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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.

RELATED: Shattenkirk talks play that led to suspension

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.

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz goes back to the well for Ovi advice

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Karl Alzner on the mend, status for second round remains unclear

Karl Alzner on the mend, status for second round remains unclear

Karl Alzner on Tuesday handled his heaviest practice workload since getting hurt, but it remains unclear when the Caps’ defenseman will return to the lineup.

Alzner has been sidelined with an upper body injury since Game 2 against Toronto.

“He’s progressing [and is] day-to-day,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “When the trainers say, 'Go', then he’ll go.”

Alzner took part in contact drills, including penalty kill, signaling the next step in his recovery.

Asked if he anticipates Alzner stepping back into the lineup when he’s healthy, Trotz said: “Possibly. We’re not there yet so I’m gonna be vague to you.”

RELATED: Trotz reveals why Ovechkin missed the second half of practice

Alzner said he felt good after the hour-long practice. Asked if he expects to play right away, he said: “I think so, yeah. I didn’t really think about that...I hope so.”

Alzner, who has appeared in 540 consecutive regular season games, acknowledged that it’s been frustrating to be sidelined given what’s at stake.

“Yeah, not fun,” he said. “It’s very, very frustrating, especially at this point of the year. You can handle it a little more in the regular season, but to watch the guys go to battle and to have the feeling of beating a team, it’s unfortunate to miss that. At the same time, I know that in the long run, it’s the best thing for the team [and] clearly was the right choice.”

Alzner has been replaced in the lineup by Nate Schmidt, who has played well the past four games. In addition to being reliable in his own end, he’s registered a pair of assists. He’s also a team-best +5.  

If and when Alzner is healthy, it’s going to force Trotz and Co. to make a difficult decision. Do you take out Schmidt? Someone else? Or go with seven defensemen?

“He’s done that,” Trotz said about Schmidt putting the coaches in a tough spot. “He’s come in and he’s done a really good job. He’s such a good skater. We played a quick team and he fit in just perfectly with us. I thought he was making a statement, ‘Hey I'm gonna make it tough to take me out of the lineup.”

Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast and subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play!

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Barry Trotz reveals why Alex Ovechkin missed the second half of practice

Barry Trotz reveals why Alex Ovechkin missed the second half of practice

Alex Ovechkin missed the second half of Tuesday’s practice — the Capitals’ first session in preparation for the Penguins — because of an equipment issue.

Prior to exiting the ice, the Caps’ captain came to the bench at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and examined his skate.

“His skate broke,” Coach Barry Trotz said before cracking, “I said, ‘You didn’t have another pair? He goes, ‘I couldn’t find them.’”

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In all seriousness, though, it’s not clear why Ovechkin did not get his skate repaired, as is usual when a blade or holder cracks. 

“I don’t know what happened,” Trotz said. “It was a skate. He came over and there was something hanging off his skate there. I think when he went in the corner, [it] got sliced. He’s fine, as you see. You saw him walking around. He’s fine.”

Added Ovechkin, who appeared to be practicing at full speed during the first 20 or so minutes of practice and looked while walking around afterward: “Yeah, my skate is broke, almost in half. It’s okay.”

Ovechkin scored three goals in the first round as the Caps vanquished the Maple Leafs, 4 games to 2. The right wing ranks ninth on the team average ice time on the team at 19:43.

In addition to Ovechkin’s situation, Lars Eller did not practice. Trotz said the third line center, who has two assists so far in the postseason, took a “maintenance day.” 

Trotz said he expects Eller to practice on Wednesday.

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Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast and subscribe on Apple podcastsAudioboom and Google Play!