The Capitals have had an up-and-down start to the season.
They’ve dropped two straight, getting outscored 12-5 in that span.
And superstar Alex Ovechkin has been mostly quiet the past four games with only one assist.
But don’t expect that to make the Wild view Saturday night’s tilt in the nation’s capital as being any easier.
“Oh, it’s a cringe time because that team is not used to losing and I’m sure they’re hearing it (Friday),” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “For some reason, I follow that team a little bit and that doesn’t happen very often where they get beat badly and don’t come back with their best game the next night.”
Boudreau was behind the bench for the Capitals for parts of five seasons before eventually landing in Minnesota and while he had a front-row seat to the team’s talent on a nightly basis, it’s well-known how dangerous the Capitals can be – especially on the power play.
In Washington’s most-recent matchup against Minnesota last season, Ovechkin buried three power-play goals en route to a 5-4 overtime win for the Capitals at Xcel Energy Center March 28. It was the most power-play goals given up by the Wild in a single game.
Washington's unit hasn’t been as potent to start the season, checking in at 19.4 percent (15th in the NHL), but it has tallied a power-play marker in each of its past two games.
That should make the special-teams battle one to watch Saturday, as Minnesota, which has won four straight, has killed off 17 consecutive penalties over its last six games. Overall, the PK ranks third in the league at 85.7 percent.
“Not too many teams have been able to stop them for the last 10 years on the power play, and it’ll be a real test for our guys,” Boudreau said. “Every team has tried every different little thing, and they seem to manage to find ways to score. I mean, they've got five dynamic guys on the power play and everybody thinks it’s all Ovechkin. But if you cover him, then you got (T.J.) Oshie and (Nicklas) Backstrom, (Evgeny) Kuznetsov and (John) Carlson to worry about. So it’s a very difficult lineup to handle. The best thing is to not take any penalties.”
Jason Zucker-Mikko-Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Marcus Foligno-Eric Staal-Nino Niederreiter
Daniel Winnik-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin
Tyler Ennis-Matt Cullen-Chris Stewart
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Gustav Olofsson-Kyle Quincey
Devan Dubnyk/Alex Stalock
(The Wild didn't skate Saturday morning, but Boudreau acknowledged Friday eventually giving Dubnyk some rest. With this the start of six games in 10 days and considering Dubnyk’s shutout streak was snapped Thursday, perhaps Stalock returns to the crease as early as tonight.)
6: Games between the Wild and Capitals in Washington that have been decided by one goal during the teams’ previous 10 meetings.
5: Consecutive wins by the Capitals over the Wild.
30: Third-period goals by the Wild, a league-high.
1.17: Ovechkin’s point-per-game pace against Minnesota, which is his highest average against any NHL team.
5: Straight games in which Wild winger Jason Zucker has scored. He’s one game shy of the Wild franchise record set by Brian Rolston in 2008.
About the Capitals:
Washington returns home after getting swept during a brief two-game road swing to Nashville and Colorado. A two-game skid, however, is the team’s longest of the season, as the Capitals have bounced back with a win each time they’ve lost two in a row. After an offseason shakeup that included cutting ties with forwards Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams along with defensemen Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk, the Capitals have injected more youth into their lineup this season with six different rookies dressing for at least three games each. Ovechkin has a team-high 13 goals and Kuznetsov paces the pack with 21 points, but keep an eye on Carlson; he has five points in his last four games.