Monday, LA - Washington starts the back half of its six-game road trip on Monday in Los Angeles, finishing off a set of back-to-back games against the Kings. Monday's match comes a night after the Caps took a 5-2 beating from the Ducks on Sunday in Anaheim. For the Ducks, Sunday's win was just their fourth in the last 24 games (4-16-4).
A month ago this morning, the Caps still occupied the top spot in the Metropolitan Division standings. But Washington relinquished its hold on the catbird's seat later that night with a 2-0 loss to the New York Islanders at Capital One Arena, the first of three shutout losses for the Caps in the last month.
Although they are 5-3-1 since the All-Star break, the Caps are just 8-9-4 since the turn of the calendar, a stretch that is equivalent to a quarter of a season. Right now, the Caps are living off the standings equity generated by a 16-3-0 run from mid-November to late December, a spree that is beginning to look more like an outlier with every passing game.
Prior to that prosperous stretch in late 2018, the Caps were 8-7-3. So if we take away those middle 19 games, we are left with a team that owns a decidedly mediocre 16-16-7 mark in the games sandwiched around the hot spell.
Start Me Up - Consistency has obviously been lacking for the Capitals this season. Good starts to games might lead to a consistent effort on a given night, but then again, maybe not.
Monday's game against the Kings is the fourth on Washington's six-game tour, and they've not turned in a terrific start yet. Even in winning Thursday's game over San Jose by a 5-1 count, the Caps fell down 1-0, were scored against on the first shot they gave up in the game, and were generally wobbly until they drew a power play that enabled them to get the game tied up. From there, it was smooth sailing, and one of their best games of the season the rest of the way.
As to Washington's starts in the other two games on the trip, the less said about it the better. They can't do anything about those now, but they can do something about tonight's start.
"I think it's always important, the start," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "You go statistically through the NHL and the success that teams have after they're leading after the first period, and it's heavily skewed. But I think for us in particular on a back-to-back, it's really important that we're not chasing the game right from the beginning, especially for us.
"We extended a lot of guys' minutes last night, which we don't normally like to do in a back-to-back situation in the prior game. But because of the injury to [Caps right wing T.J.] Oshie and not having him for the second and third period, it's really important that we are not chasing the game tonight and we are ready to go from the drop of the puck."
Oshie left Sunday's game just after the midpoint of the first period and did not return. According to the Caps, Oshie is day-to-day with an upper body injury, and his availability for tonight will be a game-time decision.
In The Nets - Pheonix Copley gets the net for Washington against the Kings, exactly a week after he made 29 saves to earn his 12th win of the season against Los Angeles at Capital One Arena. Copley has won each of his last two starts, and is 12-5-3 on the season with a 3.02 GAA and a .903 save pct.
Copley has picked up seven of Washington's 15 road wins this season, going 7-4-1 in 13 road appearances with a shutout, a 3.14 GAA and an .896 save pct.
Jonathan Quick started for the Kings a week ago in Washington, but he sat out the Kings' most recent game with Boston on Saturday night because of illness. If Quick gets the net on Monday against the Caps, he owns a 9-3-0 career record along with a 2.55 GAA and a .9100 save pct. against Washington.
Jack Campbell started in Quick's stead on Saturday, and he would be making his first career appearance against the Caps if he gets the net. Campbell is 7-10-0 with a shutout, a 2.23 GAA and a .928 save pct. this season.
All Lined Up - With the Capitals playing for the second time in as many nights, with no morning skate on Monday, with Reirden hinting at lineup changes after Sunday's loss in Anaheim, and with the status of T.J. Oshie (upper body) unknown after he left Sunday's game in the first period, we have no idea how the Caps will look when they take to the ice for Monday's game against the Kings.
With that in mind, here is how the Caps looked for Sunday's game against the Ducks and how the Kings looked when they hosted Boston on Saturday:
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
65-Burakovsky, 20-Eller, 10-Connolly
23-Jaskin, 18-Stephenson, 25-Smith-Pelly
19-Iafallo, 11-Kopitar, 23-Brown
14-Leipsic, 77-Carter, 73-Toffoli
62-Hagelin, 9-Kempe, 17-Kovalchuk
13-Clifford, 22-Lewis, 51-Wagner
27-Martinez (upper body)