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Capitals return from break to face Flyers

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals find themselves in a familiar spot as they emerge from the NHL All-Star break.

For the fourth straight season, coach Barry Trotz and the Capitals will begin the homestretch atop the Metropolitan Division when they host the fifth-place Philadelphia Flyers, who sit seven points behind them, on Wednesday night.

"They know the standings," Trotz said of his team. "They understand that the last third of the season is really important, where it gets ramped up.

"You get through February and the light at the end of the tunnel is right there. This is a month where a lot of good work has to happen and hopefully (we) have success."

Washington (29-15-5) comes out of the break with a five-game stretch that includes four divisional games and a matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Alex Ovechkin, who won the hardest shot competition during the weekend's festivities, leads the NHL with 30 goals after scoring 33 all of last season. He picked up his 500th career assist in Washington's last game, on Thursday at Florida.

Washington got good news during Tuesday's practice as forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, the team's second-leading scorer with 45 points, was on the ice. Kuznetsov left the game at Florida with a left leg issue but practiced Tuesday and said he will play Wednesday night.

"I feel good," Kuznetsov told NBCWashington.com. "I can't really say much about (the injury) last game. But overall it feels pretty good today."

Philadelphia (24-17-8) will be looking to close out a successful January (8-3 thus far) with its fifth win in six games. The Flyers are 16-6-1 since Dec. 4.

Trying to continue that surge, the Flyers will be looking for more secondary scoring. Sean Couturier (26 goals), Wayne Simmonds (16), Claude Giroux (14), and Jake Voracek (nine) have 65 of the team's 141 goals.

"There are so many teams, especially in our division, that have two awesome lines. Just like us. If we can get the third- and fourth-line guys to kind of step up and get some goals here and there, it's going to make the difference," winger Jordan Weal (six goals) told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"A lot of games, the top two lines are going to cancel each other out, and that's when the depth players have to come in and really make their mark and control the fate of the game."

Goaltender Brian Elliott (lower body injury) was sidelined Tuesday and former Capital Michal Neuvirth (stomach virus) practiced and is likely to face the Capitals.

"It's good to have Neuvy out there. He had a good practice and looked strong," Flyers coach Dave Hakstol told the Inquirer.

The Flyers took the first two meetings this season.

Travis Konecny's goal 27 seconds into overtime gave the Flyers a 2-1 win on Jan. 21 in Washington, and Giroux had two goals and two assists in an 8-2 rout on Oct. 14 in the Flyers' home opener.

Konecny enters Wednesday's game on a four-game goal-scoring streak and a five-game point-scoring streak (4-2-6), both of which are career highs.

Giroux has 18 goals and 18 assists in 35 games against the Capitals, and Jakub Voracek has 11 goals and 11 assists in 31 games.

Neuvirth is 1-1 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .891 save percentage versus his former team.

Braden Holtby is 8-4-8 with a 2.50 GAA and a .916 save percentage against the Flyers.

In 111 career games against the Metropolitan Division, Braden Holtby is 65-26-16 with a 2.32 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

Ovechkin has touched the Flyers for 32 goals and 21 assists in 47 games, and Nicklas Backstrom has 17 goals and 33 assists in 40 games.
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