WASHINGTON, DC - There's a reason the Washington Capitals present such a daunting challenge for the Edmonton Oilers. Look no further than their schedule summary and you'll see it's absolutely covered with Ws.
The Capitals have just six regulation losses since December 1, posting a record of 27-6-5. Washington has a true home-ice advantage with a 24-5-1 record at the Verizon Center this year. They've won their last 12 in their home building, scoring five or more in 11 straight.
"They've been phenomenal here at home, scoring at will," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "Their power play has been excellent. All the traits of a good Washington team are coming out right now. I like that. It's a chance for us to play against the best and see what we have."
The last time these two teams met, Edmonton came out on top 4-1 back on October 26. However, the Caps are firing on all cylinders and the Oilers are a different team now as well.
The Oilers felt they had a good team effort in Florida on Wednesday, and they'll need to continue with a full roster going tonight for a win.
"I think building off last game is going to be huge for us," said Oilers defenceman Brandon Davidson. "We played a well-rounded game, a fast game and a physical one. I think we're going to try and bring that here tonight."
Edmonton beat Florida 4-3 for their fourth win in their last five games.
"Tonight, we can't go backwards… It's a huge challenge for our team," said McLellan. "We played them really early in the year at home and came away with the win, but I think they're in a different place right now, certainly confidence wise and execution wise than they were back then. I'd like to think we are as well, so let's see if we can throw a good game at them."
Edmonton will be without defenceman Adam Larsson for the second straight game. However, they do have some good news on the backend as Andrej Sekera is ready to go after he left Wednesday's game against the Florida Panthers.
"We anticipated that, leaving Florida the other day," said McLellan. "But we had to make sure and he says he's feeling real good and ready to go. That's a good thing for our team."
McLellan says Darnell Nurse is "not yet" ready to go.
The lineup is expected to stay the same as it was in Florida, which was as follows:
Cam Talbot was first off the ice.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (33-20-8) at CAPITALS (40-12-7)
TV: 5:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet
This is the second and final meeting between the Oilers and Capitals this season and the lone game in Washington. The last time these teams faced each other in Washington was on November 23, 2015, when the Capitals edged the Oilers 1-0.
The last time these teams met was on October 26, 2016 in Edmonton, when the Oilers topped the Capitals 4-1. Benoit Pouliot scored twice, while Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic also posted goals in the win. Cam Talbot stopped 34 of 35 shots he faced.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers bounced back from their loss Tuesday in Tampa Bay with a win on Wednesday against the Florida Panthers.
Iiro Pakarinen has been a force since returning to the Oilers lineup, registering three points (1G, 2A), 17 hits, five blocked shots and a plus two rating in five games. He led the Oilers in hits last game against Florida, posting four hits.
In 2015-16, Pakarinen posted 13 points (5G, 8A) and eight penalty minutes in 63 games. He has played his entire NHL career with Edmonton, accumulating 19 points (7G, 12A) and 10 penalty minutes in 84 NHL games.
Matt Benning posted a career high in ice time (25:53) last game against the Panthers and ranked second on the team in ice time, second to Oscar Klefbom (26:32) who leads the Oilers.
Benning also posted three hits and one shot on goal against Florida on Feb. 22, adding to his season totals and now has accumulated 12 points (3G, 9A), 27 penalty minutes, 85 hits and a plus six rating.
The Oilers relied heavily on Benning with Andrej Sekera going down early on Wednesday due to injury and Adam Larsson out after suffering an injury on Tuesday. The Oilers could potentially get some additional help on the blueline tonight with Darnell Nurse a potential to return to the lineup. Nurse has three goals and five points in 25 games this season in addition to 17 penalty minutes. He's been out with a lower body injury since December 1.
Capitals team scope:
Washington is the top team in the NHL and became the first to reach 40 wins with a 4-1 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday.
This season is the second time in as many years that the Capitals reached 40 wins in 60 games or less. Last year, the Caps won their 40th game in their 53rd contest which was the fastest in NHL history.
Braden Holtby stopped 33 of 34 shots on Wednesday at Philadelphia to earn his 30th win of the season. Holtby is one of two goaltenders in the NHL to earn 30 wins in each of the last three seasons (Devan Dubnyk) and he is the second goalie in franchise history to record three career 30-win seasons (Olie Kolzig: 5). Holtby has posted a 15-0-2 record in his last 19 games (12/29-2/22) with four shutouts, a 1.88 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. Last season, Holtby picked up at least a point in 22 straight games (20-0-2). He leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.99) and is tied for first in shutouts with seven. Holtby is also tied for third in save percentage at .927.
The Capitals have posted a 24-5-1 record at home this season and have won 12 consecutive home games, tying the second-longest home winning streak in franchise history (the Caps went 13-0-0 from January through March 2010 and 12-0-0 from November through January last season.
During its home-winning streak, Washington has outscored opponents 62-19 and posted five shutouts. In addition, Washington has earned a point in 14 consecutive home games (13-0-1) and in 17 of its last 18 home games (16-1-1).
The Capitals rank tied for first in the NHL in home wins (24), first in goals against per game at home (1.70) and second in goals per game (3.67). Nicklas Backstrom ranks second in the NHL in points recorded at home this season (39) and Alex Ovechkin ranks tied for ninth (31). Braden Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts (6) and goals-against average (1.81) at home and ranks tied for first in wins (19) and tied for third in save percentage (.928).