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Capitals' Ovechkin on cusp of 40-goal season

Washington tries to avoid consecutive regulation losses

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

WILD (27-24-10) at CAPITALS (44-11-4) 

TV: 7 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, CSN-DC, NHL.TV 

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin will attempt to score 40 goals in a season for the eighth time in his career when the Capitals play the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

Ovechkin leads the NHL this season with 39 goals.

The Capitals will also be trying to avoid back-to-back-regulation losses after a 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday that ended a four-game winning streak. Before that, their last regulation loss was Feb. 13 and their last home loss was Feb. 2. After that home loss, they won their next five games; a streak that ended with a 4-3 loss at the Dallas Stars on Feb 13.

The Capitals have not lost consecutive games in regulation this season.

"We're just focused game in and game out," goalie Braden Holtby said. "We're focused on getting better. You look at it as you want to bounce back from a loss but at the same time you try to win every game and keep that focus that way."

The Capitals must remained focused as the season winds down; they play 22 games in the next 45 days.

"It's kind of a strange schedule, the last month or so, based on stuff out of our control," Holtby said. "No matter what position you're in, it's probably the toughest part of the year, just trying to keep things together. We realize that and we're going to do everything we can to keep doing it."

Holtby was pulled Wednesday after allowing three goals on 18 shots, but backup Philipp Grubauer took the loss as he allowed one goal. The Capitals are 11-1-1 following a loss this season.

The Wild did not have a morning skate, but goaltender Darcy Kuemper could start because Devan Dubnyk played Thursday in a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. If Kuemper plays, it would be his first career start against the Capitals.

Minnesota has lost nine consecutive games against Eastern Conference teams since Jan. 7.
Holtby will start for Washington. He is 10-2-1 against Western Conference teams this season.

Here are the projected lineups:

Jordan Schroeder - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle
Chris Porter - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek
Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville
Ryan Carter - Jarret Stoll - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba
Mike Reilly - Christian Folin

Devan Dubnyk
Darcy Kuemper

Injured: Zach Parise (upper body), Jason Zucker (concussion), Jonas Brodin (foot)
Scratched: Nate Prosser, Niklas Backstrom

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Marcus Johansson - Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich - Mike Richards - Stanislav Galiev

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Brooks Orpik - Taylor Chorney

Braden Holtby
Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Jay Beagle (upper body)
Scratched: Dmitry Orlov, Michael Latta, Mike Weber

Status update: Latta was absent from the morning skate because of the flu. Parise and Zucker did not travel.

Who's hot: Ovechkin has seven points in four games. … Granlund has two points in his past two games. … Dumba has nine points in 12 games.

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