Capitals have hit their stride, and they have reinforcements on the way

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Caps have hit their stride, and reinforcements are on the way originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON — As if there were any doubt about the way the Capitals have been playing over the past month, they finished their December slate with an emphatic 9-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens to set a new season high for goals scored in a single game.

A win over the lowly Canadiens, who sit at the bottom of the Atlantic Division with 33 points, is by no means a reflection of any team’s Stanley Cup chances. But the game capped off a spectacular month for the Capitals that saw them finish the 2022 calendar year third in the Metropolitan Division while riding a seven-game point streak.

“I think the guys that are here and present, you know I don't like to go too far and think too many days out, but I think the guys that are here and present have done a really good job of pointing the ship in the right direction and plowing through some tough water at times,” head coach Peter Laviolette said after the game. “Now, we are going down a road and whoever comes back in, they will jump on the ship and have to push along with everyone else.”

The Capitals have more than their fair share of adversity this season, particularly on the injury front. While they did recently lose John Carlson to a laceration that sent him to the hospital and sidelined him indefinitely, they are heading into 2023 with several key players nearing their returns.

Forwards Tom Wilson (torn ACL) and Nicklas Backstrom (hip resurfacing surgery) have ditched the non-contact jerseys in recent weeks and started practicing regularly with the team. Backstrom is currently in the NHL’s COVID protocol, but he started engaging in full contact before Wilson, who could be activated off Injured Reserve as soon as next week.

Defenseman Martin Fehervary made his return from IR on Saturday following a 12-game absence and logged 18 minutes of ice time against the Canadiens. Not far behind is winger T.J. Oshie, who has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury but managed to avoid IR for now.

"We're very excited,” Alex Ovechkin said after scoring his second hat trick in a month. “Everybody [is] excited to see Tom and Nicky back. Obviously, Osh is coming back, Marty coming back, as well. Yeah. We just have to keep going, keep collecting points and you never know what's gonna happen.”

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Collecting points is exactly what the Capitals have done in December. After entering the month with a 10-11-3 record, Washington recorded at least one point in 13 of 15 games while ripping off two separate winning streaks five games long. They are on pace for 98.8 points, a total just 1.2 back of where they finished last season.

“It is exciting that guys are getting healthy,” Laviolette said. “I am very proud of the way guys have handled adversity through the first half of the calendar year and almost first half of the year. To think that there is a chance that we could push by the halfway mark and maybe have 50 points on a 100-point pace back to where we finished the first two months, that would be a reach of an expectation but complete credit to the players for really just plowing through and pushing through and because of that we can possibly see that.”