Avalanche-Capitals Preview

Semyon Varlamov has played a major part in pushing the Colorado Avalanche to the brink of their longest win streak of the season.

The Avalanche will try for that fourth consecutive victory as they open one of their longest road trips of 2014-15 on Monday night against Varlamov’s former club, the red-hot Washington Capitals.

Varlamov has posted a 1.67 goals-against average in Colorado’s three consecutive wins, and the Avalanche (18-16-8) have also scored a combined nine goals in the past two games.

All-Star defenseman Erik Johnson started a run of four straight scores in a 4-3 comeback win over Dallas on Saturday.

"Our top guys have been playing good hockey," said coach Patrick Roy, whose team has won five of six and three of four on the road.

Varlamov, 6-2-0 with a 1.97 GAA and two shutouts since returning from a groin injury Dec. 23, will likely make his third start against his former team. He stopped 73 of 75 shots in two wins over the Capitals (22-11-8) last season.

He was out for the first matchup this season Nov. 20 during one of his three stints dealing with an ailing groin, and the Capitals ended their four-game skid in the series with a 3-2 victory.

"Colorado is hitting their stride right now," Washington coach Barry Trotz said. "They’ve got Varlamov playing at the top of his game and they’re sort of getting their game in order, being more of the team that you saw last year and playing very well."

Washington’s recent play could signal a return to the prominence of 2007-11, when it won four consecutive division titles and reached 50 wins twice. The Capitals are 12-1-4 in their last 17 and extended their season-high home win streak to five with a 3-1 victory over Detroit on Saturday.

Alex Ovechkin had a five-game goal streak snapped but John Carlson and Joel Ward scored key goals in the second period.

Washington has produced one home winning streak of six or more games in each of the past seven seasons.

"If we want to be an elite team, this shouldn’t be a hot streak, this should be a normal streak for us," goaltender Braden Holtby told the team’s official website. "That’s what we’re trying to accomplish."

The Capitals have lost their last three home games against Colorado, the most recent a 5-1 defeat Oct. 12, 2013. Varlamov stopped 40 shots in his first game back in Washington.

The Capitals have scored an Eastern Conference-leading 55 goals in their last 17 games. Ovechkin has nine goals and six assists in the past 15 and Nicklas Backstrom has eight goals and eight assists in the same span.

Both players had a goal and an assist Nov. 20 with Ovechkin netting the tiebreaking score with 5:56 remaining.

Holtby, who stopped 27 shots in that game, has made a team-record 24 consecutive appearances and 18 straight starts. He’s 1-1-0 with a 3.00 GAA in two all-time matchups with Colorado.