Feb. 11 vs. Los Angeles Kings at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, FAN 106.7
Los Angeles Kings 23-27-5
Washington Capitals 30-18-7
The Capitals close the books on their longest homestand in 13 years on Monday night when the Los Angeles Kings come to town for the only time in 2018-19. The contest also starts a set of back-to-back games for the Caps, who will head to the airport immediately after the game. Washington opens up a six-game road trip in Columbus on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jackets starts a stretch in which Washington will play 12 of 16 games on the road in a span of 36 days. Monday’s game against the Kings is the last taste of home cooking the Caps will get for almost two weeks.
“We want to finish off [the homestand] in a good way,” says Caps center Lars Eller. “And we’ve got some big games coming up after that, a divisional game after that. It seems like every team has a chance in both conferences, so there are absolutely no easy games right now.”
Washington has collected points in four of the five games on the homestand to date, going 3-1-1 with all five games decided by a single goal. Each of the Caps’ last six home games (3-1-2) overall has been a one-goal game. Most recently, the Caps dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, rallying from a two-goal deficit in the third to scrape a point out of the game.
“It’s one of those games that we played probably well enough to win,” says Caps goalie Braden Holtby, “but we also made enough mistakes to lose. So it’s one of those that we can take a look at and see what we can do better.”
Saturday’s game against Florida marks the seventh time this season the Caps have pulled at least a point out of a game in which they trailed by two or more goals. Washington has 67 points on the season, and 10 of them (14.9 percent) have been garnered in that fashion (three wins, four overtime losses).
“We have a strong faith that we can score goals if we need to,” says Eller. “But it is hard to win games when the opposition scores four. We’ve just got to correct those mistakes and keep improving.”
After winning the front end of their first six sets of back-to-back games this season, the Caps have lost three straight and are now 6-2-1 in that circumstance. Washington has won three straight games against Western Conference foes – all on this homestand – to end a six-game slide (0-4-2) against the opposite conference. Against the Pacific Division, the Caps are 7-4-1.
Evgeny Kuznetsov stayed hot in Saturday’s win, supplying the tying goal with 3:06 remaining in the third. Kuznetsov has five goals and 11 points in his last seven games.
Eller and linemates Andre Burakovsky and Brett Connolly have also gotten right on the homestand, and they combined for three goals and seven points in the loss to the Panthers.
“That’s a positive sign for our line,” says Eller, “because our team needs that secondary scoring for us to win games. That’s going to be crucial going forward as well, so that was a positive.”
Considering that they carried a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) into the homestand, the Caps can be pleased with their results to date.
“We’re playing better lately,” says Holtby. “We’re still not where we want to be, but you know it’s going in the right direction. I think the big focus is focusing on L.A. first, and worrying about the long road trip after that, and make sure we’re one game at a time, because we still have a ways to go if we want to get to where we want to get to. And it’s going to take even more hard work and focus. That starts with analyzing this one, seeing how we can get better and moving forward.”
The Kings are coming into town on the heels of their very own 5-4 overtime loss at the hands of the Bruins in Boston. Monday’s meeting marks the first time the Caps and Kings have seen one another this season, and Los Angeles is the last of the Western Conference clubs the Caps are facing for the first time in 2018-19. The Caps and Kings will meet again a week from tonight in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles got bogged down early in the season, enduring a six-game losing streak in October in which it yielded at least four goals and scored two or fewer in every game. The Kings also lost No. 1 netminder Jonathan Quick to an early season knee injury that sidelined him for several weeks.
With points in four straight games (3-0-1), the Kings are playing some of their best hockey of the season right now. Los Angeles is 12-7-2 in 21 games since mid-December, and it is 6-2-2 in its last 10.
While Washington close out its six-game homestand on Monday, the Kings will conclude their six-game road trip in the District. Los Angeles owns a 3-1-1 mark on the trip to date, the same record the Caps have posted on their homestand.