Feb. 11 vs. Detroit Red Wings at Capital One Arena
Time: 3:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington
Radio: FAN 106.7, Capitals Radio 24/7
Detroit Red Wings 21-23-9
Washington Capitals 32-17-5
The Caps close out a quick two-game stay at home on Sunday afternoon when the Detroit Red Wings make their lone visit to the District this season. Washington embarks upon a weeklong, four-game road trip after Sunday’s game; the Caps won’t play at home again until Feb. 20 when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Washington just concluded stretch in which it played 11 of its previous 17 games against Metropolitan Division opponents, going 10-4-3 overall and 6-2-3 in the 11 Metro contests. The Caps come into Sunday’s game on the heels of a sweep of a home-and-home set with the Blue Jackets, winning 3-2 in Columbus on Tuesday and 4-2 in the District on Friday.
The sweep of two games against the Jackets was a good response after the Caps gave up a combined total of 11 goals in losses to the Penguins and Golden Knights last weekend, and now Washington is looking to build momentum ahead of the upcoming road trip. The Caps have permitted two goals in consecutive games for first time since Jan. 21-25. They’ve not put together three such games in more than two months, since Dec. 4-8.
The Caps have been getting offense of late, and their attack has shown diversity. Washington has scored three or more goals in each of its last six games, the longest streak it has put together this season. Fourteen different Caps skaters have scored in the team’s last six games.
On Saturday, the Caps announced that they had come to terms with center Lars Eller on a five-year contract extension. In his second season with the Capitals, Eller has become a vital part of the team, performing on both special teams and being an integral part of a strong group of centers, three of whom are under contract for the next two seasons beyond the current one.
With 11 goals and 28 points in 53 games this season, Eller has a chance to establish career highs in goals, points and assists this season. Currently in the final season of a four-year deal he signed with Montreal in the summer of 2014, Eller’s extension carries the same salary cap hit -- $3.5 million annually – as his previous pact.
Washington obtained Eller in a draft day deal with the Habs in 2016, and the fit has been a good one for both the player and the team since.
“All I can say is I’m really happy to be standing here today,” said Eller after Saturday’s Caps practice session. “This club and this city has been a great fit for me personally, for my family. There are just so many things that have been good about it; it’s been good for my career. I feel like I’ve kind of found my game here, especially this year. I couldn’t be happier to make this happen.”
Eller’s teammates were happy for him, too. When Caps coach Barry Trotz informed the club of the deal after practice, there were many smiles and hugs all around.
“I’m extremely happy for him,” says frequent Eller linemate Brett Connolly. “We just found out, right after practice. It’s ben a lot of fun playing with him. He’s a guy who works hard and prepares every day for games. He is definitely deserving.
“We’re all extremely happy for him, I’m happy for him. He has been good for my career, and I hope that I’ve helped with him as well. It’s been a lot of fun the last couple of years, and everyone is really happy for him.”
Detroit hits town in the wake of a wrenching defeat against the Islanders in Brooklyn on Friday night. The Wings seemingly had the defensively leaky yet offensively potent Isles down and out, owning a 5-2 lead with six and a half minutes left. That’s when Wings rookie Tyler Bertuzzi incurred a game misconduct and a five-minute major for slashing Isles’ irritant Cal Clutterbuck.
New York was able to cash in four times in a span of just 3:37 during the five-minute major to Bertuzzi, and the last of those goals gave the Islanders a 6-5 lead with just 1:49 remaining in the game. Detroit’s Mike Green scored to tie the game at 6-6 in the final minute, but the Isles prevailed in overtime, leaving the Wings a point shy of where they likely figured they should have been at night’s end.
The Wings have not won consecutive games in regulation since Dec. 15-19. Detroit showed fleeting signs of life around midseason, wrapping a season high four-game winning streak evenly around New Year’s Day. But they’ve won only four of 13 (4-7-2) since, and are mired in the morass of mediocrity that defines the lower half of the Atlantic Division.
Heading into Sunday’s slate of NHL games, the Red Wings are 20 points in arrears of third-place Toronto in the Atlantic and they’re 10 points south of the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card berth in the Eastern Conference. With 29 games remaining, realistic playoff hopes have all but vanished, and the Wings are virtually certain to be sellers rather than buyers ahead of the NHL’s Feb. 26 trade deadline.