The Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild aren’t that different when it comes to records and point totals this season. The Capitals are 32-17-7 with 71 points, while the Wild are just three points behind with their 31-19-6 record.
The Capitals lead their Metropolitan Division. The Wild sit in fifth place and are fighting to secure a wild-card spot in the West. So yes, the Central Division is filled with tough customers.
Or a bunch of parity, take your pick.
Either way, these two squads will meet for the second time this season as part of the Wild’s homestand for a Thursday night game in St. Paul.
Things that are still true: The Wild are good at home. They are 20-4-5 on home ice with an NHL-best 45 points at home. They’re riding that 13-game point streak (10-0-3) in St. Paul dating back to Dec. 27. It’s the best streak in the league since the Capitals had a 17-game streak in their building last season.
The Wild have won two in a row after starting the five-game homestand with a dreadful overtime loss to Arizona a week ago.
The Eastern Conference foe took the first game between these two clubs this year, in a 3-1 decision in mid-November in Washington. The Capitals have a six-game winning streak when facing the Wild. However, Minnesota is 7-2-1 when facing the Capitals at home.
Wild captain Mikko Koivu will dress for his 900th NHL game, and all of them have been in a Wild sweater. Koivu is the franchise leader in games played, points (643), assists (456), shots (2,065), faceoff wins (9,195) and faceoff win percentage (53.8 percent), among other things. He has eight goals and 21 assists this season, including two goals and an assists in the past four games.
Wild points leader Eric Staal also has 73 points in 75 career games against Washington. He’s on a four-game point streak after a goal on Tuesday, and he’s sitting at 897 career points. His 25 goals this season is tied for 13th best in the NHL. He’s on a pace for his highest goal total since the 2008-09 season.
Zach Parise also scored a goal in the last game and bumped his point streak to a season-best four games. He has three goals and three assists in his last 10 games.
On the Capitals side, it shouldn’t be surprising that superstar Alex Ovechkin leads his team with 33 goals and 61 points this season. He has 14 goals and seven assists in 13 games against the Wild. Evgeny Kuznetsov follows with 54 points (15-39—54) as the team assist leader. Nicklas Backstrom needs to assists (currently at 569) to pass Shane Doan and Frank Mahovlich to rank 100th all-time in NHL history. Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby is 8-2-0 with a shutout in 10 career starts versus the Wild.
The Capitals played in Winnipeg for their last game, doing the typical Jets-Wild road swing. Washington has lost its past two games in overtime.
The personnel connections run deep with these clubs. Most notably, Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau was behind the bench as the Capitals’ head coach for parts of five seasons and won four division titles, even though the playoff performances were often disappointing. Wild assistant Bob Woods was part of Boudreau’s staff from 2009-12.
As for players, forward T.J. Oshie hails from the hockey hotbed in Warroad, and he scored a goal against the Wild earlier this season. Defenseman Matt Niskanen, like Matt Cullen, is from Virginia, Minn. and played for the University of Minnesota-Duluth from 2005-07. Wild forward Daniel Winnik played 92 games with the Capitals from 2015-17.
Jonas Brodin (surgery on left hand), 3 games
Total man games lost: 105
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