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Capitals Game Day

Capitals Game Day: Vanecek Back As Caps Close Out Road Swing vs. Coyotes

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Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek

With just five games left in the regular season and the East playoff picture still very much up in the air, the Washington Capitals’ road trip has — for the most part — gone according to plan. They’ll look to keep that momentum going against the struggling Arizona Coyotes.

The Capitals (43-23-11) have been red-hot down the stretch. They are 6-1-1 in their last eight games and have scored at least three goals in each of those outings. Washington tied the Penguins for third in the Metro back on Wednesday but fell back after a Pittsburgh win on Thursday. The team can tie the Pens again, along with the Boston Bruins, who sit in the first Wild Card spot. However, the Capitals do not own the tiebreakers, so they will remain in WC2 regardless of the result.

Washington will face the Coyotes in their last Western matchup of the regular season. Arizona has lost eight straight games and sits last in the NHL. The last time these two teams faced off, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson scored to lift the Capitals to a 2-1 win back on Oct. 29.

For this tilt, head coach Peter Laviolette appears to be sticking with the same line combinations he put out against the Vegas Golden Knights in Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime loss. Here are what the lines looked like at the team’s morning skate at Gila River Arena, per The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell:

Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson

Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Conor Sheary

Anthony Mantha-Lars Eller-T.J. Oshie

Johan Larsson-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway

John Carlson-Martin Fehervary

Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen

Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz

Laviolette said via The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir that Vitek Vanecek will get the nod and get back in net after a number of starts for Ilya Samsonov. It will be Vanecek’s first start since April 16, where he stopped 28 of 32 shots in an 8-4 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It will be Vanecek’s first career start vs. the Coyotes. Samsonov pitched a shutout the last time these two teams faced off.

When it comes to names to watch, keep an eye out for Ovechkin. The Great 8 hit 50 goals for the ninth time in his historic career back on Wednesday against Vegas. He also had an assist against the Knights to hit the 90-point mark for the first time in a decade. Ovechkin has goals in seven of his last eight games overall. In the big picture, he sits 20 from 800, 22 from passing Gordie Howe and 115 from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record.

Also, watch out for Evgeny Kuznetsov. The 29-year-old has points in three straight and points in 22 of his last 25 outings. He is also five points away from 500 in his career. Carlson is also contributing on offense and has points in seven of his last eight outings.

On the Arizona side of the matchup, Phil Kessel is a name to look for. He has points in three of his last four games overall. Also, watch for leading Coyotes scorers Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, and keep an eye on former Capitals Jay Beagle and Travis Boyd.

The puck drops at 10:30 p.m. ET from Phoenix.

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