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Coach Barry Trotz: When the Capitals and Flyers meet, ‘it’s been intense’

Flyers center Brayden Schenn and Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie fight during Game 5 of the teams’ first-round playoff series last season. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)
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It’s been eight months since the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals last met in a bruising six-game first-round playoff series that included two fights, multiple suspensions for illegal hits and a sprinkling of light-up bracelets onto the ice that prompted the Wells Fargo Center public address announcer to urge fans to “have some class.”

Does Capitals Coach Barry Trotz expect some added oomph in this first reunion in Philadelphia?

“Anytime we play the Flyers, it’s been intense, so I don’t expect anything different,” Trotz said. “. . . I’ve yet to see us and the Flyers not have an intense game, so I don’t know how to react to that. I expect the same, I guess.”

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Philadelphia is one of two teams Washington has yet to play in the division, along with the New Jersey Devils. Adding to the drama of the nationally televised game is what’s at stake in the crowded Metropolitan Division standings. Both teams currently sit in a wild-card spot, with the Flyers having played four more games than the Capitals and currently enjoying a one-point lead through 34 games.

“It’s a good atmosphere and a fun game to have going into a break,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “We’re excited about it. It should be interesting.”

The Capitals beat the Flyers in six games in their April postseason series. The series was a physical one. An Alex Ovechkin hit on Sean Couturier in Game 1 caused the defensive center to miss the remainder of the series with an upper-body injury. In Game 3, Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik suffered an concussion after center Ryan White checked him into the glass. A hit from behind by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on Dmitry Orlov led to a one-game suspension from the league, though Orlov wasn’t injured on the hit. Scott Laughton’s scary collision into the boards resulted in him being taken off the ice in a stretcher and spending a night in the hospital.

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It’s unclear how much of that history will carry over into Wednesday night’s game, which is expected to be evenly matched. Washington’s special teams play has improved in the past month, as its power play has tallied 14 goals in the past 15 games. Its penalty kill, ranked seventh in the league, will be challenged by Philadelphia’s power play, fifth in the league with a 22.8 conversion rate. The unit’s net-front presence is especially dangerous, with Trotz noting that Wayne Simmonds is one of the two best players in front of the net, along with Pittsburgh’s Patric Hornqvist.

“Five really good players,” Trotz said. “To me, they pass the puck really well. Obviously, [Claude] Giroux is the key guy there. He makes a lot of deceptive passes. I think [Jakub] Voracek has found another level this year, in terms of his trust in his own game. Wayne Simmonds in front and then they’ve got the Ghost [defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere] on the back end there. They’re a shooting power play, but then they can make plays off of those situations, either their reloads and retrieval sets to their setup to pounding pucks and finding seams and collecting seconds. They’ve got a lot of good pieces, [Brayden] Schenn in the middle.

“There’s good hockey players there, but they’re hungry. It’s a power play that’s not just going to waste the two minutes. They’re out there to score. I think they’ve got a real good mentality for that, and that’s what makes them so dangerous.”