edmonton.
Lifetime against the Capitals, Quick is 9-2-0 in 11 appearances, with a 2.23 GAA and a .920 save pct.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | February 11
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Kings to look when they meet on Monday night at Capital One Arena for the finale of Washington's six-game homestand:
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
65-Burakovsky, 20-Eller, 10-Connolly
18-Stephenson, 26-Dowd, 25-Smith-Pelly
19-Iafallo, 11-Kopitar, 23-Brown
14-Leipsic, 10-Amadio, 73-Toffoli
62-Hagelin, 9-Kempe, 17-Kovalchuk
13-Clifford, 44-Thompson, 22-Lewis
77-Carter (lower body)