Backstrom reminds Richards of Peter Forsberg

Backstrom reminds Richards of Peter Forsberg
March 20, 2014, 5:15 pm
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News and notes as the Capitals [33-27-10, 76 points] try to extend their win streak to four games tonight against the Los Angeles Kings [45-16-7, 97 points] at Staples Center:

Starting goalies: Jaroslav Halak is set to make his seventh straight start for the Caps. In six appearances for the Caps since being acquired from Buffalo on March 5, Halak is 4-2-0 with a 2.35 GAA and .931 save percentage. In 12 career starts against L.A. Halak is 6-6-0 with two shutouts, a 2.38 GAA and .913 SP. Jonathan Quick [21-15-2, 2.10 GAA. .914 SP] is expected to get the call for the Kings. He’s 2-0-0 lifetime against the Caps with a 2.50 GAA and .931 SP.

Richards vs. Backstrom: Back in 2008, when the Capitals faced the Flyers in a riveting first-round playoff series, then-Flyers center Mike Richards told me that stopping Alex Ovechkin was not the key to the series. “It’s stopping [Nicklas] Backstrom,” Richards said. “He’s their best player.” Six years later Richards feels the same way, telling the Kings’ website, “He’s kind of like Peter Forsberg how he slows the game down. His hands and his skill are probably one of the best in the league, and I think he doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves because you have a lot of stardom on Ovi. But he’s up there for one of the best in the league.”

Brown game-time: Kings right wing Dustin Brown, who leads the team with hits, has missed the last two games with an illness. He returned to practice on a fourth line on Wednesday and will be a game-time decision.

[RELATED: Caps Wilson learning to pick his spots]

Beagle in the middle: Judging from today’s line combinations at Staples Center, Jay Beagle will remain on a top line with wingers Marcus Johnansson and Ovechkin, while Backstrom centers a second line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Troy Brouwer. Full line combos below.

Heavy Caps: Kings coach Darryl Sutter is a man of few words but when asked about facing the Caps he said it starts along the walls. “The Capitals have the biggest wingers in the league,” he said, apparently referring to Ovechkin, Brouwer, Jason Chimera, Joel Ward, Tom Wilson and Dustin Penner. “So we’ve got some heavy lifting to do out there.”

Perfect Wey: The Capitals are a perfect 4-0 when rookie defenseman Patrick Wey is in the lineup. The Pittsburgh native has three assists in his four NHL appearances and is expected to play alongside Dmitry Orlov on the Caps’ third defense pairing.

Do I know you?: Kings defenseman Slava Voynov and Caps rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov are both from Chelyabinsk, Russia, while Kings center Tyler Toffoki and caps right wing Joel Ward are both from Scarborough, Ontario. Ward has goals in three straight games. Caps goalie Jaroslav Halak and Kings right wing Marian Gaborik were Olympic teammates for Team Slovakia.

Trending: The Caps have won four straight; the Kings have lost three straight. Since Nov. 20, 2008, the Kings have beaten the Caps five straight times and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games against Washington. Both teams are nearly perfect when leading after two periods. The Caps are 21-0-3. The Kings are 21-1-0. The Kings have outscored opponents 61-49 in third periods; the Caps have been outscored 64-61. The Caps have been outscored 5-on-5 by a 134-119 count. The Kings have outscored opponents 105-88 in 5-on-5.

Special Teams: The Caps rank first in the NHL on the power play [24.2 percent] and 19th on the penalty kill [81.3]. The Kings rank 25th on the power play [15.1] and 11th on the kill [82.9]. The Kings have power-play goals in seven of their last nine games. The Kings have killed off 25 of their last 28 penalties. During their three-game win streak the Caps are 5-for-9 on the PP and 12-for-12 on the PK.

Remember me?: Caps left wing Dustin Penner played 117 games for the Kings from 2010-13, winning s Stanley Cup with them in 2012.  

Milestone tracker: Jonathan Quick needs one more win to tie Rogie Vachon for first on the Kings’ all-time list with 171 victories. Tonight will mark Justin Williams’ 200th straight game. Darryl Sutter needs one win to reach 500 in the NHL, which would tie him with Toe Blake for 17th overall. Defenseman Matt Greene is playing in his 500th NHL game. Backstrom needs one assist to pass Calle Johansson for fifth on the Caps’ all-time list with 361. Brouwer will be playing in his 200th game with the Caps. Ovechkin needs two power-play goals to match the franchise record of 22 set by Peter Bondra in 2000-01 and matched by Ovechkin in 2007-08. Johansson’s 32 assists match his career high. He is six points shy of matching his career high of 46 points.

Looking for four: The Caps have won four games in a row twice this season, from Nov. 1-7 and again before and after the Olympic break, winning two before the break and two after.

Until we meet again: The Caps and Kings will meet again on March 25 in D.C.


Forward Lines

Marcus Johansson - Jay Beagle – Alex Ovechkin

Evgeny Kuznetsov - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr – Joel Ward

Dustin Penner – Chris Brown – Tom Wilson

Defense Pairings

Karl Alzner – John Calrson

Jack Hillen – Mike Green

Dmitry Orlov – Patrick Wey


Jaroslav Halak [starter] – Braden Holtby


Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Dwight King – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter
Tanner Pearson – Jarret Stoll – Tyler Toffoli
Kyle Clifford – Trevor Lewis – Dustin Brown/Jordan Nolan

Defense Pairings

Robyn Regehr – Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell – Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez – Matt Greene


Jonathan Quick [starter] – Martin Jones