The two main storylines in this game feature Dylan Strome’s first game in Chicago since leaving in free agency last summer and Alex Ovechkin continuing his pursuit of career goal No. 800. Ovechkin is up to 797 after scoring in Washington’s 5-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night. It was the fourth goal in three games for Ovechkin, while the Capitals picked up their fourth win in a row — part of a 7-2-1 stretch that’s helped Washington right the ship after a miserable stretch of play in November.
Of course, Ovechkin leads the Capitals with 30 points (17 G, 13 A) in 30 games but No. 2 on that list is the aforementioned Strome with 22 (6 G, 16 A) in 30. It should come as no surprise that Strome is flourishing in Washington, as his passing ability is the perfect compliment to the right-handed Death Star playing on Strome’s left wing for the Capitals’ top line. Strome has filled in admirably at No. 1 center while Nicklas Backstrom remains sidelined following offseason hip surgery. Though Backstrom has been back at practice lately, his return remains well off, meaning that Strome will get plenty more chances to rack up assists on Ovechkin goals — perhaps even that 800th tally.
Injuries have been a large part of the story for Washington’s early portions of the season. Backstrom hasn’t played this season. Neither has Tom Wilson nor Carl Hagelin. Top defenseman John Carlson missed six games with an injury and T.J. Oshie has only played in 19 of the Capitals’ 30 games. Those injuries have Washington down at sixth place in the Metropolitan Division but just four points behind the third-place Carolina Hurricanes, which means it’s still very much alive in any playoff considerations.
An injury to starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper forced backup Charlie Lindgren into the crease and Lindgren responded by winning the NHL’s First Star of the Week to open December.
⭐️ @CharlieLindgren led the NHL in wins (4) and saves (111), going 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average and .949 save percentage to help the @Capitals (14-12-4, 32 points) move within one point of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.#NHLStats: https://t.co/LaRVyQ312c pic.twitter.com/eyrZz4OFGJ— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 12, 2022
While the Capitals will likely be running out their backup goalie again, the Blackhawks will have their No. 1 netminder back in the next with Petr Mrazek expected to return from a brief injury stint following his activation from injured reserve on Monday. There could also be a top-six return looming, with Tyler Johnson questionable to play based on Monday’s practice. Caleb Jones has a similar questionable status while Andreas Athanasiou is out while attending a family funeral. In his absence, Sam Lafferty was skating with Patrick Kane and Max Domi on Chicago’s top line.
Washington’s won 7 of its last 10 while Chicago has lost 11 of its last 12 — although that’s all part of the plan for the latter, of course. Maybe the Blackhawks will keep it interesting, though?
Let’s ... go ... Hawks(?)
Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Capitals
40.94% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 50.26% (15th)
40.53% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 49.89% (19th)
2.38 (31st) — Goals per game — 2.90 (24th)
3.54 (24th) — Goals against per game — 2.90 (12th)
56.5% (1st) — Faceoffs — 48.7% (21st)
23.5% (13th) — Power play — 21.9% (18th)
74.2% (24th) — Penalty kill — 81.4% (8th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Lafferty — Domi — Kane
Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh
Khaira — Dickinson — Blackwell
Katchouk — Entwistle — Johnson
J. Johnson — S. Jones
Tinordi — Murphy
McCabe — Mitchell
Ovechkin — Strome — Sheary
Milano — Kuznetsov — Oshie
Johansson — Eller — Mantha
Protas — Dowd — Hathaway
Orlov — Carlson
van Riemsdyk — Jensen
Johansen — Irwin
How to watch
When: 8 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV