Capitals await visit from struggling Avalanche, Grubauer

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The Washington Capitals will get to see another old friend when former goalie Philipp Grubauer and his Colorado Avalanche teammates come to town on Thursday night.

Washington topped Vancouver and former Capital Jay Beagle 3-2 on Tuesday. There were plenty of emotions in the building that night, as Washington paid a video tribute to the forward, who spent 10 years in D.C. before signing a free-agent deal with the Canucks in the summer.

Grubauer wasn't with the team as long, but he wrestled the starting goalie job away from Braden Holtby late last season and even went into the playoffs as the No. 1 guy. But then-coach Barry Trotz gave it back to Holtby after Grubauer struggled in the first few games of the first playoff series. The Capitals went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Washington traded Grubauer to Colorado after the season basically to open up a spot for Pheonix Copley, who just signed a three-year $3.3 million extension on Monday and has played well in his first full year in the NHL.

The Capitals, who have won two of three games after losing seven straight, are playing better on defense but still taking too many penalties, something coach Todd Reirden has expressed concern about in recent days.

They dodged a few bullets in that area in the Vancouver game, where one of high points was Alex Ovechkin becoming the leading Russian-born scorer in NHL history thanks to a first-period assist on a T.J. Oshie goal.

"Obviously, it 1/8means 3/8 a lot," Ovechkin told the media. "I'm proud for my family and for my dad. He spent all of the time with me. It's history and I passed all those legends. It's pretty big, and I appreciate everyone who did all that hard work with me and my teammates -- it's huge."

If Grubauer faces his former mates, it will be the second time this season that's happened. He was in net when Washington's 3-2 overtime win in Denver in November, but he has not played as much in recent weeks.

The Avalanche have been struggling of late. Colorado is trying to break a four-game losing streak and has won an NHL-worst five games since Dec. 7 despite having the high-scoring line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabe Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

Defense has been a problem for a long time, and while the Avalanche need more depth on offense, general manager Joe Sakic told the media earlier this week that Grubauer and Semyon Varlamov (also a former Capital from years back) are just fine in goal.

"We like our back end; we like our goaltending," Sakic said. "We just got to get them playing with more confidence. If we can add some scoring, some depth scoring, that would be our priority."

The Avalanche have time before the Feb. 25 trade deadline, but poor defense could be an issue against a Washington team that can score goals even though its offense has had problems of late.

Colorado made a move on Wednesday when it traded for forward Max McCormick from Ottawa. McCormick, who has played in 71 career NHL games, comes in exchange for forward J.C. Beaudin.

McCormick has played with Belleville in the American Hockey League and Ottawa this season. In the NHL, he has one goal in 14 games this season.

--Field Level Media