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At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Capitals

by Adam Vingan

ARLINGTON, Va. – Losing streaks are always unwelcome, but particularly preceding the NHL Trade Deadline when they can potentially influence an organization’s strategy.

The Washington Capitals, who play the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on Sunday, are currently experiencing that. They have lost three straight in regulation for the first time since Oct. 26 – Nov. 2, when they lost four in a row.

Coach Barry Trotz, frustrated after a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, put his players on notice.

“There’s some players that, a couple weeks ago, you say, ‘Yeah, we’re fine there,’” Trotz said. “It makes your management team and your coaching staff think, ‘Hey we’re not fine there.’ Some guys who felt very comfortable may find themselves either getting an addition at the deadline or maybe even a change. That’s just the reality of it.”

Washington made a trade Saturday, acquiring defenseman Tim Gleason from the Hurricanes for defenseman Jack Hillen and a fourth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. He is expected to make his debut Sunday.

The Capitals will now turn their attention toward finding a forward with top-six capabilities before the 3 p.m. ET deadline Monday. They are in possession of the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and trail the first-place New York Islanders in the Metropolitan Division by eight points.

“It’s not like half the team’s going to get traded and we’re going to feel weird about it,” defenseman Karl Alzner told The Washington Post. “But if you move one or two guys, especially in our position right now, we know that it’s just trying to make us better. You can’t really worry about it.”

A visit from the Maple Leafs could be what the Capitals need to end their skid. Toronto has lost a team-record 15 straight games on the road, the longest in the NHL since the Chicago Blackhawks lost 19 straight in 2003-04.

With a Stanley Cup Playoff appearance unlikely, the Maple Leafs have already traded forwards Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik, and David Clarkson as well as defenseman Cody Franson.

Here are the projected lineups:

MAPLE LEAFS

James van RiemsdykTyler BozakPhil Kessel

Joffrey LupulNazem KadriRichard Panik

Leo KomarovOlli JokinenDavid Booth

Zach SillPeter HollandBrandon Kozun

Dion PhaneufKorbinian Holzer

Morgan RiellyRoman Polak

Jake GardinerStephane Robidas

James Reimer

Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: Tim Erixon

Injured: Trevor Smith (lower body)

CAPITALS

Alex OvechkinNicklas BackstromMarcus Johansson

Andre BurakovskyEvgeny KuznetsovTroy Brouwer

Jason ChimeraEric FehrJoel Ward

Brooks LaichMichael LattaTom Wilson

Brooks OrpikJohn Carlson

Karl AlznerMatt Niskanen

Tim GleasonMike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Jay Beagle, Cameron Schilling

Injured: Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)

Status report: Reimer could start against Washington after Bernier made 19 saves in a 4-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. … Gleason and Trotz will each address the media prior to the game. ... Erixon was claimed off waivers on Sunday from the Chicago Blackhawks, the Maple Leafs announced.

Who’s hot: The Capitals are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games against the Maple Leafs at Verizon Center.

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