Pre-game primer: Speeding trains collide

Pre-game primer: Speeding trains collide
November 7, 2013, 3:45 pm
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Caps take pride in their penalty kill

News and notes as the Capitals [8-7-0] prepare to face the Minnesota Wild [9-4-30 tonight at Verizon Center:

Hunting Penguins: With a win tonight the Capitals would draw within four points of the Metropolitan Division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins, who are coming off a 5-1 loss to the Rangers Wednesday night. Where they stand: The Caps have won three in a row and 6 of their last 8 and own the NHL’s top-ranked power play and penalty kill. The Wild have won three in a row, six of their last seven and own the second-ranked power play and 25th-ranked PK.

Minny-me: Caps rookie defenseman Nate Schmidt is from St. Cloud, Minn., and grew up a North Stars/Wild fan. The North Stars left for Dallas when he was 2 years old, and the Wild came to Minnesota when he was 10. “People were so upset when they left, so it was a really big deal when they came back,” he said. Schmidt said about 20 of his college buddies will be watching the game back home, but his immediate family will be en route to Phoenix, where they’ll visit with his sister, who is attending medical school, and attend Saturday night’s game between the Caps and Coyotes.

Seeing double: Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom [1-1-2] is expected to be a backup to Josh Harding [8-2-1] tonight but that didn’t stop Caps Swedish center Nicklas Backstrom from being asked if he’s ever confused for the Finnish goaltender. “Sometimes it’s confusing for people on Twitter,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “Some people think I’m the guy in Minnesota. I see sometimes they write to me after their games. I don’t know him. All I know is he’s Finnish and he’s a great goalie.”

Holt-beast: Braden Holtby [6-5-0] is expected to make his 13th start of the season for the Capitals. In his last eight starts, Holtby is 6-2-0 with one shutout, a 2.06 GAA and a .943 save percentage. He earned a shutout in his only career start against the Wild, stopping all 28 shots in a 3-0 win on March 25, 2012, the last time the two teams met. Chasing Alfie: Nicklas Backstrom’s three-assist night on Tuesday was the 23rd of his career. He ranks tied for seventh among active players in three-assist games, trailing Jaromir Jagr [57], Joe Thornton [53], Sidney Crosby [36], Teemu Selanne [30], Henrik Sedin [30], and Daniel Alfredsson [24].

Ovi watch: Half of Alex Ovechkin’s 44 goals over the past two seasons have come on the power play. He is now five power-play goals away from passing Peter Bondra [137] for first place on the Capitals’ all-time list.

Here’s a quick look at the projected rosters for both teams:

CAPITALS

Forward Lines

Marty Erat – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin

Brooks Laich – Marcus Johansson – Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera – Mikhail Grabovski – Joel Ward

Aaron Volpatti – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson

Defense Pairings

Karl Alzner-John Carlson

Nate Schmidt – Mike Green

Alex Urbom – Steve Oleksy

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby [starter] – Michal Neuvirth

WILD

Forward Lines

Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Charlie Coyle

Nino Niederreiter – Mikael Granlund - JasonPominville

Matt Cooke – Kyle Brodziak – Justin Fontaine

Dany Heatley – Zenon Kenopka – Torrey Mitchell

Defense Pairings

Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin

Clayton Stoner – Nate Prosser

Marco Scandella – Jared Spurgeon

Goaltenders

Josh Harding [starter] – Niklas Backstrom