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Game 78 Preview: Capitals @ Avalanche

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With five games remaining, the Avalanche (39-34-4) embrace their difficult remaining schedule, starting with the NHL's best team, the Washington Capitals (54-16-6).

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It's no April fool's, Matt Duchene may return to the line-up tonight against the Washington Capitals. Unfortunately, it's looking like his return may be too late for his team. After a loss to the Blues on Tuesday, the Avs slipped into a deeper hole in their quickly fading playoff hopes. Even though the Wild loss Thursday night to keep the Avs within five points of the final wildcard spot, the hard part may not be getting help from other teams playing the Wild. The Avs have one of the hardest schedules left in their final five games. All five opponents are playoff teams and rather established as playoff teams as it is. The schedule begins against the NHL's best team Friday night.

The Washington Capitals have nothing to play for at this point in the season. After a dominant regular season, the Capitals have locked up the NHL's best record and will have home ice advantage all the way through the playoffs. And while the focus with the Capitals is always on the face of the franchise in Alex Ovechkin as he nears yet another 50 goal season, the success of the Capitals this season can be traced more towards the emergence of its young stars, particularly that of 23 year old centerman Evgeny Kuznetsov and 26 year old netminder Branden Holtby. Together with the aging superstar and Barry Trotz behind the bench, the Capitals will look to finish the season strong and make a run at the game's ultimate prize this spring.

LINES

Grigorenko-Duchene-Boedker

Landeskog-Soderberg-Comeau

Matthias-Mitchell-Iginla

McLeod-Skille-Martinsen

Bigras-Johnson

Beauchemin-Zadorov

Holden-Barrie

Varlamov

Pickard

Scratches: Agozzino, Redmond, Bodnarchuk

NOTES

- The Capitals are second in the NHL in goals for and first in fewest goals against.

- With one more win, the Capitals will eclipse their record for most wins in a single season, a mark that they set in their only other president's trophy campaign back in 2009-10.

- Center John Mitchell has just two goals in his last 42 games.

GAME INFO

Game time: 7pm MT

TV: ALT