Ducks-Capitals Preview

Bruce Boudreau's propensity for sticking with the hot goaltender allowed 21-year-old rookie Braden Holtby to prove why the Washington Capitals viewed him as their goaltender of the future nearly five years ago.

Now Boudreau gets a chance to see from the other bench how Holtby has blossomed into one of the NHL's best netminders.

Holtby looks to help Washington match a franchise record with a 13th consecutive home victory when he faces Boudreau's Anaheim Ducks on Friday night.

Holtby went 8-0-1 with a 1.01 goals-against average in eight starts and a relief appearance in a pair of call-ups from Jan. 20-March 26, 2011, under Boudreau, who was fired 22 games into the following season.

Although Boudreau has faced Washington four times since then – going 1-3-0 – Holtby hasn't been in net for any of them and has never faced the Ducks (20-18-7).

After winning 41 games in 2014-15, Holtby has helped the Capitals (35-8-3) surge to the top of the NHL standings by going 30-5-2 with a 2.01 GAA, including making 32 saves in Tuesday's 6-3 win at Columbus.

The Capitals were outshot 10-1 to start the game, but Holtby held strong until Nicklas Backstrom scored twice and Alex Ovechkin added a power-play goal.

''That's why we have probably the best goalie in the league right now,” Ovechkin said. “He's going to keep us in the game and give us a chance to bounce back.''

Holtby is 13-0-0 with a 1.81 GAA in 14 starts at home since Oct. 30, helping the Capitals to the verge of matching the club-record winning streak set Jan. 5-March 6, 2010, under Boudreau. He's gotten plenty of help lately from Evgeny Kuznetsov, who had three assists in Sunday's home win over the New York Rangers and a career-high four Tuesday.

Kuznetsov is the first Capital since Backstrom in 2007-08 to have back-to-back games of at least three assists.

''Right now it feels like we have good balance in the group,'' Backstrom said. ''We're working hard, all four lines.''

Boudreau won his first trip back to Washington on Dec. 23, 2013, but has lost the last three matchups since, including when Ovechkin had two goals and two assists in the Capitals' 5-3 victory Feb. 15.

Anaheim is the league's lowest-scoring team – and the Capitals are giving up an NHL-low 2.15 goals per game – but it has scored at least three in five of its last eight and has won three of four after beating Minnesota 3-1 on Wednesday.

Chris Stewart had a goal and Rickard Rakell had the go-ahead tally in the third period before Jakob Silfverberg added an empty netter.

''When we've been playing our best this year, it's because we've been controlling the neutral zone defensively,'' Boudreau said. ''If you're not going to score a lot of goals, there are so many teams with such good speed in this league now that you have to slow them down between the blue lines.''

As good as Holtby has been, John Gibson leads the league with a 1.86 GAA after making 25 saves Wednesday, albeit in only 18 starts and two relief appearances.

Gibson has made his last six starts at home after posting back-to-back shutouts at Calgary on Dec. 29 and at Edmonton on Dec. 31. He lost the last meeting with the Capitals.

The Ducks acquired forward Ryan Garbutt from Chicago on Thursday in exchange for Jiri Sekac. It's unclear if Garbutt will join the team for this game.