Washington's Michal Neuvirth and Montreal's Carey Price each came off the ice first during their respective morning skates, so it looks like they'll be your starting netminders tonight at Bell Centre as the Caps look to tie the second-longest winning streak in NHL history.
The big news this morning was Jason Chimera's absence. The left wing has a history of groin-muscle strains, and it appears he suffered a new one during yesterday's practice. The team has not announced his status for tonight's game, but it certainly appears that the injury will force Coach Bruce Boudreau to do something he hasn't done much at all during the Caps' 14 game wining streak: shuffle the lines.
Based on the skate, the top two lines will remain unchanged. Chimera's absence, though, means Matt Bradley will move up from the fourth line to the third, and Quintin Laing will move from the press box to the fourth. It will be Laing's first appearance in 14 games.
Some other notes and quotes to get you ready for tonight:
*Semyon Varlamov is on the trip, but won't play tonight or tomorrow, Boudreau said.
"We'll see Saturday if it's worth putting him in," Boudreau said. "There are a lot of reasons why he should play or shouldn't play. [It's a matter] of rust and whether or not we practice Friday because that's a travel day and [the risk involved with] putting him in a [pressure-packed] position if things go well the next two games."
Boudreau was, of course, referring to the possibility that the Caps could be going for a league record-tying 17th straight win Saturday against the Blues. For a goalie who hasn't made an NHL start since Dec. 7, that would be a tough welcome back to the big leagues.
Boudreau also reiterated that he doesn't plan to stand in Varlamov's way when it comes to him representing Russia in the Olympics, despite his recent injury history.
"We're under the assumption that he's going," Boudreau said. "We haven't heard anything differently. Whatever they want. It's such an honor to wear your country's jersey. Who am I to say, 'No, for a selfish reason, I would like you not to do it.'"
*When asked how he planned to manage his goalie situation now that he's got three healthy ones, Boudreau cracked, "Call on George [McPhee]. I don't know how we're going to do. I haven't even thought about it. It's an awful lot better problem to have that the other way around."
*Mike Green won't be disciplined for being late to practice yesterday, Boudreau said. Tuesday's practice was moved up so that the team could fly out early and avoid the storm. Green said his cell phone was off and that he did not receive the mass text message that was sent out to inform players of the time change.
"It was an accident and he slept in," Boudreau said. "And there was another player that did the same thing, but he got there a little earlier that Mike. It was an honest mistake. We'll make him buy lunch somewhere."
Green said: "I just didn't get the message. I got lunch, for sure."
*With a win tonight, the Caps could tie the 1981-82 Islanders for the second-longest winning streak in league history. During the run, they've gone from trailing in the Eastern Conference standings to leading by 14 points.
*The Caps can also tie the franchise record for consecutive wins on the road (six) with a win tonight. That record has been around since 1983-84.
*Boudreau said he's looking forward to the break -- and not just because he's planning to take the family on a tropical holiday. He's also looking forward to coming back and getting in about a week of practice with all of the non-Olympians. Practice time has been scarce during the winning streak because of the compressed schedule (and snow).
"When you don't practice for a week or two weeks at a time, your game falls apart," he said. "We need more practice time. We're going to get through these three games and then we're going to get six practices before we come back to play again to sort of tie everything together. You can tell when you haven't practiced and the team is getting sloppy, and I think we're at that stage."
*In case you haven't noticed, Alex Ovechkin, despite missing eight games with injury and suspension, is arguably having his best season to date. He leads the league in goals (42), points (86), plus minus (41), shots (266) and points per game (1.69).
Asked about the recent media reports comparing the Caps to the the 1980's Oliers, Ovechkin said: It's good to be compared to great players, great teams. [But] we're not Oilers, we're Capitals."
*Boudreau on keeping his players motivated during the run: "In my job, I try to think of something everyday. I wouldn't use the word 'motivate' but to keep them focused and paying attention and why we have to play well and what we have to do to play well. I believe you have to push. The minute I relax, is the minute they relax. Any team we're playing right now is giving us their best [effort]."
*Brooks Laich's take on the streak: "We approach everything as just trying to win another hockey game. The media talks about it quite a bit. But we've taken on the mood that it's us against everybody. Because every team wants to be the team to knock us off. So we have to be prepared for every game and remain desperate during every hockey game."
Speaking of Laich, a noted snow lover from Canada's unofficial snowiest province, Saskatchewan, he said he's a actually a bit bummed that the Caps aren't at home.
"I was watching the news this morning and saw how they have eight inches and they're expecting eight more," he said with a big grin. "It's great. When I see snow on the ground, that means it's time to play hockey. I love the snow, man. I don't know. It's weird."
We'll see how much Laich will be loving the snow if it prevents the Caps from returning after Saturday's game in St. Louis. Laich, like many of his teammates, has plans to get away during the break.