Pregame primer: Holtby returns to the nets

Pregame primer: Holtby returns to the nets
January 4, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Oates on goalie situation: "I just expect a good game"

News and notes as the Capitals [20-15-6, 46 points] visit the Minnesota Wild [21-17-5, 47 points] tonight at Xcel Energy Center [8 p.m., CSN]:

Holt-beast returns: Braden Holtby [13-10-2, 3.00, .915] is expected to make his first start since Dec. 21 and said he’s ready to play a strong game after spending the past two weeks refining his game. He’s expected. Niklas Backtrom [3-9-2, .316, .896] is expected to start for the Wild. Holtby stopped 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Wild on Nov. 7 in D.C.

Trending: The Caps are 0-1-2 in their last three games and 2-3-3 in their last eight. The Wild snapped a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 win over Buffalo on Thursday. They are ending a four-game homestand tonight.

What to expect: Capitals coach Adam Oates told his players to expect the Wild to give them very few offensive chances and to prepare for a 2-1 game.

Remember me? Caps right wing Joel Ward made his NHL debut with Minnesota on Dec. 16, 2006. Ward skated in 11 games with Minnesota during the 2006-07 season, earning one assist. Ward played in 209 games for Minnesota’s then-AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, from 2005-08, recording 38 goals, 48 assists and 126 penalty minutes.

Wild men: Alex Ovechkin has registered six points [4 goals, 2 assists] in six career games against the Wild. Brooks Laich, who will center a third line with Ward and Jason Chimera,  has seven points [3 goals, 4 assists) in seven career games against Minnesota and Marcus Johansson, who is expected to play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer, has 1 goal and 2 assists in two games against the Wild.

Ovi the shooter: Ovechkin recorded nine shots on Thursday against Carolina and has registered 28 shots on goals in his last three games. He leads the NHL in shots this season [218] and has led the NHL in shots in each season from 2005-11.

Central time: Tonight’s game marks the first time the Caps are playing outside the Eastern Time Zone since Nov. 10 at Colorado. The Capitals played 23 consecutive games in the Eastern Time Zone. Additionally, Washington plays 10 of its next 14 games on the road.

Here are tonight’s projected lineups:

CAPITALS

Forward Lines

Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-Troy Brouwer
Eric Fehr-Mikhail Grabovski-Alex Ovechkin
Jason Chimera-Brooks Laich-Joel Ward
Marty Erat-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson

Defense Pairings

Karl Alzner-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Mike Green
John Erskine-Steve Oleksy

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby [starter] – Philipp Grubauer

WILD

Forward Lines
Dany Heatley-Mikko Koivu-Jason Pominville
Nino Niederreiter-Mikael Granlund-Jason Zucker
Matt Cooke-Charlie Coyle-Brett Bulmer
Stephane Veilleux-Kyle Brodziak-Torrey Mitchell

Defense Pairings

Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Nate Prosser
Clayton Stoner-Keith Ballard

Goaltenders

Niklas Backstrom [starter] - Darcy Kuemper