The Washington Capitals will close out their Canadian road swing with a late-night tilt against the Vancouver Canucks as Alex Ovechkin remains on milestone watch.
Ovechkin needs just one more goal to pass Jaromir Jagr for sole possession of third on the NHL’s all-time goals list. He tied Jagr on Tuesday against Calgary with his 765 and 766th career strikes in a 5-4 win over the Flames.
Vitek Vanecek will return after Ilya Samsonov started against Edmonton on Wednesday in the second game of a back-to-back in Alberta.
Vanecek stopped 31 of 35 shots against Calgary and has won three straight starts. Through 28 games this season, the Czech netminder is 13-7-5 with a .919 save percentage and 2.32 GAA. This will be his first career game against the Canucks.
Meanwhile, per NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti, the Capitals will make some tweaks to the lineup. Conor Sheary and Tom Wilson switched places at the morning skate.
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Conor Sheary
Anthony Mantha-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Connor McMichael-Lars Eller-Tom Wilson
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
Daniel Sprong, Michal Kempny and Matt Irwin are again the extras. Carl Hagelin remains out indefinitely following a “serious” eye injury that required surgery. Joe Snively is week-to-week.
Beyond Ovechkin’s milestone watch, keep an eye on Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is on a four-game point streak. Also, watch out for Sheary on that top line. He also red-hot of late and has points in three of his last four games, including three goals over that span.
The Canucks, meanwhile, have won three straight games. Under former Capitals bench boss Bruce Boudreau, Vancouver has completely turned it around and are keeping pace in the Western playoff race. The Canucks are just three points behind the Dallas Stars for the second Wild Card spot. Washington needs to look out for J.T. Miller; the popular trade target has been on a tear and is on a 10-game point streak with 21 points over that span.