Season Series: The Capitals have won all three meetings this season, including a 5-3 decision at Scotiabank Place on Dec. 7 -- one of only 10 road wins for Washington this season.
Big Story: The Capitals are close to season-saving territory after a dismal showing the past two games and a tougher schedule ahead, while the Senators could be even with division-leading Boston (on points) by the end of the night.
Capitals: Washington has been terrible on the road this season, and it might cost the Capitals a playoff berth. The Caps have lost 20 of 30 games away from Verizon Center this season, and this four-game trip has followed the script -- one step forward, two steps back.
The latest game might have been more than just one step back though — a 5-0 loss to injury-plagued Carolina was probably the low point of the season for Washington. The Capitals need to rebound, because of nine of their last 11 road games (including this one) are against teams currently ahead of them in the standings.
Senators: It was only two weeks ago that Ottawa had lost seven games in a row, and the Senators were in danger of being knocked out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference. Well, a lot has changed.
Ottawa is 4-0-1 in its past five games and, combined with the teams directly behind them fading, the Senators have a five-point cushion on the teams tied for eighth place behind them. The past two wins read like a tennis match — 6-2 at Florida and 6-0 on Long Island.
Who's Hot:Nicklas Backstrom has eight points in his past five games for the Capitals ... but those games were in late December/early January. Alex Ovechkin has four goals and six points in the past seven games, which counts as a hot streak for the Washington captain this season.
Jason Spezza was named one of the NHL's three stars for last week despite only playing in two games. He has 14 points in his past five games and 15 in the past six. Defenceman Erik Karlsson has nine points in four games to increase his league-leading total at his position to 57.
Injury Report: Backstrom has been out since Jan. 3 with a concussion, and Ovechkin is now out with a lower-body injury (he's listed as day to day). Rookie defenceman Dmitry Orlov missed the game in Carolina because of illness ... The Senators are without forwards Peter Regin (shoulder) and Jesse Winchester (concussion).
Stat Pack: Last season, John Carlson led the Capitals defence corps with a 0.94 plus-minus per 60 minutes at even strength — he was on for 2.87 goals for per 60 minutes (67 total) and only 1.93 against (45). This season he's already been on the ice for 49 goals against at five aside, which is the worst on the team along with his 2.77 per 60 minutes, and only 2.49 (44) goals for.
Puck Drop: Karlsson already has the second-most points by an Ottawa defenceman in franchise history, and he's only six away from matching the record set by Norm MacIver in 1992-93, the team's expansion season.
The 21-year-old Swede could soon find himself in contention for the Norris Trophy. Beyond his scoring stats, Karlsson has posted a +14 plus-minus rating this season, a huge jump over the minus-30 he record in 2011-12.
"As a player, he's grown," said Senators head coach Paul MacLean. "You're allowed to learn and you're allowed to get better, and I think that's what he's done. His success is more an indication of his ability to grasp the game and to grasp it quickly. His skating ability, I think, is what separates him from a lot of people. He's not a big man, but he defends with quickness and speed, and he's learned how to do it real well."