Flyers-Capitals preview: A matchup of teams that could meet in playoffs

FLYRGLANCE18
Flyers center Sean Couturier (second from left) celebrates his goal in an early-season win over Washington. The teams will meet Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.

Capitals (41-23-7) at Flyers (36-25-11)

WHEN: 5 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Wells Fargo Center.

BROADCAST & STREAMING: NBCSP, NBCSports.com/live, 97.5 FM

SOCIAL MEDIA COVERAGE: @BroadStBull and @samdonnellon on Twitter

KEY PLAYERS: There’s lots of motivation for both teams because, in addition to jockeying for a high position in the Metropolitan Division, it could be a preview of the opening round of the playoffs.

Washington is atop the Metro, six points ahead of the third-place Flyers.

The game will match two of the NHL’s most explosive scorers — Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (42 goals, 76 points) and Claude Giroux (26 goals, 83 points). It will also match two of the league’s highest-scoring defensemen — the Caps’ John Carlson (57 points) and Shayne Gostisbehere (52 points).

Washington will be without its second-leading scorer, injured center Evgeny Kuznetsov (71 points).

The Flyers scored three third-period goals in a 5:52 span and rallied past Carolina, 4-2, on Saturday. They had lost seven of their previous eight games.

Washington has won four straight, during which it has scored 18 goals.

The Caps will be playing their third game in about 72 hours, and the Flyers will be playing their second game in 22 hours.

Caps coach Barry Trotz will decide whether to use Braden Holtby or Phillipp Grubauer in the nets. Holtby has struggled most of the season but played well Friday in his first start in five games. Grubauer has been outstanding, going 11-3-2 (four no-decisions) with a 1.68 GAA and .944 save percentage in his last 20 games.

Rookie Alex Lyon played admirably Saturday in the Flyers’ 4-2 win in Carolina, but coach Dave Hakstol said he was leaning toward using Petr Mrazek because of the back-to-back games. Mrazek won his first three starts with the Flyers, but has won just once in his last seven outings.

THINGS TO KNOW: Sean Couturier (29 goals, 66 points) has been playing a solid all-around game, but he hasn’t scored a goal in the last 14 games…..Nicklas Backstrom has 50 points in 41 career games against the Flyers, while Ovechkin has 53 points, including 32 goals, in 48 games against Philadelphia……On Saturday, Giroux had his eight-game points streak snapped, and Andrew MacDonald had six of the Flyers’ 24 blocked shots…The Flyers are 19-12-5 on the road, but just 17-13-6 at home….Jake Voracek has 59 assists, one behind Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler, who leads the NHL.

HEAD TO HEAD: The Flyers have won two of three games against the Caps, winning 8-2 and 2-1 (overtime), and dropping the most recent matchup, a 5-3 decision on Jan. 31. The Flyers blew a 2-0 lead in that loss. All-time, the Flyers have a 113-74-19-8 record against the Caps.

COMING FLYERS GAMES:

Tuesday: 7:30 p.m. at Detroit.

Thursday: 7 p.m. vs. New York Rangers.