After getting back to their high-scoring style of play on Saturday and clinching a playoff spot on their off day on Sunday, the Washington Capitals will look to keep the good times rolling against the top-ranking Colorado Avalanche, who recently clinched the Western Conference.
Washington (42-23-10) has been playing some of its best hockey down the stretch with just seven games to go in the regular season. Since holding a couple of players-only meetings and establishing a “new standard” of play following a tough stretch of play, the Capitals have won five of their last six games. They have scored at least three goals in each of those outings, including at least eight goals in two of their last four games.
For the third game of the team’s five-game road trip, Washington appears to be switching some things up on the forward lines. T.J. Oshie moved up to the top line to work with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin, while Conor Sheary took Oshie’s place on the second line.
Meanwhile, head coach Peter Laviolette kept the Anthony Mantha-Lars Eller-Tom Wilson trio together. That line has been a powerhouse with the Capitals looking to make more noise and gain some ground in the Metro Division race.
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Here are what the lines looked like at Washington’s morning skate in Colorado, per The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Conor Sheary
Anthony Mantha-Lars Eller-Tom Wilson
Johan Larsson-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
Laviolette told reporters that Ilya Samsonov will start against the Avalanche. It makes Samsonov’s fourth start in the team’s last six outings. The 25-year-old last played on Thursday against Toronto, but was pulled after surrendering four goals on 19 shots (.789 save percentage).
When it comes to names to watch, look out for Mantha, who broke out with two goals and two assists back in his home province of Quebec on Saturday. He has seven points in his last four outings and continues to click with Eller, who is on a four-game point streak with three multi-point outings over that span. Also, keep an eye on the Larsson-Dowd-Hathaway combo; Hathaway is one point away from 100 NHL points, while Dowd hit that mark on Saturday. Larsson and Dowd both have points in three straight games. John Carlson is also riding a six-game point streak.
On the Avs side of the matchup, Mikko Rantanen leads the team with 91 points and has points in 10 of his last 11 games, including three straight. Former Capitals fan favorite Andre Burakovsky is also heating up, recently establishing a new career-high in goals, and he also has points in his last three appearances. Nathan MacKinnon has seven points in his last three games, and Cale Makar continues to bring a lot to the table at both ends of the ice, as he is second in NHL scoring among defensemen with 82 points in 71 outings.