Streaking Capitals host slumping Blackhawks
WASHINGTON -- After a down season by his high standards, Alexander Ovechkin is back to his usual goal-scoring self.
"He has a little more joy in his game, and when he plays with joy, he's pretty effective that way," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after practice Tuesday.
There is little joy at the moment for the Chicago Blackhawks, who just slogged through five games in seven days at a 1-2-2 clip, though at least they had a few days to recover after a 3-1 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
The Blackhawks hope they have a little more pep in their step when they face the Capitals on Wednesday in Washington.
"They're playing good, and it's a tough building for us to play in," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. "They have a lot of skill and firepower, and what we've been doing hasn't been good enough. We have to be better."
Ovechkin scored his league-leading 20th goal of the season in Washington's 4-1 triumph over the San Jose Sharks on Monday, the Capitals' fifth win in six games. Ovechkin scored just 33 goals last season but is well on pace for another 50-goal campaign. At times, he is carrying the inconsistent Caps on his shoulders.
"When Ovi is skating, he has such a positive effect on our team and he puts a lot of heat on the other team," Trotz said.
With the Blackhawks' offense not placing much pressure on anyone recently, coach Joel Quenneville decided to juggle his team's lines for the Wednesday game, both in five-on-five and power-play situations, in the hopes of providing a spark for his sputtering squad.
"We didn't score meaningful goals in the last three or four games with the games being on the line," Quenneville said. "We can still be better with the puck and we can have balance in all the lines, some purpose without the puck as well."
Quenneville moved forward Patrick Kane to the point on the power play during practice instead of his normal spot on the right boards in the hopes of shaking up a unit that is in a 1-for-13 slump.
"He's a threat to shoot, threat to pass. There's respect there," Quenneville said of Kane. "You say the guy at the top runs the power play. We feel with the puck in his hands, he's a great threat and great weapon."
Anton Forsberg will get the start in net for Chicago (12-10-5) as Corey Crawford continues to recover from a lower-body injury. Braden Holtby figures to start for Washington, who likely will be without T.J. Oshie. The forward sustained an upper-body injury Monday.
"He's so valuable for this team on and off the ice," Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom said of Oshie. "I'm sure he'll be back soon."
The Capitals have won 11 of 16 since Nov. 2 and seemingly have righted themselves after two embarrassing defeats against Nashville and Colorado in which they were outscored 12-5.
"We're playing with more speed and more confidence," Backstrom said. "Those games were probably two of the worst we've played in a couple of years. We weren't happy after that road trip. We know what we have to do be successful and win hockey games. You have to do all the little things right."
Updated December 6, 2017