MONTREAL – While his close friend and linemate undressed and mixed a post-practice drink in a nearby locker stall Thursday afternoon in Montreal, forward Tom Wilson lowered his voice when asked about the taboo topic. Only 11 players have skated 45 games this season without scoring a goal. Two, including the man Wilson now eyed while giving his answer, play for the Washington Capitals.

“I think that’s a bit of a sensitive subject,” Wilson said. “He’s aware of it. Everyone’s aware of it.”

“It’s coming,” Michael Latta said.

“We were working on our backdoor no-lookers in practice today,” Wilson cracked.

Among those 11, Latta has logged by far the least ice time (412 minutes) and the other Capitals’ holdout, defenseman Brooks Orpik, has clocked by far the most (1,616 minutes). And while both have contributed in other ways – Orpik with top-pairing blue-line minutes beside Carlson, Latta as the center on a fourth line rounding into form – the goose egg in that particular statistical column has resonated.

“It’s something Latts and I have been joking about,” Orpik said. “As long as the team’s winning you can joke about it. If the team’s struggling, you probably think about it a little more.”

Said Latta: “I keep telling Orpie I’m waiting for him to score before I get my goal, because I don’t want to put the pressure on him. I’m just waiting for him to score then I’ll choose which game I want to score.”

Orpik has encountered this before, skating 70 goal-less games with the Penguins in 2006-07 and going through 46 games in the 2012-13 lockout season without striking the net. For Latta, though, this is somewhat new; the 23-year-old rookie twice scored 30 goals in juniors.

“Stats have never been a huge influence for me,” Latta said. “This is the first year I’ve struggled to put up points. But I don’t think I’m not an offensive player. I still create a lot on the ice. Whether the points will come or not, they’re going to come. I don’t think I’m going to be a five-, 10-point player my whole career.”

Both have encountered their chances, hitting posts or running into hot goaltenders, but with only four games left on the schedule, time is running out.

“It’s never been a huge part of my game, but it’s never fun to go a whole season without one,” Orpik said. “It definitely hasn’t been lack of good chances. I’ve had a lot of good chances, some missed opportunities, some posts, stuff like that. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll save it for the playoffs.”

>> Saturday night, goaltender Braden Holtby will start his 22nd straight game, tying Wayne Stephenson for the franchise record after falling one short of the mark earlier this season. Holtby said he had never logged this many games before his professional career, but has long held that he prefers the rhythm of playing each night, rather than taking days off and trying to slide back into a groove.

“That’s news to me,” Holtby said. “That goes to show how much it really matters…But days just kind of mend into each other, so you don’t really notice after a while.”

If the Capitals beat Ottawa in any fashion – a regulation victory would clinch their playoff berth – Holtby would also become just the second goaltender in team history to log 40 wins, joining Olie Kolzig in 1999-2000, the same season Kolzig set the single-season mark with 73 appearances. It seems unlikely Holtby will tie that mark, since he would need to start all remaining four games to get there, but Coach Barry Trotz reiterated his confidence in the 25-year-old.

“He’s a workhorse,” Trotz said. “If I didn’t play him today, he’d be out there for another hour and a half taking pucks. He probably gets more rest than playing sometimes than actually playing…I think he gets more rest by playing.”

>> The Capitals’ top-six forwards remained unchanged during their morning skate at Canadian Tire Centre, but Trotz flipped left-wingers Brooks Laich and Curtis Glencross on the third and fourth line. If those trios hold for the 7 p.m. puck drop, Laich will reunite with Latta and Wilson, while Glencross will skate beside Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera.

“I think Glenny’s been playing better and that [Laich-Latta-Wislon] group played really well,” Trotz said. “They were probably our best line in a couple games in Winnipeg and Minnesota. See if we can spark something there.”