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Preview: Capitals at Avalanche

Washington looks to extend lead in Metropolitan; Colorado aims to avoid seventh straight loss

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

CAPITALS (50-17-8) at AVALANCHE (20-52-3)

TV: 10 p.m. ET; ALT, CSN-DC, NHL.TV


Capitals team scope

The Washington Capitals will try to extend their lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitan Division, Eastern Division and Presidents' Trophy races. The Capitals are three points ahead of the Blue Jackets; each have seven games remaining. "The importance of the games -- especially at this time of year with where we are and what we want to do -- I don't think I have to say a whole heck of a lot," coach Barry Trotz told the Capitals website. Washington has won five consecutive games, is 6-0-1 in their past seven and opened a five-game road trip Tuesday with a 5-4 overtime win at the Minnesota Wild. Goalie Braden Holtby has started eight consecutive games, but Philipp Grubauer could play Wednesday in the second game of a back-to-back set. Grubauer made 18 saves in a 3-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 18 for the first of his three NHL shutouts. "Colorado probably hasn't had the year that they wanted or predicted, but they're going to be dangerous," Trotz said. "Every team on this trip is going to be dangerous, and they're going to need points." Holtby has posted 40 wins in three consecutive seasons, joining Martin Brodeur and Evgeni Nabokov as the only goalies in NHL history to do so. Forward Alex Ovechkin had four points (three goals, one assist) against the Wild and passed Johnny Bucyk for 26th place on the League's all-time goal list with 558. He needs two goals to tie Guy Lafleur (560) for 25th.


Avalanche team scope

Colorado Avalanche coach Jared Bednar will keep forward Matt Duchene at right wing on a line with left wing Gabriel Landeskog and rookie center J.T. Compher when the Avalanche hope to avoid losing their seventh straight game. Bednar used the line in the third period Monday in a 4-2 loss to the Calgary Flames. "They were dangerous, had a couple good looks to the net and made some plays," Bednar said. Duchene leads the Avalanche with 17 goals, but he has one in the past 18 games. "Our message to Matt lately is you can't control what's happened in the first (75) games," Bednar said. "Just break it down one game at a time and try to be at your best tonight and be dangerous and make sure we're not cheating to the offensive side of things, narrowing his focus and not worrying about how the season has gone." The Avalanche have been outscored 30-13 in a six-game losing streak. They are 1-for-21 on the power plays in their past eight games. "If you can't get up for the Washington Capitals, you have some issues, especially at home," Landeskog said. "We have to see it as a fun challenge. We know what the standings look like, but it's a fun test."


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Justin Williams

Brett Connolly -- Lars Eller -- Andre Burakovsky

Daniel Winnik -- Jay Beagle -- Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Philipp Grubauer

Braden Holtby

Scratched: Paul Carey, Taylor Chorney, Nate Schmidt

Injured: None


Avalanche projected lineup

Sven Andrighetto -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog -- J.T. Compher -- Matt Duchene 

Matt Nieto -- Mikhail Grigorenko -- Rene Bourque

John Mitchell -- Carl Soderberg -- Blake Comeau

Mark Barberio -- Erik Johnson

Fedor Tyutin -- Tyson Barrie

Francois Beauchemin -- Anton Lindholm

Calvin Pickard

Jeremy Smith

Scratched: Joe Colborne, Cody Goloubef, Patrick Wiercioch

Injured: None


Status report

Pickard will start for the third consecutive game and 12th time in the past 15. … The Capitals did not hold a morning skate Wednesday.


Who's hot

Ovechkin has five points (four goals, one assist) in his past two games, and 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his past eight games. … Backstrom has 15 points (one goal, 14 assists) in his past eight games. … Oshie has eight points (six goals, two assists) in his past five games. … Andrighetto has four points (three goals, one assist) in a three-game point streak, and six points (four goals, two assists) in his past six games.

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