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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The Capitals had to say goodbye to several talented players and fan-favorites this offseason.
Marcus Johansson was one of those players, as the Capitals traded the Swedish forward to the Devils for a second and third-round draft pick in order to clear up cap space to make room for Evgeny Kuznetsov's eight-year contract extension.
So you can imagine the surprise when Johansson returned to the Capitals' facility at Kettler IcePlex on Wednesday to workout with his former teammates on the ice.
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Now, it's not at all surprising to see former teammates workout together. But it was a bit surprising to see Johansson rocking the Capitals' colors once again.
You will notice that Johansson was wearing Devils gloves and Devils pants. After all, the Devils have yet to have an organized practice, so while he could probably get his hands on some gloves and pants, practices jerseys may not be issues until a bit later.
Also, it's not like Johansson can stop by his local DICK's Sporting Goods to pick up a practice sweater.
Johansson will make his first official return to Washington, D.C. when the Capitals host the Devils at the Capital One Arena on Saturday, Dec. 30.
Braden Holtby is an elusive guy.
The 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner might be large in stature, but keeps to himself. When you do see him, he's typically covered in layers of goalie pads or briefly chatting with the media following a game.
So imagine the surprise to see Holtby take the ice at Kettler IcePlex well before training camp begins with zero goalie pads on.
That's what took place on Monday morning. As several players hit the ice for some unofficial workout sessions, there was the 6-2 Saskatchewan native strolling onto the ice, with a regular stick, regular skates, regular gloves and Andre Burakovsky's helmet.
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Frankly, it was a bit odd to see Holtby skate up and down the ice.
Maybe it's because we're used to seeing him in the crouch position. or maybe it's because we actually see his entire figure, not just a pile of leather pads.
But even goalies need to work on non-goalie skills. The more familiar you are with position players, the better you will be to stop them from scoring.
But man, seeing Holtby skate like a forward sure does take some time to get used to.
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