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Game Day Preview #26, Los Angeles Kings @ Washington Capitals

America!

NHL: Washington Capitals at Los Angeles Kings Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (14-8-3) @ Washington Capitals (14-10-1)

Game Time: 4:00 PM Pacific, FS-W

Everyone’s “are the Capitals done for” hot takes can probably be shelved for now. Despite some rough patches, lineup tinkering, and embarrassing losses (6-2 to Colorado, anyone?), the Caps have won three straight, six of their last ten, and Alex Ovechkin has six points (including a hat trick) in five games and leads the league in goals.

The Metropolitan Division is tight this year -- the Caps sit in the first wild card slot (the Penguins have the other spot) -- and not seeing the Caps at the top of it is strange and different. But their demise is probably not quite on its way yet. (This offer only good for regular season predictions. Author of the blog makes no predictions or claims in regards of the post-season success of the Washington Capitals.)

The Capitals’ success largely goes the way Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin go, however. It’s probably no surprise that games that saw that pairing split up were often games that featured a frustrated Capitals offense. Sticking them back together, particularly after the team’s recent slump, has done wonders for the Caps. Backstrom continues to somehow be a highly underrated player, but he seems just fine to exist on the fringes of the spotlight perpetually shining on Ovechkin. That’s fine for him, but other teams certainly can’t overlook him. After all, he’s the one who dishes the puck off to Ovechkin, and Ovi can’t score if he doesn’t get the puck. That’s kind of how the game works.

The Caps are on a bit of a scoring tear right now -- this month, there have only been four games where they’ve scored less than three goals -- so while they’re sitting right around the Kings in terms of overall goals scored (72 for the Caps compared to 71 for the Kings), they’re certainly putting goals up in bunches when they do find the back of the net.

The Holtby vs. Quick duel should be a good one. Holtby is one of the league’s best, and after missing most of last season, Quick is back with a vengeance. Of course, both netminders have had their share of stinkers this season. So this is either going to be a 2-1 game won in overtime, or it’s going to be 6-5. Probably also in overtime. Because hockey.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Shore - Toffoli
Gaborik - Kempe - Lewis
Jokinen - Dowd - Brodzinski

Muzzin - Doughty
MacDermid - Martinez
Forbort - Folin

Quick
(Kuemper)

Washington Capitals

Ovechkin - Backstrom - Wilson
Vrana - Kuznetzov - Oshie
Graovac - Eller - Smith-Pelly
Stephenson - Beagle - Chiasson

Orpik - Carlson
Orlov - Niskanen
Djoos - Bowey

Holtby
(Grubauer)

Opposing Preview: Jaspers’ Rink