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Capitals set sights on series sweep of Flyers

Leading 3-0, Washington doesn't want to give Philadelphia any chance to come back

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The playful mood at the Washington Capitals practice Tuesday was understandable.

They can complete the first four-game sweep in franchise history with a win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers Wednesday at Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-PH, CSN-DC).

There was some concern about defenseman Brooks Orpik, who sustained an upper-body injury on a hit from Ryan White in the second period of the 6-1 win in Monday in Game 3, but otherwise the Capitals appeared to not have a worry in the world as the dominance they demonstrated in running away with the Presidents' Trophy has continued through their first three games against the Flyers.

That utopian atmosphere was disrupted, however, when goaltender Braden Holtby appeared to injure his left leg in a collision with a teammate, flexed his knee a few times and eventually exited to the locker room. Holtby's departure didn't seem to impact the players who finished practice without him.

"Guys leave the ice all the time with stuff," left wing Jason Chimera said. "So, low level of concern."

Coach Barry Trotz said Holtby was "nicked up."

"I don't anticipate Braden not playing (Wednesday)," Trotz said.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm3: Ovechkin gives the Capitals the lead

With that potential crisis seemingly averted, the Capitals can move on to trying to finish off the Flyers.

Holtby's scare served as a reminder, however, of how vulnerable even the best teams can be. That's one of the many reasons the Capitals, who have lofty aspirations of a long run toward their first Stanley Cup, need to finish off the Flyers as quickly as possible.

The biggest, of course, is to move on to the next round and not give Philadelphia any hope of coming back in the series.

"We want to make sure we take care of business. It's plain and simple," Trotz said. "I don't think we want to extend things if we don't have to. … We've talked about that, it's something we learned even last year, if you have an opponent down, you have to make sure that you deliver the last blow."

The Capitals led the New York Rangers 3-1 in the second round last season and could not close out the series, dropping the last three games, including Games 5 and 7 in overtime.

"It's that part of the killer instinct," Washington right wing T. J. Oshie said. "I think that's something we lacked earlier in the year and something we've been able to incorporate in our game lately."

There are other benefits to keeping a series short that can pay off over a long postseason run. Teams don't like to acknowledge them before they get the fourth win because they don't want it appear as if they're looking past their opponent, but they're very aware of them.

One is extra rest the players would get before beginning the second round. Fewer games in the first round also means fewer opportunities for players to get injured and more time off for players with bumps and bruises to heal.

There is little known so far about Orpik, who appeared dazed as he was helped off the ice Monday, other than Trotz saying Tuesday he'll be monitored "day-to-day." A lengthy break ahead of the second round might potentially limit the number of games Orpik will miss, though.

"You don't really talk about that," Trotz said of the advantages of a sweep. "There's a lot of benefits to it, though, if you can. You get a little bit of rest, you get to clear your mind and you let the body heal all those things that happen during a series. But, more importantly, you've got an opponent and it's a race to four (wins). We've only got three."

That is something that cannot be forgotten. Teams who have won the first three games in a best-of-7 series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have gone on to win that series 97.8 percent of the time.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm3: : Holtby flashes the leather

There have been four teams that were able to come all the way back to win (4-179), however, and the 2009-10 Flyers were one of them, pulling off the trick against the Boston Bruins in the second round. Captain Claude Giroux is the lone Flyers player remaining from that team, but the lesson is still the same for the Capitals.

Nothing can be taken for granted.

"We know what's in front of us," Chimera said. "We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves here. We realize it's not going to be easy. We've got to go and get it, but you want to put the hammer down when you can and we're trying to do that."

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