While the Capitals seek to clinch the Southeast Division title Tuesday night, there’s no question that Winnipeg needs a victory more. A defeat of any kind will severely damage the Jets’ postseason hopes, and that kind of desperation can be the best motivator.
Washington does have fatigue working in its favor, though. The Jets will be playing in the second of back-to-back games as they visit Verizon Center, having defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1, on Monday.
Winnipeg is 3-4 in the second half of back-to-backs, while the Capitals are 5-2-1 this season in games when they had two or more days of rest prior to the contest. Coach Adam Oates knows that over the course of an entire game his team should be able to take advantage of a tired foe.
“It just shows itself. A team is maybe a little sloppy because they’re a little tired, even though the importance of the game — I’m sure they’ll get some energy from that,” Oates said. “For us, for 60 minutes, we’ve had the benefit of a little bit of a rest that they haven’t, hopefully it will show itself.”
The Capitals are expected to stick with the same lineup they’ve used for the past four games and they will start Braden Holtby, who is 3-1 with a 1.25 goals-against average and .960 save percentage against the Jets.
Holtby shut out the Jets twice at MTS Centre and in three games there he stopped 85 of the 86 shots he faced as Washington held its opponent largely to the perimeter in each of those games.
Meanwhile, the Jets will go with usual starter Ondrej Pavelec, who is 2-4 with a 3.52 goals-against average and .880 save percentage in the second half of back-to-back games. In his past three appearances against the Capitals, Pavelec was pulled once and allowed 10 goals on the 55 shots combined.
“You try and get on them quick,” Troy Brouwer said. “If you get on them quick and you stall their momentum from their win last night, get our crowd into it, it can suck the life out of them and can make it so that they might not want to continue playing. Anything that you can do to squash their excitement and their momentum is what you have to.“
– Hamilton: For Caps, it all comes down to this