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Capitals, Senators playing well nearing playoffs

by Corey Masisak

CAPITALS (24-17-2) at SENATORS (22-14-6)


Last 10: Washington 9-0-1; Ottawa 5-5-0

Season series: The Ottawa Senators won the lone meeting to this point, 3-2, against the visiting Washington Capitals in late January. The teams meet again a week from Thursday at Verizon Center.

Big story: Both are closing in on a Stanley Cup Playoff berth after recent hot streaks in what could be a preview of a first-round matchup and a showdown between two of the top candidates for the Jack Adams Award (Adam Oates of Washington and Paul MacLean of Ottawa).

Team Scope:

Capitals: Alex Ovechkin keeps scoring, and Washington keeps rolling. He pushed his League-leading total to 28 on Tuesday -- 18 more than anyone on the Senators -- and the Capitals collected their eighth-straight victory. They remain four points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, and each has five games to play, including a showdown in Washington on Tuesday.

Ovechkin has 19 goals since March 14; he scored them in a span of 33 days and 18 games. The Capitals are 14-3-1 in that span and have gone from 29th in the NHL standings on March 12 to tied for the 11th-most points before the games of Wednesday night.

Senators: For so long after this season was marred by injuries to critical players, Ottawa kept winning. There was a dip in form eventually; the Senators dropped five games in a row and appeared to be teetering.

A couple of key players are back from injury now (goaltender Craig Anderson and forward Milan Michalek chief among them) and the Senators have stabilized with three consecutive victories. They will make the playoffs barring a collapse, and now they need to see if/when top center Jason Spezza can help in the postseason and what a (relatively) healthy team will look like in the first round.

Who's hot: Ovechkin isn't alone -- Capitals defenseman Mike Green has seven goals and 11 points in the past 10 games, and center Nicklas Backstrom has 13 assists in the past eight. ... Anderson has allowed seven goals on 108 shots (.935 save percentage) in his four games since returning from injury, which is actually below his early-season pace but still pretty great.

Injury report: Capitals forwards Brooks Laich (groin) and Joel Ward (knee) and defenseman Tom Poti (back) are out. ... Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (Achilles) and Spezza (back) remain out.

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