BRUINS (36-22-10) at CAPITALS (36-23-10)
WASHINGTON -- The Boston Bruins are in the midst of a five-game winning streak as they prepare to take on the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Sunday.
Boston and Washington are even in the Eastern Conference standings heading into the game with 82 points. They own the two wild cards into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference; Boston is ahead because it has played one fewer game/
To extend their winning streak, the Bruins will have to shut down Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 45 goals -- 21 on the power play.
"I think a lot of times you've got to respect who he's playing with as well," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "It's OK to pay special attention to him, which we try and do on most occasions, but at the same time he's got some other players on his line that are pretty good that can also do some damage.
"He's known to shoot pucks and he's going to shoot them as much as he can, so you've got to minimize that and try to get in the shooting lanes and try to take his time and space away. The big key here is to take away his shot. He's got such a good shot that even if you do take his time and space away, sometimes he still gets those shots through."
Since losing center David Krejci on Feb. 20 because of a torn MCL, Boston's Milan Lucic has been forced to adjust to playing with different linemates, sparking conversations about his reliance on Krejci and the effect his absence may have on his production.
"I don't think he ever felt he needed to have him. I think he's his own person. He's capable of playing well, and he's showing it now, without David Krejci," Julien said.
"I think it's this young line that he's with as a real good skating line. I've always said that when [Lucic] skates, that's when he's at his best, and those guys have probably forced him to skate even more."
Boston is 7-0-1 in its past eight games and has won its past four road games, including a 2-0 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.
This is the second half of the 13th of 16 sets of back-to-back games for the Bruins this season. They've won both ends of their past two back-to-backs.
Washington is 1-3-0 as it enters the finale of a five-game homestand. Washington has faced three opponents coming off a back-to-back and has a 1-2-0 record. Boston will be the fourth consecutive opponent to play after playing the previous day.
Washington is 3-6-0 in its past nine games. After a 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Friday, the Capitals practiced Saturday, which was initially intended as an off day. Washington opted to hold a team meeting Sunday in lieu of a morning skate.
"We've got away from some of our foundational things," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of the Saturday practice. "I don't think we're as focused as we need to be.
"Our push and our work ethic have slipped a bit, and that's just getting your mind back and ready to play. It's on us to perform at a high level here."
Trotz said Capitals forward Brooks Laich will play against Boston and forward Michael Latta will miss a fourth game with an upper-body injury. Chris Conner will replace Latta.
Here are the projected lineups:
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Reilly Smith
Milan Lucic - Ryan Spooner - David Pastrnak
Chris Kelly - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Daniel Paille - Gregory Campbell - Maxime Talbot
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Matt Bartkowski - Dennis Seidenberg
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
Injured: Brett Connolly (fractured finger),David Krejci (left knee), Kevan Miller (shoulder)
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson
Curtis Glencross - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Brooks Laich - Chris Conner - Tom Wilson
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Tim Gleason - Mike Green
Injured: Jay Beagle (upper body),Michael Latta (upper body),Brooks Orpik (lower body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery), Justin Peters (lower body)
Status report: Washington did not skate Sunday, so there was no further update on Beagle or Orpik, each of whom missed the game against Dallas on Friday. Trotz said Friday that either player might be ready to play Sunday. Washington recalled Conner and Grubauer from Hershey of the American Hockey League, and sent Andre Burakovsky back to Hershey. Grubauer will dress as Holtby's backup. Peters did not practice Saturday and is on the injured list with a lower-body injury sustained in Friday's game against Dallas.
Who's hot: Spooner has at least a point in eight of his past 10 games. He has three goals and six assists during that stretch. Lucic is on a four-game points streak with a goal and three assists. … Ovechkin has seven goals and 10 points in his past seven games.