CANADIENS (20-13-3) at CAPITALS (25-6-2)
TV: CBC, NHLN, TVA Sports, CITY, CSN-DC
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Winners of six consecutive games, the Washington Capitals are ready to get back to work Saturday when they play the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center after four days off.
They'll be playing a Canadiens team that's been hit hard by injuries and has lost five consecutive games and nine of 10.
"The last time we played this team, they really forechecked us really well," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "We didn't have one of our better games. We ended up winning but we didn't feel like we really won the game. We had a good game by [Braden Holtby]. They'll be fresh; they'll be ready to go. We'll expect the team that we saw in Montreal: fast, comes at you hard and has very active 'D.' They play a real solid game, so I expect that to happen tonight."
Trotz said he's felt opponents have been elevating their performance against the Capitals, who lead the Eastern Conference with 52 points and are 13-1-1 in their past 15 games. They have allowed opponents 2.15 goals per game, the lowest in the NHL.
The key to winning when facing these teams, Trotz said, is consistency, something he's preached since he was hired as Capitals coach in 2014: Treat every game the same way, don't get too high or too low, and don't dwell on the previous game; always be looking forward to the next one.
"You've got [to have] good goaltending and some high commitment levels," Trotz said. "You've got to have high commitment levels if you're going to face everybody's 'A game,' it seems. It's teaching us to be consistently on our game and be consistent in our approach to every game. Those are some of the benefits you get and it prepares us for next level of hockey, and that's hopefully the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs."
The Canadiens' struggling power play is 2-for-31 over this 1-9-0 stretch, and coach Michel Therrien appears to be making a rather drastic change against Washington.
Therrien had P.K. Subban as the lone defenseman on the top power-play unit at the morning skate, with center David Desharnais manning the opposite point and Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Dale Weise playing up front.
Therrien said not to make the mistake of thinking Desharnais is playing the point, but rather the emphasis is having four forwards on the ice instead of three. It is a tactic Therrien has almost never used over his past three seasons as coach.
"It's a big difference," Therrien said.
The Canadiens' 10-game slide has effectively nullified their first 10 games of the season, when they won their first nine games in regulation before losing their 10th game. The Canadiens scored 36 goals over their first 10 games and have scored 15 in their past 10. But looking at internal scoring chance numbers, Therrien has difficulty finding fault in how the Canadiens have played.
"You know what? We're playing better structure-wise the last 10 games than the first 10 games," he said. "But we don't have the results."
Here are the projected lineups:
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Dale Weise
Lars Eller – Alex Galchenyuk – Daniel Carr
Tomas Fleischmann – Tomas Plekanec – Paul Byron
Brian Flynn – Torrey Mitchell – Devante Smith-Pelly
Nathan Beaulieu – P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov – Jeff Petry
Alexei Emelin – Greg Pateryn
Injured: Carey Price (lower body), Brendan Gallagher (hand), Tom Gilbert (lower body)
Scratched: Jarred Tinordi, Sven Andrighetto
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich - Michael Latta - Andre Burakovsky
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney
Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body)
Scratched: Stanislav Galiev, Connor Carrick
Status update: The Canadiens announced Gilbert will be re-evaluated after the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Boston Bruins on Jan. 1, so he will miss games at the Capitals on Saturday, at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday and at the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. Andrighetto is scratched for a fourth straight game. He has four goals in 12 games this season. … Orpik, who hasn't played since Nov. 10, is still not ready to skate on his own. He won't start skating until he's back to 100 percent, Trotz said. Carrick was recalled from Hershey of the American League on Saturday as a precaution, but he will not play against the Canadiens.
Who's hot: Carlson has eight points in his past seven games.