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Red-hot Capitals set to face Canadiens

by Arpon Basu

CAPITALS (20-17-2) at CANADIENS (25-8-5)


Last 10: Washington 8-1-1; Montreal 6-3-1

Season series: This is the second of three meetings. The Canadiens won the most recent showdown, 4-1, at Verizon Center.

Big story: The Capitals are the NHL’s hottest team, and captain Alex Ovechkin is its hottest player. But the Canadiens represent the Capitals’ toughest test over their hot streak, so a victory here will go a long way towards determining if Washington is a legitimate threat for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Team Scope:

Capitals: The Capitals are being driven by Ovechkin, who has at least a point in all but one of the 10 games in this current 8-1-1 stretch that has vaulted the team to the top of the Southeast Division. The Capitals scored 38 goals over that stretch, and Ovechkin had 13 of them while adding six assists, meaning he was in on half his team’s goals over the past 10 games.

However, this game against the Canadiens will be just the third time in 11 games that the Capitals have faced a team currently in the playoffs, and the first time in that span they faced anyone in the top six of the conference.

“We just have to keep rolling,” Ovechkin told the Monumental Network on Monday. “[Tuesday] is going to be a hard game going up against one of the best teams in the League right now. It’s a good challenge for us, so we just have to keep going.”

Canadiens: The Canadiens learned Monday that defenseman Alexei Emelin would be lost for the rest of the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs with a torn ACL in his left knee, and injury suffered in Saturday night’s 2-1 win against the Boston Bruins when he hit Milan Lucic but landed awkwardly on the knee.

Coach Michel Therrien has decided to promote Davis Drewiske to play the right side with Andrei Markov on Montreal’s second pair and Nathan Beaulieu was called up from the American Hockey League to play on the third pairing with Francis Bouillon. Drewiske, acquired a day before the NHL trade deadline from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a fifth round draft pick, will now have much greater responsibilities than originally anticipated.

“You can’t ask a player to play a style that they’re not comfortable with,” Therrien said. “Players need to be who they are. We've lost important players all season long, but the team continued winning.”

There was some good news on the injury front for Montreal, as forward Rene Bourque appears ready to return after missing 21 games with a concussion. His status for the game will be confirmed Tuesday morning, but if he plays, he should skate on Montreal’s fourth line with Jeff Halpern and Travis Moen.

Who's hot: For the Capitals, the obvious one is Ovechkin, but his center, Nicklas Backstrom, has been reaping the benefits of this hot streak for No. 8, with nine assists in his past four games. Defenseman Mike Green has six goals and two assists in the 10 games since he returned from an injury. … For the Canadiens, defenseman P.K. Subban has a goal and nine assists in six games. Rookie forward Alex Galchenyuk has goals in his past two games and points in three straight.

Injury report: The Capitals are missing defenseman Tom Poti (back) as well as forwards Brooks Laich (groin) and Martin Erat (lower body). … The Canadiens are missing Emelin and fellow blueliner Raphael Diaz (concussion), and forward Colby Armstrong (knee).

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