The sky is blue, grass is green, and the Washington Capitals are in top spot in the Metropolitan Division. They have four-point lead and three games in hand on the Penguins, who are in second place.
But since their “bye week” ended the results haven’t really been there for them. They dropped an overtime decision in New Jersey in their first game back, then they lost to Antti Niemi and the Montreal Canadiens the next night. They also dropped a 2-1 decision at home to Philadelphia in overtime on Jan. 21 before beating Florida in their final game before the All-Star break.
Even though the rest hasn’t done the Capitals much good short-term, they know that they’ll benefit in the long run.
“Maybe it’s not going to help in the next week, or even two weeks, but over the course of the year, rest matters a lot if you treat it as that,” Carlson said, per the Washington Post. “So the importance of making sure you’re doing the right things and not straying too far away from what you know — I think we’re all professionals in here and take care of ourselves the right way to make these little breaks and times of rest … just optimize them as much as possible, because that stuff is all over now.”
The good news for Washington, is that Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was hurt in last Thursday’s game against Florida, will be able to play against Philly tonight.
Speaking of the Flyers, they’ve been rolling since suffering a 5-1 loss to the Penguins at the beginning of the month. Philadelphia has won eight of their last 10 games, and they’ve scored four goals or more in half of those victories.
One thing you’ll notice in tonight’s game is that second overall pick Nolan Patrick will see a bump in ice time. He’ll be skating on the Flyers’ second line with Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. The rookie has just one point in his last nine games, but head coach Dave Hakstol has noticed major improvements in his game.
“In the last dozen games, Patty’s played pretty good, strong two-way hockey with the puck,” Hakstol said, per Philly.com. “He’s much more comfortable having the puck. That’s one of the biggest developments we’ve seen in his game. Early on, there were times I thought he was was just trying to make a safe play and move the puck to somebody else. The last stretch here, he’s been a guy who’s wanted the puck and made positive things happen when he’s had it.”