The Washington Capitals are seeking their fourth straight win, and are looking to keep the ball rolling as they take on Vancouver Sunday.
Washington had an outstanding win Friday against Buffalo when they made the most of their opportunities and shut down the Sabres’ offense. They will have to have the same mentality Sunday, especially to keep up with points in the tight Eastern Conference standings.
Vancouver Canucks at Washington Capitals
Verizon Center – 5 p.m. EST
Broadcast channels – CSNMA
2016-17 Season Series:
Oct. 29 – Capitals 5 Canucks 2
Washington Capitals – 16-7-3, 35 Points
Away Record: 10-4-0
Hot Players: Nicklas Backstrom, Marcus Johansson
Key Injuries: Matt Niskanen (Upper body; Game time decision)
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky-Lars Eller-Jakub Vrana
Daniel Winnik-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Brooks Orpik-Dmitry Orlov
Nate Schmidt-Taylor Chorney
Vancouver Canucks – 12-14-2, 26 Points
Away Record: 4-9-1
Hot Players: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin
Key Injuries: Derek Dorsett, Anton Rodin, Chris Tanev, Alexander Edler, Philip Larsen, Ryan Miller
Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Jannik Hansen
Loui Eriksson-Brandon Sutter-Markus Granlund
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Alexandre Burrows
Brendan Gaunce-Michael Chaput-Jayson Megna
Ben Hutton-Erik Gudbranson
Luca Sbisa-Troy Stecher
Nikita Tryamkin-Alex Biega
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]1)[/miptheme_dropcap]With Matt Niskanen almost back to full health, the Capitals reassigned Aaron Ness to Hershey. Niskanen was hurt in Washington’s overtime victory over Boston on Wednesday, and Barry Trotz will provide an update on his status prior to puck-drop. He’s expected to be a game-time decision, but if still out, the defensive pairings will remain the same.
The Caps have reassigned Aaron Ness, which is a good sign for Niskanen's health. Unclear if he'll play tonight though.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) December 11, 2016
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]2)[/miptheme_dropcap]Washington’s power-play is growing better each game, which brings back memories of their unstoppable PP unit from a season ago. They went 2-for-3 on the man advantage against Buffalo and will have to keep that momentum going against Vancouver Sunday. However, that may be tough, given Vancouver’s 85.3 percent success on the penalty kill is the fifth-best in the NHL.
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]3) [/miptheme_dropcap]Marcus Johansson is hot right now, and is showing no signs of slowing down. The Swedish forward is riding a four-game point streak and has six points over that period. He’s always involved with the rush, and working with Nicklas Backstrom, is part of one of the hottest duos in the NHL right now. If the Capitals want a win, they’ll have to rely on him to continue the streak.
Marcus Johansson scored a goal and an assist in Friday's 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres.
— Sapere Aude (@PrimaScriptura) December 10, 2016
[miptheme_dropcap style=”normal” color=”#222222″ background=””]4)[/miptheme_dropcap]Though Philipp Grubauer played an excellent game against Buffalo Friday, Braden Holtby is expected to return between the pipes for the Capitals. In his career against the Canucks, Holtby is 2-1, with a 2.36 GAA and .920 save mark.
With the Eastern Conference as tight as it is, this is the perfect time for Washington to show that they’re still one of the top teams in the NHL. Every win counts going forward, and they are close to proving their worth as Cup contenders this season.
In order to win against the Canucks, Washington needs to emphasize an early start and get pucks on net from the get-go. They also need to shut down the power-duo that is the Sedin Twins, and also need to solve their high-ranking penalty kill if they want to score on their power-play chances.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.