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Capitals begin tough California trip against Ducks

by Davis Harper

CAPITALS (32-27-10) at DUCKS (45-16-7)


Last 10: Washington 5-4-1; Anaheim 5-3-2

Season series: The Anaheim Ducks scored three unanswered goals to rally for a 3-2 win against the Washington Capitals on Dec. 23 at Verizon Center. It was Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau's first trip back to the United States' capital since being fired by Washington on Nov. 28, 2011.

Big story: After winning back-to-back home games this weekend, Washington will look to keep its push for the Stanley Cup Playoffs alive. The Capitals kick off a difficult three-game swing through California on Tuesday; Washington, which is two points shy of postseason position (74 points, ninth place), will face Anaheim, the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks over the course of five days.

"You've got to win them all," coach Adam Oates said. "We haven't played [the Kings] yet, but we played Anaheim very well here. We could've won that game and San Jose the same thing. I know they're better than us in the standings, but you've got to have the attitude that you're going to beat them."

The Ducks are still in the Presidents' Trophy hunt, although their grip on the Western Conference has loosened after a recent four-game losing streak in early March.

Team Scope:

Capitals: Late last week, it looked like Washington's playoff hopes were out the window. The Capitals had lost five of their past six and had dropped to the 11th in the Eastern Conference. Washington rebounded this weekend for two straight wins, against the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs, to climb back into the hunt.

Dustin Penner scored his first point in seven games as a Capital with a great backhand pass to Joel Ward. Oates hopes the former Duck and King can "find a spark" on the West Coast, especially since the team will be without forward Brooks Laich (groin).

"We'll have to count on him more," Oates said. "He made a great play on the goal, and going out west, he's played for two of those teams, won Cups with two of those teams [Ducks in 2007, Kings in 2012], so hopefully he'll get a little spark."

Ducks: After suffering that four-game skid, Anaheim scored two straight road victories against Western Conference rivals. The Ducks exploded for six goals in the second period in a win Friday against the Colorado Avalanche, then slipped past the rival Kings, 2-1, behind 37 saves from Frederik Andersen on Saturday.

"It was huge to get the Calgary game behind us, and get back to the way we've been playing," said Andersen after the game, referring to a 7-2 defeat to the Flames last Wednesday. "[We're] getting back to basics. It's huge to win the week. We can't get those two points back, but we're happy about our week."

The Ducks will be careful not to overlook the Capitals in favor of division rival San Jose, whom Anaheim faces on Thursday. The Ducks and Sharks are tied on points (97) and Anaheim has one game in hand.

Who's hot: New Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov recorded four assists over the weekend, his first points as a Capital. … Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri has three points (two goals, one assist) over his past two games.

Injury report: In addition to Laich (groin), who will not travel with the Capitals, center Mikhail Grabovski (lower body), defenseman John Erskine (upper body) and winger Aaron Volpatti (upper body) are all day-to-day. … For the Ducks, defenseman Cam Fowler (lower body) is day-to-day.

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