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5 Keys: Capitals at Maple Leafs, Game 4

Defenseman Karl Alzner remains sidelined for Washington; Toronto expecting pushback

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS

7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC

Toronto leads best-of-7 series 2-1

 

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs look to take a 3-1 lead against the Washington Capitals in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference First Round series at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

Toronto is 18-8 all-time when leading a best-of-7 series 2-1.

Each of the three games has been decided in overtime, the first time since 1951 that the Maple Leafs have played past regulation in the first three games of a Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Here are 5 keys for Game 4:

 

1. Karl Alzner remains sidelined

Alzner, part of Washington's top defensive pair, will miss his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. He had played 540 consecutive regular-season games since Oct. 8, 2010, the fifth-longest active streak in the NHL, and 59 straight playoff games before missing Game 3 on Monday. Alzner skated by himself after the morning skate but coach Barry Trotz had no update on his status.

 

2. Alex Ovechkin's ice time

Trotz vowed to increase Ovechkin's ice time in Game 4 after he played 15:08 in Game 3. Ovechkin scored a goal and had a Capitals-high five shots on goal but Trotz said the drop in ice time was not performance-related. 

"That's on me to get him the ice time," Trotz said Tuesday. "Sometimes that's situational, sometimes that's zone starts. I can get those up. Sometimes you have a bump-up line, sometimes you have penalty killers' minutes like (Nicklas) Backstrom and (T.J.) Oshie, and you sort of miss a rep or two here or there. It wasn't based on play, I thought Ovi was playing terrific and it's on me to get him a little more ice time, no question."

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm3: Ovechkin cranks one-timer past Andersen

 

3. Maple Leafs expecting pushback

With the Capitals facing the possibility of heading back to Washington for Game 5 on Friday trailing 3-1, the Maple Leafs are bracing for a desperate effort. 

"They're going to be looking for a pushback," forward Nazem Kadri said. "They don't want to head back to Washington down 3-1; who would? Just reviewing the tape, we did a lot of good things right [in Game 3] but we've still got to tighten up a few things. That's nowhere near our best."

 

4. Matt Hunwick managing workload

Hunwick has been relied on more heavily on defense by the Maple Leafs in the absence of the Roman Polak. Hunwick played 21:42 in Game 3 and a season-high 35:46 in Game 2, when Toronto played most of the game with five defensemen after Polak left with an injured right leg. He had surgery on Tuesday and is out for the remainder of the playoffs.

"It hasn't been bad," Hunwick said of the expanded ice time. "There's been times last year and this season as well where I've had to play higher minutes. You just have to manage your ice time and know who you're playing against. At home, it's a little bit easier in terms of the matchups but it hasn't been too bad."

 

5. Capitals adjust bottom-six forwards

Forward Tom Wilson moved up to a line with Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller at the morning skate while Brett Connolly was dropped to the fourth line with Daniel Winnik and Jay Beagle. Neither Eller nor Connolly has a point in the series. Trotz hopes the change will lead to more production from his third line.

"Lars has had a pretty good series, but just hasn't got on the board," Trotz said. "We're just trying to change it up and see if we can get some production out of that line."

 

Capitals projected lineup

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

Marcus Johansson -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Justin Williams

Andre Burakovsky -- Lars Eller -- Tom Wilson

Daniel Winnik -- Jay Beagle -- Brett Connolly

Nate Schmidt -- John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- Kevin Shattenkirk

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Paul Carey, Taylor Chorney

Injured: Karl Alzner (upper body)

 

Maple Leafs projected lineup

James van Riemsdyk -- Tyler Bozak -- Mitchell Marner

Leo Komarov -- Nazem Kadri -- Connor Brown

Zach Hyman -- Auston Matthews -- William Nylander

Matt Martin -- Brian Boyle -- Kasperi Kapanen

Matt Hunwick -- Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner -- Nikita Zaitsev

Martin Marincin -- Connor Carrick

Frederik Andersen

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Alexey Marchenko, Ben Smith, Josh Leivo

Injured: Roman Polak (lower body), Eric Fehr (hand/arm), Nikita Soshnikov (undisclosed)

 

Status report

Holtby was bumped by Johansson and remained on the ice for about 20 seconds but finished the morning skate. "I'm fine. It was just a practice play," Holtby said. "It happens." ... Polak will remain in the hospital until the pain becomes manageable. Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said his rehab will be lengthy.

 

Who's hot

Williams has four points (two goals, two assists) in the first three games. Backstrom has three points in the past two games. Oshie has four assists during a three-game point streak. ... Bozak has three points (one goal, two assists) during a three-game point streak.

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