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Bruce Boudreau: 'It's time' for Wild and Caps to get dialed in

Bruce Boudreau: 'It's time' for Wild and Caps to get dialed in

When the Capitals and Wild meet Tuesday night at Verizon Center, the game will pit a pair of top teams still searching to rediscover their pre-bye week mojo.

Mired in a rare four-game losing streak, the Caps are 5-6-1 since the bye and have conceded significant ground Metropolitan Division.

In fact, Washington headed into the six-day hiatus last month with nine-point advantage on the Blue Jackets, Rangers and Penguins. Now, that lead has been whittled to just a single point over Pittsburgh, which can leapfrog the Caps with a win in Calgary on Monday night. 

Minnesota, meanwhile, sits atop the Western Conference standings. But the Wild have also struggled to regain their footing coming out of the bye, going 4-4-0 in the last eight games. Their most recent loss, a 4-2 setback in Chicago on Sunday, allowed the Blackhawks to pull within a point of them in the conference and Central Division standings.

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“I don’t know the answer,” former Caps and current Wild bench boss Bruce Boudreau said, asked why so many teams have slumped after the bye. “But one of the thoughts is we’re playing at the same level that we were playing, but [for] other teams it’s a real state of urgency that they’re in at this time. And they’re playing way above where they would have played previously.”

Speaking after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Boudreau added: “I think it's time for us and other teams [to] step our game up 10 or 20 percent, like the rest of the teams in the league are doing.”

For Washington, which was off Monday as the team traveled back from the West Coast, the game against Minnesota opens an import stretch. The Caps are tied for the most home wins in the league—27—and they'll now get the chance to steady themselves on F Street, where they play five of the next six games.

Boudreau said he suspects that with less than a month left in the regular season, teams like the Caps and Wild are going to begin ramping up their collective focus and urgency after coasting for a bit.

“It’s the time of the year and our sense of urgency, whether it’s the Caps or whether it’s us…it’s not there yet,” Boudreau said. “But when you have to win the games, I think you’ll see these teams step up and play really good hockey.”

Boudreau expressed a similar sentiment when asked about his former star player Alex Ovechkin, who hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games. The drought is the longest of Ovi's illustrious career.

“He’s going to get out of it one day,” Boudreau said with a chuckle. “I just hope it’s not tomorrow.”       

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3 bold predictions: Caps face Blue Jackets in pivotal Metro clash

3 bold predictions: Caps face Blue Jackets in pivotal Metro clash

The Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets meet in a pivotal Metropolitan Division clash on Thursday (7 p.m., CSN). Here are three bold predictions for the game.

1. Neither team will score on the power play

This prediction isn’t about how good or bad the power play units are, I just don’t expect either team to get many opportunities. Washington has given up only one power play in each of their last three games while Columbu has taken even fewer. They have been shorthanded only twice in their last three.

RELATED: Breathing room and history at stake for Caps on Thursday

2. Washington will score at least three goals

Sergei Bobrovsky should be in consideration for both the Vezina Trophy and the Hart Trophy given the season he is having. Having said that, he hasn’t faced a top ten offense in quite some time. In their last 10 games, the Blue Jackets have played two teams with offenses currently ranked in the top 10 and Bobrovsky didn’t play either of them. Backup Joonas Korpisalo started on March 18 against the New York Islanders (2.94 goals per game, 9th in the NHL) and on Wednesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs (3.06 goals per game, 6th in the NHL). Don’t get me wrong, Bobrovsky has been fantastic all year, but after playing against Buffalo, Philadelphia, Florida and New Jersey (three times), he may not be completely ready for the jump of playing a team like Washington.

3. Brett Connolly, Lars Eller or Andre Burakovsky will score

Burakovsky has been fantastic in his return. He looks fast and dangerous and so has the third line. So far that has not led to any goals for the trio, but it will Thursday. This line is playing too well to continue to get shutout.

MORE CAPITALS: Prospect report: Hershey is suddenly stacked on defense

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Caps seek breathing room—and a spot in the record book—with Columbus in town

Caps seek breathing room—and a spot in the record book—with Columbus in town

When the Blue Jackets visit Verizon Center on Thursday night, the Capitals will have the chance to accomplish a couple of things: they can open a little breathing room between themselves and Columbus and they can tie the franchise record for most home wins in a season.

“As I just said to the guys, games like tonight, if you’re a coach or a hockey player, that’s what you play for,” Coach Barry Trotz said after the morning skate, “to get games where there’s a lot of meaning. We’ve prepared all year for this, so let’s get at it.”

Entering Thursday’s games, the Caps had 102 points, the Penguins owned 101 and Jackets checked in with 100. So a win, obviously, would give the Caps a four-point edge on Sergei Bobrovsky and Co. with nine games remaining for both clubs.

Washington, Pittsburgh and Columbus are 1-2-3 in the league standings, as well.

“It’s not that much distance,” defenseman Brooks Orpik cracked, asked about possibly opening a four-point advantage on the Jackets, who lost to the Maple Leafs, 5-2, on Wednesday night.

Orpik added: “But, yeah, it’s a little bit of distance against them. We know they played last night and had a pretty physical game against Toronto. So hopefully that works to our advantage. Hopefully we’re smart and make them go 200-feet for their chances tonight.”

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The game marks the fourth of five meetings between Washington and Columbus this season. The Caps won the last meeting, a win-streak-snapping 5-0 decision on F Street back on Jan. 5. The Jackets, however, won the first two meetings—a 2-1 overtime triumph on Nov. 15 and a controversial 3-2 win five days later.

The teams close out their season series in Columbus on April 2.

“Anytime you’re that close in the standings and you’re in the same division, it’s a big game and you can kinda distance yourself,” winger Tom Wilson said. “But they’re a good team. They’re going to be coming hard and they’ve beat us twice this year already, so that’s in our minds.”

To get two points, though, the Caps are going to need to solve Bobrovsky, who leads the NHL in goals against average (2.04), save percentage (.931) and wins (39).

“I think he’s a top 2 or top 3 goalie in the league, in my opinion,” Alex Ovechkin said of the fellow Russian. “When he’s on his game, it’s very hard to score. He controls the game well. He likes the big moments. He likes the pressure.”

Goals won’t come easily. And neither will a ‘W’. But if the Caps earn one, they’ll also tie the franchise record for wins in a season with their 30th. None of the wins have come in the shootout. The last time they won 30 games without the benefit of a shootout victory? Way back in 1985-86. Washington also won 30 games at Verizon Center in 2009-10, but that mark included four wins in the shootout.    

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