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Five things to watch in Rivalry Night doubleheader

by Brian Compton /

The Boston Bruins have won five consecutive games and are in a heated race to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Washington Capitals have clinched a playoff berth, but they are battling for home-ice advantage in the opening round.

Boston (41-25-13) has earned points in six straight games (5-0-1) and won for the fifth consecutive time in a 2-1 shootout victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Washington (44-25-11), which has a five-game point streak (4-0-1), is coming off a 2-1 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. The Capitals are in second place in the Metropolitan Division, one point ahead of the New York Islanders with two games remaining.

The Capitals will try to inch closer towards finishing second in the Metropolitan when they host the Bruins in the first game of a Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader at Verizon Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports).

In the nightcap, the Dallas Stars will face the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center (NBCSN, SN, 10:30 p.m. ET). Anaheim (50-23-7) is trying to finish atop the Western Conference standings; the Ducks are two points ahead of the St. Louis Blues with two games remaining.

Here are five things to watch in the two Wednesday Night Rivalry games:

1. Ovechkin wrapping up tremendous season

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is about to complete his second straight 50-goal season after going three straight seasons without scoring 40. Ovechkin is running away with the NHL goal-scoring title; he enters Wednesday 10 goals ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos and is tied for fourth in the League with 80 points.

Ovechkin also has paid more attention to detail on the defensive side of things this season under coach Barry Trotz. After finishing last season with a minus-35 rating, Ovechkin is plus-11.

2. Chara 'feels good,' will play

With a playoff spot still yet to be determined, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will certainly be in the lineup against the Capitals. Boston coach Claude Julien listed Chara as "day-to-day" on Monday after Chara blocked a shot during the third period against Toronto. Chara appeared to be in pain but stayed in the game and played nearly 27 minutes.

"I mean, we all block shots, we all do whatever it takes to win, and that situation obviously I decided to make a play by blocking and that was it," Chara said Tuesday, according to the Bruins website. "And I continued to play, and we ended up winning the game, so that's the positive part.

"It feels good. I practiced today. We had a good practice and worked on a few things, getting ready for Washington."

3. Death, taxes and Holtby

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby continues to be a workhorse and arguably the biggest reason why Washington has the inside track on earning home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Holtby, who is scheduled to start his 24th consecutive game Wednesday, is the first goalie since Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators in 2011-12 to win 40 games and play at least 70. It’s probably not a coincidence that Trotz coached the Predators that season.

“Really, really consistent for a long time now,” defenseman Matt Niskanen told The Washington Post. “There have been several occasions where he’s got us through a tough stretch, a period and a half, a whole game. … Great season for him and if we’re going to go somewhere great this spring, we’re going to need a great effort from him for sure.”

Tyler Seguin
Center - DAL
GOALS: 37 | ASST: 39 | PTS: 76
SOG: 277 | +/-: -3
4. Benn/Seguin a lethal combination

The Stars were officially eliminated from a chance for postseason play on Monday, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the seasons that forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have enjoyed.

Benn scored two goals in a 5-1 win at the San Jose Sharks on Monday; he has 80 points for the first time in his career. Benn has nine goals and 16 points in his past 10 games.

“There’s not much to celebrate anymore,” Benn told the Stars website. “We didn’t do our job this year and that is pretty much it.”

Seguin, who had two assists, is four points shy of a second straight 80-point season. He enters Wednesday with a five-game point streak (four goals, five assists).

5. Is this the Ducks’ playoff lineup?

The lineup the Ducks ice Wednesday may be identical to what we see when the playoffs get underway next week. Forward Matt Beleskey, who hasn’t played since March 28 because of a lower-body injury, is likely to return. After scoring nine goals in 55 games in 2013-14, he has 22 in 63 this season.

As far as which goaltender (John Gibson or Frederik Andersen) gets the call in the playoffs, Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau isn’t making that decision public.

“I think we know who we’re going to play and what we’re going to be doing as a group,” Boudreau said Tuesday, according to the Orange County Register. “So let’s just leave it at that.”


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