The Washington Capitals came out of their 10-day All-Star break with some key players still sidelined by injuries, but the results on the ice have been outstanding so far.
The Capitals will look to win on back-to-back days when they host the San Jose Sharks on Sunday afternoon.
Washington came back from its long break and beat the host Boston Bruins 2-1 on Saturday afternoon, becoming just the second team to win in regulation at TD Garden this season.
The Capitals also moved back into a wild-card spot in the playoff race.
“This is the time when teams are starting to get together and playing good hockey, more playoff-style hockey,” said Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom, who scored the first goal against the Bruins. “Hopefully, this will give us a good little boost.”
Washington will have to get through at least the next game without rugged winger Tom Wilson, who missed the final four games before the break with a lower-body injury and remains out for at least this weekend.
Same for right wing Nic Dowd, who missed the final seven games before the break with a lower-body injury and won’t be available until at least next week.
Wilson had the best season of his NHL career in 2021-22, finishing with 24 goals and 28 assists, but he’s been limited to eight games this season.
Dowd was off to the best start of his eight-year NHL career this season. He scored 10 goals through the first 44 games to match his 64-game total from last season and is within one goal of his career high set in 2020-21.
San Jose will play the finale of an eight-game trip that began on Jan. 21 and was broken up by a nine-day All-Star break.
The Sharks appear ready to concede they’ll miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season, reportedly listening to offers for 30-goal scorer Timo Meier, who will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Erik Karlsson also could be headed elsewhere, but he told reporters at the All-Star Game earlier this month that he hadn’t discussed any trade possibilities with the Sharks.
“I want to win more than anything else,” he said during All-Star weekend. “I hope it’s in San Jose, but we’ll see.”
Karlsson became the fastest NHL defenseman to reach 70 points in 33 years when he assisted on the lone goal in a 4-1 loss at the Florida Panthers on Thursday.
He’s the fourth defenseman to reach 70 points in 53 games or less, joining Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey and Denis Potvin as the only defensemen to reach the total in that many games.
While the production from Meier and Karlsson has yet to wane this season, Tomas Hertl has one one goal in his past 16 games.
A 30-goal scorer while playing all 82 games in 2021-22, Hertl has 14 goals in 51 games this season. He said he’s been guilty of looking for his teammates a little too often.
He pointed to a two-on-one breakaway he led against the Panthers. The lone Florida defenseman gave Hertl a lane to the net, but Hertl unsuccessfully fed the puck to Meier.
“He’s on fire and he’s a goal scorer,” Hertl said of Meier. “Sometimes, I have to just shoot more, like I did last year.”
–Field Level Media