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Capitals visit Senators with playoff berth in sight

by Chris Stevenson /

CAPITALS (43-25-10) at SENATORS (39-26-12)


OTTAWA -- The Washington Capitals can clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a regulation win against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TVA, SN, CSN-DC).

"That's our goal right now," Capitals wing Alex Ovechkin said. "We're focusing on that. They're in a position they need to win. It's going be a hard, interesting game. Tonight's a big game for both teams."

The Senators are three points behind the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings for third place in the Atlantic Division. They are also fighting for a wild-card position. The Red Wings and the Senators have played one game fewer than the Bruins.

"We need to win a hockey game," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "Hopefully we come in with a real good playoff mentality. Obviously, Ottawa has been playing great. Hopefully we can give them a good match tonight."

Trotz will turn to goaltender Braden Holtby again Saturday. This will be Holtby's 22nd consecutive start.

Holtby said playing a lot down the stretch isn't a mental strain for a goaltender any more than it is for other players.

"It is for everyone," Holtby said. "It is for players, so I don't think it's any excuse for a goalie. "Myself, I think the reason I'm here is my mental strength. I might not be the most physically gifted ever, so that's what I try and pride myself on. The day that I use mental fatigue or something like that as an excuse is probably the day I don't play in this League anymore. That's just something I pride myself on."

How about if he was asked to play all 82 games?

"If they asked me to, I'd be glad to," he said.

Trotz isn't worried about overworking Holtby and told a story about retired New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues goaltender Martin Brodeur.

"[Holtby's] a workhorse," Trotz said. "If I didn't play him today, he'd be out there for another hour and a half taking pucks and stuff. He gets more rest by playing sometimes than actually practicing and giving him days off.

"When I was in Nashville they gave Marty Brodeur the odd day off. I watched the morning skate, went for lunch and came back, he was still out there. That's sort of Braden's mentality, too. I think he gets more rest by playing."

The Capitals have won three straight games, four of their past five and seven of their past nine to climb into second place in the Metropolitan Division.

After losing three games in a row, the Senators have won their past two.

Goaltender Andrew Hammond, who is 16-1-1 as a starter in the NHL, will start for the Senators. This will be the first time he faces Ovechkin, who leads the League with 52 goals.

"I don't think there really is a book [on how to play Ovechkin]," Hammond said. "It's something with their power play. He seems to score a lot from there. No team can really figure out how to defend that. There's a reason why you can't figure out how to stop him. He's just that good.

"He proves every night why he's the best goal scorer in the League. It's just another challenge for us and something we're looking forward to."

The Senators need wing Bobby Ryan to rediscover his scoring touch. He hasn't scored in seven games and has one goal in his past 15.

"I shot one in the corner in the shootout, too [against Detroit on Tuesday]. Usually I get a shot on net, at least," Ryan said. "It's everything right now, the way I'm feeling, the puck isn't there, the way I'm picking up passes, they're exploding. It's a trickle effect, really. You don't score, you grip tighter in one area. It frustrates you. Now every single time I get on the ice, I'm frustrated before I get out there. That makes it worse."

Senators coach Dave Cameron said he's been trying to help Ryan without adding to the pressure he's already feeling.

"I talk to him. I show him some video. I don't hound," he said. "I don't try to put any more pressure on than he's put on [himself]. I try to alleviate it. I don't avoid him. I'm not putting any more demands on him. He'll be fine."

Cameron's advice?

"I think he should shoot the puck more. Get more selfish. Shoot the puck."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex OvechkinEvgeny KuznetsovJoel Ward

Marcus JohanssonNicklas BackstromTroy Brouwer

Brooks LaichEric FehrJason Chimera

Curtis GlencrossMichael Latta - Tom Wilson

Brooks OrpikJohn Carlson

Karl AlznerMatt Niskanen

Tim GleasonMike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: None

Injured: Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck). Jay Beagle (shoulder)


Clarke MacArthurKyle TurrisMark Stone

Zack SmithMika Zibanejad - Bobby Ryan

Erik CondraJean-Gabriel PageauCurtis Lazar

Mike HoffmanDavid LegwandAlex Chiasson

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Patrick Wiercioch- Cody Ceci

Mark BorowieckiEric Gryba

Andrew Hammond

Craig Anderson

Scratched: Colin Greening, Jared Cowen

Injured: Robin Lehner (concussion), Chris Phillips (back), Chris Neil (thumb), Milan Michalek (upper body), Matt Puempel (ankle)

Status report: Cameron will play the same lineup for the third straight game. … Neil has been practicing, but no date has been set for his return.

Who's hot: Ovechkin has five goals and one assist in his past three games. … Ward has three goals and one assist in his past three games. … Stone has two goals and three assists in his past four games.

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