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SKATE SHAVINGS: News and Notes From Caps' Morning Skate

February 11, 2017
Breaking Point – On Saturday night at Verizon Center, the Capitals close out a four-game homestand and play their final game before the bye week. Washington played 17 games in 31 nights coming out of the NHL’s holiday break, and tonight it will play its seventh game in a dozen nights after the league’s All-Star break. 

The Capitals will take the next five days off before reconvening for the stretch run of the 2016-17 regular season, in which they’ll play at a more leisurely pace of 26 games in 51 nights. 

“The All-Star break was shorter this year than it’s been in past years,” notes Caps center Lars Eller. “So it doesn’t feel like that was that much of a break. But it’s nice to have a short break like that and then a little longer break now. I think it comes at a good time, with a month and a half or two months left in the season. It’s a good time for us to get some rest.” 

Foot On The Gas – For Washington, the challenge against the Ducks is to maintain for one more night the laser sharp focus they’ve shown night in and night out over most of the last two months. The Caps made a point of diverting attention away from the upcoming break and toward the task at hand tonight against the Ducks, a team they see rarely. 

Might facing an unfamiliar foe help the Caps keep that focus? 

“You play a team that you haven’t played a lot,” begins Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt, “you’ve got to be a little more dialed in when you’re not familiar with them as much. I think it’s just the thing for us that you have this one four-hour time period, and then you have the chance to wind down.

“You’ll be dialed in for those four hours, and that’s a big part of tonight’s match. Don’t let your mind wander, and just be ready for the match tonight.”

“I don’t know if it’s a better situation or not,” says Caps coach Barry Trotz of facing a less familiar foe in the final game before the break. “We talked to the guys [Friday] about how we’ve got to focus because we’ve got a job to do tonight. So anything that you need to do because you are taking a break or leaving or preparing [to leave], do that [Friday] and let’s just have a normal game day [on Saturday] where we come to work and we’re playing a very good team in Anaheim.” 

Caps players are expected to scatter across the hemisphere hours after the conclusion of Saturday’s game, so Trotz wants them packed and ready before Saturday, preserving the normal game day routine.

“Yeah, pack,” says Trotz. “Be ready so that your game day is normal where you’re not doing your last minutes stuff. Do that [Friday], but focus on the game today.” 

Ducks Data – It’s been 10 months since the Caps have seen the Ducks; Anaheim supplied the opposition for Washington’s regular season finale of 2015-16, but that’s not how the schedule was originally drawn up. Anaheim was slated to be here on Jan. 24 of last season, but the game was wiped out by the massive snowstorm that rocked D.C. then, and the contest was rescheduled for April 10 of last year, a day after the Caps’ regular season slate was supposed to end.

“They’re the stingiest team probably since Christmas,” says Trotz, “and one of the forces out in the Western Conference. We’ve got to be prepared to play well against them. They play their [top] three lines a lot and they’re really role-defined. 

“[Ducks coach] Randy {Carlyle] is a big-time match coach where they do a lot of line changes on the fly. So we’ve got to recognize that, use that to our advantage and make sure that we’re focused and ready to go. They’ve got a good young defense and good goaltending. It will be a real test.”

Anaheim is playing the fifth game of a six-game journey that has the Ducks on the road for nearly two weeks. The Ducks are 1-2-1 on the trip to date, and they’re coming in off a win over the Sabres in Buffalo on Thursday night. 

In The Nets – Braden Holtby gets the net for Washington tonight against the Ducks, and he’ll be seeking his 29 th victory of the season. In his last 15 starts, Holtby is 13-0-0 with four shutouts, a 1.87 GAA and a .930 save pct.

On the season, Holtby is 28-8-4 with seven shutouts, a 1.97 GAA and a .928 save pct. He has made only one career start against the Ducks, winning it and surrendering a single goal in the process. 

John Gibson is expect to get the start in net for Anaheim. He’ll be aiming for his 22 nd win of the season, which would exceed his career best of 21 established in 2015-16. Since Christmas, Gibson’s 1.83 GAA is the best in the NHL and his .936 save pct. is tied for the best mark in the circuit over that span. 

Lifetime against the Capitals, Gibson is 0-1-1 in two appearances with a 2.93 GAA and a .900 save pct.

All Lined Up – Here’s how we expect the Capitals and the Ducks to look when they take to the Verizon Center ice tonight:

WASHINGTON

Forwards

8-Ovechkin, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie

90-Johansson, 92-Kuznetsov, 14-Williams

10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 82-Sanford

26-Winnik, 83-Beagle, 43-Wilson

Defensemen

27-Alzner, 74-Carlson

9-Orlov, 2-Niskanen

44-Orpik, 88-Schmidt

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

31-Grubauer 

Scratches

4-Chorney


MedStar Health Injury Report
65-Burakovsky (hand)

ANAHEIM

Forwards

50-Vermette, 15-Getzlaf, 33-Silfverberg

37-Ritchie, 67-Rakell, 10-Perry

7-Cogliano, 17-Kesler, 48-Shaw

86-Kase, 44-Thompson, 40-Boll 

Defensemen

4-Fowler, 2-Bieksa

47-Lindholm, 71-Montour

53-Theodore, 42-Manson 

Goaltenders

36-Gibson

1-Bernier

Injuries

3-Stoner (lower body)

6-Despres (concussion-like symptoms)

45-Vatanen (lower body)

Scratches

5-Holzer

74-Cramarossa

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