Kopitar, Kings aim to continue ascent vs. Capitals
WASHINGTON — Two teams in midst of mild resurgences will see who gets to extend theirs on Thursday night when the Washington Capitals host the Los Angeles Kings.
The well-rested Capitals (14-10-1) won their third straight game on Saturday in Toronto, with all three coming since coach Barry Trotz reunited captain Alex Ovechkin with center Nicklas Backstrom on the top line.
The Kings kicked off a four-game road trip with their second straight win, a 4-1 decision over the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night.
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Captain Anze Kopitar scored twice, including the eventual game-winner, and added an assist. The Kings (14-8-3) scored three goals in a 3 1/2-minute span bridging the second and third periods.
Kopitar leads the team with 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points. He reached 12 goals in his 25th contest, as opposed to 76 games last season when he finished with 12 goals and 52 points.
“I’m feeling good this year, and maybe that’s the biggest reason,” Kopitar told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m feeling, obviously, confident again. I guess a big part of it is confidence too, and having a good start, myself and the team, so it makes it a lot more fun.”
Jonathan Quick made 23 saves, including phenomenal efforts on Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist in the decisive second period.
“Some goalies are really good goalies, but to make key saves at key times, he’s as good as there is,” Kings coach John Stevens told the Times.
Quick is 11-8-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage this season. Against the Capitals in his career, Quick owns a 7-2-0 mark with a 2.39 GAA and .915 save percentage.
He’ll be tested Thursday night by a Washington team that has scored 12 goals in its last three games.
Since re-joining Backstrom, Ovechkin has five goals — including one on a power play. Backstrom recorded an assist on four of the five, including two on Saturday at Toronto when Ovechkin had a hat trick. The most recent goal marked the 222nd time Backstrom assisted on an Ovechkin goal since Backstrom joined the league in the 2007-08 season
Rounding out the new top line is winger Tom Wilson, known more for his physical play than his scoring.
“Nicky complements (Ovechkin) very well and O complements Nicky very well,” Wilson told the Washington Post. “So, my job is not to mess with that, just to kind of keep it simple and do my thing and create space and create energy.”
Washington is also getting healthier. Forward Tyler Graovac (upper body) played his first NHL game since Oct. 17 against Toronto. Defenseman Christian Djoos practiced Monday and is nearing a return and forward Andre Burakovsky is slated to return in mid-December, meaning the team has some roster choices to make.
“To me, it’s all about competition,” coach Barry Trotz told NBC Sports Washington. “You have to make the decision for the group, not the individual. When it comes to who you’re putting in and out of the lineup, it’s all about the group.”
The Capitals have won three straight home games against the Kings.
Goalie Braden Holtby is 1-1-1 with a 2.33 GAA and .930 save percentage versus the Kings. Ovechkin has five goals and eight assists in 15 games against Los Angeles.
Kopitar has nine goals and five assists in 14 games versus Washington.