Time off between games is a rarity, if not a luxury during the shortened NHL season as the Capitals churn through 48 contests in 99 days. It makes Washington’s three-day break between Sunday’s game against the Rangers and their next contest against New Jersey at Verizon Center Thursday all the more important.
It’s tied for their longest layoff between games this season – Washington goes three days without a game again March 27-29 – and offers Coach Adam Oates a chance to reinforce and expand upon the systems he’s tried to install over the first 15 games of the season.
“We’ll watch the tape and we’ll figure out which way we want to go with it, positive or negative,” Oates said. “The bottom line is we have to perfect our system and that’s always the goal. You wanna get better at doing every little thing you can, so we’ll figure out which ones we want to work on. But we’ve gotta a couple good practice days to do it.”
The Capitals are taking Monday off, giving the players some much needed rest before regrouping for two thorough days of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Any break right now is good,” Holtby said Saturday. “We’ve been lucky, knock on wood, that we haven’t had a huge amount of injuries and rest is the best thing for that. There’s a lot of guys battling little things and a couple days off will help us recuperate.”
In addition to the rest, the practice time comes at a key juncture for 5-9-1 Washington as it tries to establish any sort of rhythm in this season. After this stretch the Capitals play four of their next six games against opponents that currently reside among the top four teams in the Eastern Conference facing the Devils twice, Hurricanes and Bruins.
“I think it’s good for us to rest a little bit and practice good, and I guess we haven’t been able to practice much lately. So I think that’s going to be good for us,” Nicklas Backstrom said. “We just got to go home and watch what we did wrong [against the Rangers]. We’ve got to regroup and make sure we’re ready on Thursday.”