(SportsNetwork.com) - The Washington Capitals hope to continue their recent surge and help their playoff chances when they host the Los Angeles Kings in Tuesday's inter-conference clash at Verizon Center.
The Capitals enter Tuesday only one point out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington has helped its postseason cause in a big way lately, posting a 4-0-1 record over the last five games.
Detroit and Toronto are currently occupying the East's two wild card spots with 80 points apiece. Washington is one point behind the clubs and Columbus, which hosts Detroit on Tuesday, is just one point in back of the Capitals. The Maple Leafs also skate tonight when they host the St. Louis Blues.
In addition to being one point out of the East's final playoff spots, the Capitals are only three back of Philadelphia for third place in the Metropolitan Division. The top three spots in each division earn automatic bids to the playoffs.
Washington's resurgent penalty killing unit has a hand in the club's recent success. The Caps are tied for the 18th-ranked PK in the NHL, but have killed off 17-of-17 penalties during its current five-game point streak. The club also has killed 23-of-25 penalties dating back to March 6.
The acquisition of Jaroslav Halak also has been a boost for the Capitals, but the goaltender missed the club's last game with a lower-body injury. Halak did skate at practice on Monday and could play tonight.
"I think he's fine and he should be ready to play (Tuesday), if we need him," Caps coach Adam Oates said. "We're still talking about it, actually. We've got to make sure he's okay after the (Tuesday morning) skate."
Halak, who came to D.C. earlier this month after a trade with Buffalo, is 4-2-1 with a 2.13 goals against average and .935 save percentage in his first seven outings with Washington.
With Halak out Saturday in San Jose, goaltender Braden Holtby was able to anchor the Capitals' 3-2 shootout win over the Sharks. Holtby came through with 34 saves through regulation and overtime to help Washington complete a three-game road trip with a 2-0-1 record. The lone loss of that swing came in a shootout defeat against this evening's opponent, the Kings.
Nicklas Backstrom buried the game-winner in the third round of the shootout to send the Caps to Saturday's 3-2 win over the Sharks. Eric Fehr and Chris Brown scored in regulation. Brown's goal was his first in 14 career NHL games.
"It was a pretty special feeling obviously," Brown said of his first career goal. "But we got the win. That's the thing that's most important. We got the two points and kept the season alive."
Halak is 6-6-1 with a 2.25 GAA in 13 career games versus the Kings. He took the loss last Thursday in Los Angeles despite stopping 27-of-28 shots through regulation and OT.
Last week's win over the Caps was the sixth straight triumph in this series for L.A. The Kings also have claimed nine of 11 in the matchup and have taken two in a row and four of the past five meetings in D.C.
Los Angeles heads into Tuesday's game riding a three-game winning streak after picking up a victory Monday evening in Philadelphia. The 3-2 regulation win came at the start of a three-game road trip for the Kings.
The Kings squandered a 2-0 lead in the third period, but Dwight King was able to deliver the game-winner at 10:36 of the final stanza. King's tally came 2:18 after Jakub Voracek tied it up at 2-2 for the Flyers.
Jeff Carter and Justin Williams -- both former Flyers -- scored for the Kings and Jonathan Quick stopped 30 shots in the win.
It was the sixth straight road victory for L.A., which is now 20-12-3 as the visiting team this season. The Kings will complete their swing Thursday night in Pittsburgh.