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3 bold predictions: Tough Rask at hand

3 bold predictions: Tough Rask at hand

The Capitals will try to build on Monday's win as they host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday (NBCSN 8 p.m.). Here are three bold predictions for the game.

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana will all be held without a point

Kuznetsov and Burakovsky are trying to break out of offensive slumps while Vrana is trying to prove he belongs in the NHL. Points may be hard to come by on Wednesday, however, considering Tuukka Rask will be in net. By now, if you’re even a casual hockey fan you’re aware of what goalie Carey Price is doing in Montreal. His play this season is stealing the headlines away from Rask who has been equally as impressive registering the same number of wins (14) and a lower GAA (1.68) to go with a phenomenal .939 save percentage. This is not the goalie you want to face when dealing with an offensive slump.

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2. Dmitry Orlov and John Carlson will each record a point

An Orlov-Carlson pairing worked better than expected to start the season, but the results were short-lived. That pair had clearly run its course as it became clear the players were both undercutting each other offensively. Barry Trotz shuffled the defense at the end of Monday’s game and those new pairs will stick for Wednesday as John Carlson will reunite with long-time partner Karl Alzner and Orlov will move up to play with Matt Niskanen. Pairing each player with a stay-at-home partner will pay immediate dividends offensively.

3. Washington’s top line will account for two goals

T.J. Oshie returns Wednesday and moves up to the top line skating alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. Oshie was arguably the team MVP before an upper-body injury took him out of the lineup. His return with the team’s two hottest players will prove difficult to defend, especially with Zdeno Chara likely to matchup with Alex Ovechkin. Add in the fact that Rask is a surprising 1-8-4 in his career against Washington and that top line may find some success Wednesday.

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Stanley: Meaningful December games part of Ravens culture

Stanley: Meaningful December games part of Ravens culture

As the Ravens make their final month-long drive for the playoffs, they are right where they want to be: playing meaningful games in December.

Granted, they'd probably prefer a two-game lead in the AFC North, but they are once again right in the thick of the playoff chase, which is the way it has almost always been for the Ravens under John Harbaugh.

In fact, until last season, the Ravens had never played a game under Harbaugh in which they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.

Still, the team missed the playoffs in 2013 and then again last season. Many younger players have little to no playoff experience.

"The biggest thing is just trying to somehow get it through to the young guys how unique of an opportunity we have," quarterback Joe Flacco said after Sunday's 38-6 win over the Dolphins. "Getting to the playoffs is a big-time accomplishment, and to position yourself in December to play these meaningful games is also a big-time accomplishment, and you can’t take it for granted."

Rookie first-round draft pick Ronnie Stanley is one of those younger players, and he said from the minute the Ravens called his name with the No. 6 overall pick in April, he fully expected to be in this position.

"When I got drafted, I knew I got lucky in the sense that usually teams like the Ravens aren't picking this early," Stanley said after Sunday's game. "And when I say teams like the Ravens I mean teams that are usually in the playoffs every year."

"I definitely knew I was coming to a team that was used to being in the playoffs and didn't accept anything less, so I was very excited about that."

Stanley missed four games with a foot injury, and his return -- and a solidified, adjusted offensive line that features All-Pro Marshal Yanda shifting over to play left guard -- is a major reason the Ravens have reeled off four wins in five games after an earlier four-game losing streak.

Now they head to New England on Monday atop the AFC North, and win or lose in New England, they will head to Pittsburgh on Christmas Day with a division title still in reach.

That's exactly how Harbaugh, Flacco and the veteran Ravens are used to having it. Now the onus is on Stanley and other young players to keep it that way.

"Our goal is always to be relevant in December," Harbaugh said last week. "We like to be in the lead in December. We want to have the lead in December, if we can. We’re in that position right now. That’s as much as we’ll talk about. It’s a one-week season for us."

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