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Waiting Room: Blackhawks vs. Capitals Preview

It’s a national broadcast for this Tuesday evening clash.

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Washington Capitals v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

An old friend returns and a superstar continues chasing history as the Chicago Blackhawks host the Washington Capitals at the United Center on Tuesday night.

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.

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)

Blackhawks

Lafferty — Domi — Kane

Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh

Khaira — Dickinson — Blackwell

Katchouk — Entwistle — Johnson

J. Johnson — S. Jones

Tinordi — Murphy

McCabe — Mitchell

Mrazek

Soderblom

Capitals

Ovechkin — Strome — Sheary

Milano — Kuznetsov — Oshie

Johansson — Eller — Mantha

Protas — Dowd — Hathaway

Orlov — Carlson

van Riemsdyk — Jensen

Johansen — Irwin

Lindgren

Shepard

How to watch

When: 8 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: ESPN

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV