After the incomplete comeback loss yesterday at Capital One Arena to the Detroit Red Wings, the Washington Capitals prepare for a cold road trip out west. Here is a quick preview of the teams and who to watch out for.
First stop on Tuesday is in Manitoba, where the Caps will play “the Western Ovechkin” Patrick Laine and the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are currently 2nd in the Central Division with 73 points so far on the season, two points behind the Nashville Predators. Other than Laine, the Jets have a lot of other weapons that could prove difficult for the Caps. Mark Scheifele (15 goals – 24 assists) and Nikolaj Ehlers (21 goals – 19 assists) have proven to be offensive threats. However, the one who leads from the front is their captain Blake Wheeler with 60 points on the season (14 goals – 46 assists). Look for this team to take a strong home stand with their speed and scoring abilities. Caps will have to watch out for the big-hitters on the squad too, like Dustin Byfuglien and ex-Caps tough guy Matt Hendricks. This’ll be a good, tone-setting game for the road trip.
Next, the Caps travel Minnesota to face 2018 All-Star select Eric Staal and the Wild. Staal has found a home in Minnesota as a veteran playmaker, leading the team in points with 50 (24 goals – 26 assists). Another hot player to look out for is Jason Zucker, who has 40 points (22 goals – 18 assists) on the season so far. Both continue to be the face of the Wild’s offense, but the Caps must also look to beat their star goaltender Devan Dubnyk. At 6’6″, Dubnyk’s big rig can cover the net from all angles. He was a contender for the Vezina and Hart trophies a couple of seasons ago, so he can hold his own. The Caps will need to dig deep for this one following the Winnipeg game.
The Caps then travel to the Windy City of Chicago to play Patrick “Showtime” Kane and the Blackhawks. This is a prestigious club who has hit sort of a decline this season, currently short of a playoff spot. Regardless, they still have some very capable weapons on the team other than Kane. Alex DeBrincat is one of their young top 6 forwards, who has earned his place this season with 34 points (19 goals – 15 assists). He is quick and can put the puck in the net. Nick Schmaltz is another producer for the club with 39 points (15 goals – 24 assists), second among the team in points behind Kane. Following two presumably tough game on the road, the Caps could cool down with this matchup. However, no games are certain and they should make sure to contain the Blackhawks early if they seek to win.
Finally, to close out the road trip, the team travels to Buffalo to play Ryan O’Reilly and the Sabres. Recently, the Sabres suffered a huge blow to their offense with a season-ending injury of their star forward Jack Eichel (Sprained ankle). He is currently the point leader on the team with 53 points (22 goals – 31 assists), but he isn’t the only threat. Evander Kane is third among points on the team with 38 (18 goals – 20 assists). Kane can move the puck and use the body to power his way to the net. With the Sabres second to the Arizona Coyotes as the worst team in the NHL with 42 points, this could be an easy game for the Caps. This could be a good an opportunity to start Philipp Grubauer to get him another win on his record and maybe rotate in Taylor Chorney to get him some play time to keep him fresh, but anything can happen in hockey so they should not underestimate Buffalo. Caps will probably be ready to return home at this point, so hopefully they have some extra juice in the tank to squeeze out a win here.
As always we will be tweeting the games, providing updates and insight. Give us a follow @InColdPlacesDC and give me one too @Jurky88. Go Caps!