WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks meet Capitals on NBC

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NBC’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Capitals have hit their biggest road block in their title defense after going 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, including four straight losses (0-3-1). The last time Washington lost four straight games was in March of 2017. During this four-game losing streak, the Caps have been outscored 12-1 in 5-on-5 play, and the lone goal in that scenario came against Nashville with the team trailing 7-1 late in the third period.

The last time the Capitals lost five straight games was Oct. 26 to Nov. 4 2014.

Alex Ovechkin enters this game tied with Dave Andreychuk for 14th place on the all-time goals (640) list. He is also only five points away from tying Hockey Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov for the most in League history by a Russian player (1,179).

The Blackhawks have lost seven of their eight games in the new year (1-4-3), including five straight losses (0-3-2) and are once again last in the NHL. Since Jeremy Colliton took charge on November 6, Chicago has lost 24 of their 34 games under their new head coach (10-18-6) after going 6-6-3 in 15 games under Joel Quenneville. The Hawks are coming off a 4-3 loss to the Rangers on Thursday.

A bright spot for Chicago has been its power play which has now scored in seven consecutive games (9-for-21, 42.9 percent). That hot streak has put them in the middle of the pack in the NHL at 18.9 percent for the season.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 12:30 P.M. ET – NBC]

What: Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks
Where: United Center
When: Sunday, Jan. 20, 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
Live stream: You can watch the Capitals-Blackhawks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BLACKHAWKS
Drake CaggiulaJonathan ToewsPatrick Kane
Alex DeBrincatDylan StromeDominik Kahun
Brandon SaadDavid KampfMarcus Kruger
John HaydenArtem AnisimovChris Kunitz

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook
Carl DahlstromConnor Murphy
Slater KoekkoekErik Gustafsson

Starting goalie: Collin Delia

CAPITALS
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas BackstromT.J. Oshie
Jakub VranaLars EllerTom Wilson
Andre BurakovskyEvgeny KuznetsovBrett Connolly
Chandler StephensonNic DowdDevante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry OrlovJohn Carlson
Michal KempnyMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikMadison Bowey

Starting goalie: Braden Holtby

Six-time Emmy Award-winner Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk, and ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire will have the call from United Center.

Bruins, Capitals meet for first time since blowout, Marchand-Eller

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For a technically low-stakes game* in mid-January, Thursday’s bout between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins brings a lot of sizzle to the table.

You’re forgiven if this might sneak up on you, but this is the first time these two teams will face off since the memorable season-opener when the Capitals bombarded the Bruins 7-0.

Naturally, this also means that this is the first time that Lars Eller can exact revenge – or, perhaps, take a foolish penalty trying to exact revenge – on Brad Marchand, who memorably went after Eller after the Dane rubbed him the wrong way with a goal celebration during the blowout.

The Bruins might (secretly) hope that Marchand can get the Capitals off their games, which is plausible with Eller holding that grudge, and also considering that Tom Wilson was unavailable during that opener thanks to his suspension. Boston might want that distraction when you realize that the Capitals have dominated the Bruins for quite some time, even beyond that 7-0 drubbing.

As NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty notes, the Bruins are trying to brush off the fact that they want to break Washington’s 13-game winning streak against the B’s.

“It’s more about that this team has had our number for the last number of years, and we need to get over that hurdle,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’ve got to get over the hurdle. They’re the Stanley Cup champions, and if you want to be the best then you’ve got to beat the best. I know it’s a long season, but we’re playing good hockey and I’d like to think our guys are going to be confident going into the game. Not thinking about what happened opening night or over the years, but still have a bit of an ‘Enough is enough’ type of attitude as well. You just don’t want to overthink and go ‘Here we go again’ if the first 10 minutes don’t go your way.”

That’s the thing when it comes to Eller and Marchand, and the potential mistakes that can come from score-settling. While the Bruins and Capitals are comfortably placed in playoff position, there are carrots dangling for both teams. Washington can strengthen its grip over the top spot in the Metro. Meanwhile, the Bruins are only two points behind the Maple Leafs for the second Atlantic seed (though Toronto has a game in hand), yet the Sabres are only two points behind Boston for the third spot (with both teams at 43 games played).

This is more than just a chance for the Bruins to finally clear the obstacle that is the Capitals. They also can give a glimpse of what they’re capable of as a healthier team, something they’ve already done by rattling off five consecutive wins.

Rather than going after Marchand, the Capitals have a chance to instead hurt the Bruins on the scoreboard — once again.

Not bad for the “dog days” of the NHL season, right?

* – After all, both teams would make the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs began right now, and they’re comfortably positioned to stay that way.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Capitals cruise by flailing Flyers

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At this rate, the Philadelphia Flyers might need to go through more than seven starting goalies. By the end of this week.

Mike McKenna presents a great story, but he’s still just one (journey)man, and the Capitals made it a tough first night for the 35-year-old. Actually, at times, you could just as easily say that the Flyers made things difficult for their new goalie.

Ultimately, Washington ended up winning 5-3, strengthening their Metropolitan Division lead while handing the Flyers their eighth consecutive loss.

While Tom Wilson stayed hot, Jakub Vrana was the standout Capital on Tuesday. He set the table for Wilson’s goal with a great assist, then added two goals of his own for a three-point night, showing fantastic speed. This shorthanded goal joined that nice pass as the standout moments of Vrana’s strong output.

Things started well enough for the Flyers, as Jakub Voracek responded to Wilson’s opening goal to send the game into the first intermission tied 1-1. The Capitals really only needed a hot second period on the strength of their Jakub, along with T.J. Oshie‘s goal, as Washington scored three times in the middle frame.

The Capitals remained up 4-1 for much of the third, until some late goals warped the score a bit. Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux scored to save some face for Philly, while Oshie’s second goal of the game (and 200th of his career) came on an empty-netter. (Tom Wilson appeared to get an ENG of his own, but it was ruled offside.)

Pheonix Copley‘s hot streak is no typo, as he looked strong in making 37 saves. He’s now 10-2-2 on the season and hasn’t been dinged for a loss since Nov. 14. Copley’s quickly alleviating any concerns about Washington having a dependable backup behind Braden Holtby after Philipp Grubauer left for Colorado heading into 2018-19.

McKenna ended his Flyers debut making 20 out of 24 stops.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Like it or not, Tom Wilson is still red-hot

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Tom Wilson is a polarizing figure around the league, but since returning from that big suspension, he’s drawing disdain for more than just big hits.

Just 4:21 into Tuesday’s game against the Flyers, Wilson cashed in on a fantastic Jakub Vrana pass to make it 1-0. That marks Wilson’s 13th goal and 21st point early in just his 23rd game of 2018-19, putting him very close to a point-per-game.

It looked like Wilson scored an empty-netter late in Washington’s 5-3 win, but that ended up being called off because of an offside ruling.

For added context, 2017-18 stands as far and away is best offensive campaign in the NHL, and he finished with 14 goals and 21 assists for 35 points in 78 games.

Wilson came into this contest with a 22.6 shooting percentage, and that 13th tally came on his 54th shot on goal, so he moved to 24.07 percent for the moment. That’s how he ended the game, too.

That’s not a particularly sustainable shooting percentage over the long haul, as last season’s 11.4 was easily a career-high.

Even so, it could be interesting to see where his numbers go now that Wilson is playing with talented linemates like Vrana, Alex Ovechkin, and Nicklas Backstrom. Before 2017-18, Wilson had languished with shooting percentages no higher than 7.4 percent, so it’s plausible that he’s always had more potential to be a dangerous scorer than his counting stats used to indicate.

Check out more on Wilson in the video below.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers visit Capitals on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday night’s matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The defending Stanley Cup champions are off to another great start to their season – with 54 points through the first half of the regular season, the Capitals sit first in the Metropolitan Division. The Flyers, meanwhile, are the bottom-dwellers of the division and the in-season coaching change has not helped as Philadelphia has dropped seven straight after losing to St. Louis last night, 3-0. Blues’ goalie Jordan Binnington pitched a shutout in his first NHL start as the Flyers were booed off the ice after the game.

Washington is coming off a 3-2 win at Detroit on Sunday in which Michal Kempny scored the game-winning goal with 3:52 remaining in regulation. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak, which was the Capitals’ longest winless stretch of the season. Dating back to Dec. 6, Washington has won 10 of its last 14 games (10-3-1). The Caps will now return to D.C. after a three-game road trip and boast a 12-6-2 home record this season.

Since firing head coach Dave Hakstol last month, Philadelphia is 3-6-2 under interim coach Scott Gordon. The Flyers won their first two games under Gordon but are now in the midst of their worst slump this season, having not won a game since before Christmas (last win: Dec. 23 at New York Rangers). Scoring has especially been a struggle of late, with Philadelphia putting up no more than two goals in five of their last six games (seven goals total in span).

The Flyers have used an NHL-high sx goalies this season, and that does not include recently claimed Mike McKenna. Philly claimed the 35-year-old off waivers from Vancouver last week as he backed up 20-year-old Carter Hart last night, who stopped 34 of 36 shots against the Blues. McKenna could lucky No. 7 on Tuesday night.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Philadelphia Flyers at Washington Capitals
Where: Capital One Center
When: Tuesday, Jan. 8, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Flyers-Capitals stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny
Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickJakub Voracek
James van RiemsdykJordan WealWayne Simmonds
Michael RafflScott LaughtonDale Weise

Ivan ProvorovTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbehereRadko Gudas
Robert HaggChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Mike McKenna

CAPITALS
Alex OvechkinEvgeny KuznetsovTom Wilson
Jakub VranaLars EllerT.J. Oshie
Andre BurakovskyTravis BoydBrett Connolly
Chandler StephensonNic DowdDevante Smith-Pelly
(*Nicklas Backstrom is a game-time decision)

Michal Kempny – John Carlson
Dmitry OrlovMatt Niskanen
Brooks OrpikJonas Siegenthaler

Starting goalie: Pheonix Copley

Chris Cuthbert (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Flyers-Capitals from Capital One Arena. Paul Burmeister, Keith Jones and Anson Carter will handle studio coverage.

MORE: Should Chuck Fletcher blow up or retool Flyers?