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3 bold predictions: Caps look to tame the Wild

3 bold predictions: Caps look to tame the Wild

Two of the top teams in the NHL meet on Tuesday with both teams desperate for a win. The Caps are back from the west coast to host the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild (7 p.m., CSN). Here are three bold predictions for the game.

1. Lars Eller will score

Eller is one of many Caps mired by a scoring drought with no goals in his past 14 games. It's no surprise to see that drought stretches back to before Andre Burakovsky suffered the hand injury. The third line has not looked the same without him in the lineup. On Tuesday, however, Eller will finally break that drought if for no other reason than because it is Danish Heritage Night at Verizon Center.

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2. Washington will score three or more goals

Devan Dubnyk will likely win the the Vezina Trophy this season, but he had a rough night on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks. He was pulled less than five minutes into the game after allowing two goals on just two shot. Usually, a goalie of Dubnyk's caliber is given more leash than that and allowed to try to bounce back. Head coach Bruce Boudreau said after the game that "It was on him. He didn’t look like he was following the puck well, for want of a better term."

I see Dubnyk responding in one of two ways: He will either come out as good as ever in a true Braden Holtby-like response and completely shutdown the Caps, or he could suffer another rought night. I'm going to go with the latter.

3. Washington will snap the losing streak

I hate predicting winners and losers. This is the first time I have included it as one of my 3 bold predictions all season and it will probably be the last, but I am confident enough in the Caps winning Tuesday I decided to go for it. Yes, they have lost four straight, but Minnesota is having some issues lately as well and their recent record is being propped up by weak competition. Since the start of February, the Wild are only 2-6-1 against teams that are currently in playoff position and 8-1-0 against everyone else. Don't get me wrong, Minnesota is a very good team, but the Caps struggles have been limited to the past week or so. The Wild's issues have been going on for nearly two months and no one has really noticed.

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Justin Williams, Caps aren't having 'in-depth discussions' with free agency looming

Justin Williams, Caps aren't having 'in-depth discussions' with free agency looming

Capitals free agent forward Justin Williams told his agent he's "going dark" today because he's on the golf course, playing in the Quicken Loans Pro-Am at TPC Potomac. But Caps fans managed to find him anyway, asking for an autograph and making a plea to stay in Washington.

Williams, who will turn 36 in October, just completed the second of a two-year deal with Washington but said he's not sure where he'll end up next season.

"I really can't give a number on what percentage I'm here staying, what percentage I'm leaving," Williams said. "I'm not sure. We haven't had very in-depth discussions with Washington so far, so we'll see."

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Williams is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and is currently going through the league's interview process until that day.

"It's a very humbling process, people vying for your services, and you know, you just want to be wanted and it's an interesting time, but it will be all clear in the next few days."

Teammate John Carlson will be playing alongside Williams in the Pro-Am and added that he believes "enough teams will probably be in on him, so that's the first and foremost important thing, in terms of being able to be on a good team."

Don't expect any news today, though, Williams is focused on his golf game.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps re-sign Copley as their No. 3 goalie

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With Copley re-signed, does that mean the Caps are ready to part with Grubauer?

With Copley re-signed, does that mean the Caps are ready to part with Grubauer?

The Capitals are a team in need of a top-four defenseman after the departure of Nate Schmidt to Vegas. One option to address that need is a trade, a trade that may have gotten that much easier for Washington to make with the re-signing of goalie Pheonix Copley on Wednesday.

Philipp Grubauer, the current backup to Braden Holtby, appears to be the team’s biggest trade asset. Holtby is a Vezina caliber goalie signed through the 2019-20 season. The team also boasts one of the top goalie prospects in the world in Ilya Samsonov who is expected to be Washington’s future starter. That means Grubauer, who looks ready to start now, is expendable.

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Or at least, he would be if the team had another viable option at backup.

The Pittsburgh Penguins showed how important having a dependable backup can be as they had to call upon Marc-Andre Fleury for 15 games in the playoffs when starter Matt Murray suffered an injury. For a Capitals team still hoping their championship window has not officially closed, they cannot go into next season without a plan for who their No. 2 may be.

Enter Copley, who signed a two-year contract extension with Washington on Wednesday.

The Capitals thought enough of Copley that after trading him to the St. Louis Blues in 2015 in the T.J. Oshie deal, they reacquired him this season in the Kevin Shattenkirk trade. He enjoyed a dominant stint in his return Hershey and is someone assistant general Ross Mahoney believes is ready to “take a shot” at filling the backup role behind Holtby.

But when will he get that opportunity? Grubauer, a current restricted free agent, will likely either return on a bridge contract or be traded. The problem for Washington is that the current market for goalies in the NHL is a buyers market. There are very few teams who actually need a goalie and there are plenty of options to fill that need. The Caps have a budding starter in Grubauer who they are not going to give away free so they may just bide their time until a trade partner emerges rather than rush a trade to address their need for a defenseman.

Copley's contract seems to account for that possibility as it is a two-way deal the first year and one-way the second, meaning in the second year of his contract he will be earning an NHL salary regardless of whether he is in the AHL or NHL.

Re-signing Copley does not mean a Grubauer trade is imminent, but it does answer the question of who the Caps could potentially replace him with behind Holtby if a trade does happen.

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