Just about everything was going right for the Caps as they entered the bye week. Everything, that is, but an injury to Andre Burakovsky.
Burakovsky suffered a hand injury in Washington's win over the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 9 and is expected to be out of the lineup until mid-March. The team would not confirm whether he had broken any bones in his hand, but he had been seen with a cast on in the locker room after Saturday's game against Anaheim.
As the Caps return from their bye week, Burakovsky is back as well. He took to the ice before the team's practice and did a conditioning skate. You can watch him in the video above. The cast is clearly visible on his hand.
The Capitals recalled Jakub Vrana and Zach Sanford on Friday. One of them will likely play in Burakovsky's spot on the right wing Saturday in Detroit against the Red Wings.
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The Caps found themselves in a tight game in the third period, but a three-goal flurry led to the 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
Here’s a recap of the three bold predictions for the game.
1. Washington will not lead after the first period - Wrong
If you came late and saw the score was 1-1, you may have thought the Caps were looking ahead and got off to a bad start against a non-playoff team. That’s not what happened. The first period was arguably the Caps’ best of the night. It certainly was the most dominant. The game may have been won with a quick flurry in the third, but the Caps got off to a great start and lead Arizona 1-0 after the first 20 minutes.
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2. Braden Holtby will allow one goal or fewer - Correct
Arizona had three shots on goal in the first period. Three. That’s not going to get it done against Holtby. The Coyotes made him work for it in the second and third period and finished with 29 shots on goal for the game, but if you spot Holtby a free first period, it’s going to be hard to beat him enough times to get the win.
3. Both teams will combine for fewer than five power plays – Wrong
This game wasn’t any more physical than I anticipated, but it was faster. That led to a lot of stick penalties. Both teams gave up a combined total of eight power plays on Saturday and all of them except Tom Wilson’s double-minor for roughing were stick penalties.
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With a 4-1 over the Coyotes on Saturday night, the Capitals established a new team record for home wins in a season by collecting their 31st victory on F Street.
They had won 30 games at home twice previously—in 1985-86 and 2009-10.
The 31 wins on home ice are also the most in the NHL this season. The Penguins are second with 29.
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Braden Holtby says consistency in their approach has been the key.
“I think we’ve felt comfortable at home all year,” the goalie said. “We’ve been able to prepare and play consistently and not get too carried away trying to impress people. We’ve stuck to our game throughout the year. And it showed. And that’s good. That’s what we want do: make sure Verizon Center is a tough place to come into and play.”
Holtby also tipped his cap to the fans. Saturday’s game marked the 355th consecutive sellout.
“Obviously the fans help,” Holtby said. “Tonight they were awesome. [They had] a lot of energy for a Capitals against Arizona game that’s not exactly a big rivalry. They brought us a lot more energy than we would have had otherwise.”
Saturday’s win also helped the Caps maintain their three-point lead in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, which guarantees home ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
“Home ice is everything in the playoffs,” said winger Daniel Winnik, who scored two third period goals against the Coyotes. “You see teams that have won it, they do exceptional on home ice. We have a lot of confidence in this building and that’s gotta carry over into the playoffs.”
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