National Hockey League
Capitals-Wild Preview
National Hockey League

Capitals-Wild Preview

Published Mar. 19, 2015 1:09 a.m. ET

Since the acquisition of Devan Dubnyk in mid-January, the Minnesota Wild have become a force in the Western Conference.

They don't plan on turning away from that success anytime soon.

With Dubnyk slated for his 29th consecutive start, the Wild play host Thursday night to the Washington Capitals, who are trying to make sure they finish with one of the Metropolitan Division's guaranteed playoff spots.

Dubnyk has started every game since he was traded to Minnesota (39-24-7) from Arizona on Jan. 14. Including a 25-save performance in Tuesday's 3-2 overtime win over Nashville, he has posted a 1.67 goals-against average since joining the Wild - second only to Montreal's Carey Price among goaltenders with at least 13 starts.


His 21-5-1 record with Minnesota has vaulted the Wild from the third-worst record in the conference to a four-point lead in the West's wild-card race.

"It's crazy, he's been awesome," Charlie Coyle told the Wild's official website. "Coming up huge with a number of big saves each game, and he gives us a chance every game to win. He puts us in great position so it's nice to have a guy like that."

One of many teams to fall victim to Minnesota's hot spell was Washington (38-23-10), which lost to Dubnyk and the Wild 2-1 on March 5.

"They're a good team," coach Barry Trotz told the Capitals' official website. "Their game is pretty simple, but it's played the right way. Defensively, they don't give up much ... There is a reason that they're the hottest team in the National Hockey League."

Jason Pominville scored two third-period goals in that win against Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, who figures to make his 15th consecutive start Thursday.

Washington followed that defeat with two losses in its next three games, but has since rebounded with back-to-back victories. The Capitals beat Boston 2-0 on Sunday, then escaped Buffalo with a 4-3 shootout win the next night.

"Throughout the year, the competition gets harder and harder and I don't think we adjusted well enough to it for that little stretch," Holtby said. "I think we realized that, made some adjustments to our game, and the game against Boston shows how we should play, and we're going to build off that one."

The Capitals own the East's first wild-card spot, seven points ahead of ninth-place Ottawa and two points back of Pittsburgh for the third spot in the Metropolitan.

Alex Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 45 goals, has been held scoreless in consecutive contests, while Nicklas Backstrom recorded two assists Sunday - his only points in his last four games. Ovechkin hasn't gone three straight without a goal since mid-December.

Both Ovechkin and Backstrom are tied with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for second in the NHL with 71 points, trailing only the New York Islanders' John Tavares (72).

Backstrom, however, has not enjoyed that same production against Minnesota. He has only three points in seven games against the Wild, his fewest against any opponent.

Zach Parise has held the hot hand for Minnesota, notching eight points in his last seven games - including two assists against Washington.

Thomas Vanek has been just as good lately. He has four goals and two assists in his last five contests.


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