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Capitals at Avalanche preview

Ovechkin takes aim at 700th NHL goal; Avalanche try to win sixth straight

by Rick Sadowski / Independent Correspondent

CAPITALS (36-15-5) at AVALANCHE (33-16-6)


The Game

Alex Ovechkin will try to become the eighth player in NHL history to score 700 goals when the Washington Capitals play the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Thursday.

Ovechkin, who has 698 goals, has gone two games without a goal. He has 15 points (14 goals, one assist) in his past nine games.

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov is out because of an upper-body injury. He skated Thursday for the first time since he was injured on a hit by Leo Komarov at 9:14 of the second period of 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday. Kuznetsov is tied for third on the Capitals with 46 points (19 goals, 27 assists) in 53 games.

The Capitals are 1-3-0 in their past four games but are three points ahead of the second-place Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.

The Avalanche are one point behind the first-place St. Louis Blues in the Central Division and can match a season high with their sixth straight win. Colorado won six straight Nov. 27-Dec. 7.

Players to watch

Capitals forward Jakub Vrana has 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in his past 15 games.

Avalanche goalie Philipp Grubauer is 4-0-0 with a 0.75 goals-against average, a .974 save percentage and one shutout in his past four games.

They said it

"We're in the middle of a process here, going through a tough patch and trying to improve (while) going through a little adversity without one of our top players (Evgeny Kuznetsov). We hope to climb the ladder here in terms of getting back on track for how we're capable of playing." -- Capitals coach Todd Reirden

"An elite goal scorer, a highly competitive guy, hasn't slowed down at all even as he's getting older. He keeps finding a way to produce. With the pre-scouts that are going on, to be able to do that is amazing." -- Avalanche coach Jared Bednar on Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin

Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Nicklas Backstrom -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Lars Eller -- T.J. Oshie

Carl Hagelin -- Travis Boyd -- Richard Panik

Brendan Leipsic -- Nic Dowd -- Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Nick Jensen

Jonas Siegenthaler -- Radko Gudas

Braden Holtby

Ilya Samsonov

Scratched: None

Injured: Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body)

Avalanche projected lineup

Andre Burakovsky -- Nathan MacKinnon -- Mikko Rantanen

Gabriel Landeskog -- J.T. Compher -- Joonas Donskoi

Valeri Nichushkin -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Matt Calvert

Tyson Jost -- Vladislav Kamenev -- Matt Nieto

Ryan Graves -- Cale Makar

Samuel Girard -- Erik Johnson

Nikita Zadorov -- Ian Cole

Philipp Grubauer

Pavel Francouz

Scratched: Mark Barberio

Injured: Nazem Kadri (lower body), Colin Wilson (lower body)

Status report

Eller replaces Kuznetsov in the middle of the Capitals' second line. … Barberio, a defenseman, has returned from a conditioning assignment with Colorado of the American Hockey League. He didn't have a point in four games.

Stat pack

Oshie has four points (two goals, two assists) during a three-game point streak. … MacKinnon has six points (two goals, four assists) during a five-game streak. … Makar has five points (one goal, four assists) in the past five games.

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