The Washington Capitals ascended to the top of the Metropolitan Division on the heels of a seven-game winning streak, but they have followed that up with back-to-back losses in which their defense has been repeatedly victimized. The Capitals will look to put a halt to their mini-slide when they continue their three-game road trip against the surging Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.
Offense has not been an issue for Washington, which has scored at least three goals in nine straight games, but it blew a four-goal lead in a loss to Anaheim on Sunday and allowed four tallies in the third period at Vegas on Tuesday night. "We were up there 2-1, and we just couldn't hold it," Capitals forward Jakub Vrana said after the latest defeat. "So we've just got to take the positive parts of the game and take it to the next game." The Coyotes have plenty of positives to take into Thursday's matchup against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, following a four-game slide with a four-game winning streak. Arizona has points in its last four games against the Capitals (3-0-1), including a 4-1 victory in Washington on Nov. 11.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, NBCS Washington, FS Arizona Plus
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (15-9-3): Rugged forward Tom Wilson, known for his physical play, had scored seven times during a six-game goal-scoring streak before he was knocked out of Tuesday's matchup by a blindside hit from Vegas' Ryan Reaves. With Washington not practicing Wednesday, there was no update on Wilson's condition but coach Todd Reirden lambasted Reaves for targeting Wilson. "You could hear it on every faceoff. You could hear the things that were being said," Reirden said. "It's a blindside hit where an unsuspecting player hits his head on the ice. That's disappointing."
ABOUT THE COYOTES (13-11-2): The unlikely tandem of goaltender Adin Hill and forward Nick Schmaltz -- neither of whom started the season with the team -- has fueled the hot stretch for Arizona. Hill, summoned from the minors due to injuries to starting netminder Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper, has earned four straight wins and surrendered two goals over his last three starts. The 22-year-old Schmaltz, a former first-round pick acquired from Chicago late last month, has made quite an impression with his new team with a pair of goals and three assists in his first four games.
1. Arizona has the No. 1-ranked penalty kill with a 90.0 percent success rate.
2. Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin has eight goals during a nine-game point streak.
3. Coyotes F Clayton Keller, who is playing on a line with Schmaltz, has three goals in his last five games.
PREDICTION: Capitals 3, Coyotes 2 Bet Now
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