|Capitals aim to douse Elliott, red-hot Flames|
WASHINGTON -- Even though the Washington Capitals have reached the 100-point plateau, every point remains critical thanks to a crowded division race.
Points mean even more to the Calgary Flames, who are trying to reach the playoffs for just the second time in eight seasons.
When the teams meet Tuesday at Verizon Center, it will be the rare matchup where the best team in the league has as much at stake as a third-place squad.
"You talk about being in a position to prepare yourselves for the playoffs -- the games we have against other (non-division) opponents, they're going to have a big impact on the playoffs and where you sit in the playoffs," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after the morning skate Monday. "It prepares you to play at a real strong level and you're going to get tested a little bit. I think that's great."
Washington has 100 points, tied with fellow Metropolitan Division foe Columbus for most in the NHL and just one point ahead of Pittsburgh in the standings. The Capitals have been a sluggish 5-4-1 in their last 10 contests, but play their next three games at home.
"There really is no easy games the rest of the way," Washington defenseman Karl Alzner told the team's website. "Every team has something that they're playing for."
Calgary is coming off a key victory over Los Angeles on Sunday that bumped it up to 86 points and put it in good position to make the playoffs after missing the postseason last year. The Flames, who are 12-1-0 in their last 13, have made believers across the NHL.
"They're sneaky good in a lot of areas," Trotz said of the Flames. "They're playing as good as I've seen them play in a long time."
A big reason for the Flames' hot streak has been goalie Brian Elliott, who has racked up 11 straight victories with a 1.70 goals-against average. That mark ties Mike Vernon's franchise record for consecutive victories, set in 1989.
"He's been huge for us," Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau said after Sunday's win. "He's won us a couple of huge games the way he's played back there. He's been doing an unbelievable job."
Calgary will be without one -- if not two -- of its contributors for the start of its road trip.
Rookie Matthew Tkachuk received a two-game suspension from the NHL for his elbow to the face of Kings defenseman Drew Doughty during Sunday's game. Tkachuk received the ban after his meeting with the league's Department of Player Safety on Monday afternoon.
Fellow winger Micheal Ferland has been under observation for mumps and may not be available.
"We'll see in the next 24 to 48 hours," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said.
Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik did not practice Monday in what the team called a maintenance day. The veteran likely will suit up against the Flames, but Trotz did not rule out resting the blue-liner down the stretch.
"We'll see where he is (Tuesday)," Trotz said. "He got a little bumped up in the last game. I anticipate him skating (Tuesday) and he'll tell me where he's at."
Washington defeated Calgary 3-1 on Oct. 30 in the teams' only other meeting this season.