Two perennial powers heading in opposite directions will collide on Wednesday night when the Washington Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks. The Capitals are starting to hit their stride with five wins in their last six games, but the Blackhawks are battling to avoid the Central Division basement after dropping four in a row.
Captain Alex Ovechkin became the first player in the league to score 20 goals and in the process moved into 20th place on the all-time list with his 578th tally. “He’s one of the best goal-scorers in the game and he knows where to put the puck,” goaltender Philipp Grubauer said of Ovechkin, one of 11 players with 20 goals in each of his first 13 seasons. “He’s dangerous and you can’t leave him alone that many times.” Washington’s only loss in the past six games came at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, who sent Chicago to its fourth consecutive defeat (0-2-2) with a 3-1 road victory on Sunday. The Blackhawks have struggled against the Capitals, losing six of their last seven overall and the past six visits to Washington, including a 6-0 drubbing in their last trip in January.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (12-10-5): Backup netminder Anton Forsberg has one win in nine appearances but he deserved a better fate in back-to-back losses to Dallas and Los Angeles over the weekend while subbing for the injured Corey Crawford. Forsberg turned aside 54 of 57 shots in the two defeats but Chicago mustered a combined three goals in support of him. ”He’s doing everything we need him to do in there,“ captain Jonathan Toews said. ”We just need to support him, create some offense and find some ways to get some wins for him.”
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (16-11-1): Forward T.J. Oshie, who is third on the team in scoring, is expected to sit out Wednesday’s contest, listed as “very doubtful” by coach Barry Trotz when his head hit the boards in what appeared to be an inadvertent hit by San Jose’s Joe Thornton. Andre Burakovsky practiced for a second straight day but Trotz said his return from surgery on his broken thumb will likely be put off another game or two. However, forward Chandler Stephenson (upper body) is expected back in the lineup following a one-game absence.
1. The Blackhawks are 1-for-17 on the power play over the past four games.
2. Ovechkin has eight goals and 13 points in 14 games against the Blackhawks.
3. Following Wednesday’s game, Chicago plays three straight at home against the league’s worst teams.
PREDICTION: Capitals 4, Blackhawks 2