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Kings try to end their skid, Capitals' win streak

by Brian Hunter

CAPITALS (33-27-10) at KINGS (38-25-6)


Last 10: Washington 5-4-1; Los Angeles 7-3-0

Season series: This is the first of two games between the Washington Capitals and Los Angeles Kings, who play again at Verizon Center on March 25. They haven't played since Jan. 9, 2012, when Anze Kopitar had the go-ahead goal in L.A.'s 5-2 win at Staples Center.

Big story: The Capitals are looking to extend their winning streak to four in a row as they battle for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Kings are trying to prevent their losing streak from reaching four games as they try to solidify third place in the Pacific Division.

Team Scope:

Capitals: A potential make-or-break three-game road trip for Washington started off on the right foot Tuesday with a 3-2 win against an Anaheim Ducks team fighting for the Pacific crown. The Capitals dominated special teams, killing off five penalties and scoring a pair of power-play goals, including Alex Ovechkin's decisive goal early in the third period, his NHL-leading 46th.

Jaroslav Halak has settled in as the No. 1 goalie since he was acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline and has stopped 140 of 149 shots in his past four starts (.940 save percentage). In beating the Ducks, he established a career high with his 28th win of the season.

"He certainly knows what he's doing and he's been huge for us so far," defenseman John Carlson said in the Washington Post. "Can't complain with that."

Kings: It's been a streaky past couple of months for Los Angeles, which went 1-8-1 before winning its final game prior to the 2014 Sochi Olympics and then won seven straight after the break until hitting another speed bump. Their 4-3 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday whittled the Kings' lead for third in the Pacific to five points. They're seven points up on the Dallas Stars, the team with the most points not currently occupying a playoff spot.

"It's a battle in the West, and we have to sharpen up," defenseman Alec Martinez said in the Orange County Register.

That's particularly true at Staples Center, where they've dropped the first three of a five-game homestand. The Kings are 19-13-3 at home compared to 19-12-3 on the road. Once this homestand concludes, seven of their final 11 games will be on the road.

Who's hot: Capitals forward Joel Ward has a goal in three straight games. Forward Troy Brouwer has three goals in the past two games. … Kings forward Marian Gaborik has goals in two of his past three games.

Injury report: Washington defenseman John Erskine (upper body) and forwards Brooks Laich (groin), Mikhail Grabovski (ankle) and Aaron Volpatti (upper body) are out. … Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown (illness) is day-to-day.

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