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Sunday, March 13th (All times eastern)

Chicago Blackhawks (37-24-7) at Washington Capitals (39-20-10), 12:30 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Washington, D.C. area played gracious host to the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Friday. The Capitals will try to make the extended stay a little less pleasant this afternoon.

The Caps try to extend their longest winning streak of the season to eight straight games and deal the Blackhawks a third straight setback Sunday at the Verizon Center.

Washington has used its seven-game run of victories to move past Tampa Bay for first place in the Southeast Division with 88 points, three more than the Lightning and three back of the Flyers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Last year's recipient of the Presidents' Trophy for most points in the league hasn't lost since Feb. 25.

The Capitals engaged in their sixth one-goal game in their last seven contests on Friday, taking a 2-1 victory over the Hurricanes thanks to third-period goals by Alex Ovechkin and Matt Hendricks. Ovechkin has a point in each game of Washington's current win streak, amassing four goals and seven assists in that span as well as seven goals and 17 points in his last 12 games.

Braden Holtby made 40 saves in his second straight start, including 16 in the third period for the Capitals, who have bested Carolina in all five meetings so far this year and are on their longest win streak since a franchise-best 14-game run from Jan. 13-Feb. 7 of last season.

"I thought we were a little lucky tonight and they're overdue to beat us," said Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau. "I didn't think we were very sharp tonight. They had 40 shots on goal and were carrying play through much of the game."

The Caps have won four straight at home, including the first two contests of a three-game homestand.

Goaltender Michal Neuvirth served as the backup for a second straight game after exiting last Monday's game early when he took a shot off his mask. Washington also won on Friday without Semyon Varlamov (knee), Mike Green (head) and Nicklas Backstrom (fractured left thumb), and all three are out for today.

Holtby will get his third straight start and first ever against the Blackhawks, who came to town early to visit the White House and President Barack Obama on Friday as a reward for winning their first Stanley Cup title since 1961 last season.

"We're hoping to come back," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews told NHL.com. "There have been lots of great moments [since the Blackhawks won the Cup on Philadelphia ice in June]. This visit tops it off. Now it's time to win another one."

The Blackhawks, though, will be trying to avoid losing three straight for the first time since Dec. 11-15 following Wednesday's 4-3 shootout setback to the Lightning. Still, a 10-2-3 run has pulled Chicago to within nine points of first-place Detroit in the Central Division and into a tie with Los Angeles, Phoenix and Calgary for the last four playoff spots in the West. Fourth-place Dallas is just a point ahead of that pack.

Toews had a goal and two assists in Wednesday's loss, while Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp also scored. Corey Crawford, who has never faced the Caps, ended with 27 saves.

"Everybody knows points are at a premium here," said Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith. "In the Western Conference, it's a logjam. You're fighting for your life every night."

Brian Campbell sat out the loss with a lower-body injury and will be a game- time decision today, while Dave Bolland is out due to a concussion suffered when he took an elbow to the head by Tampa Bay's Pavel Kubina, who was suspended three games for the hit.

Toews has 11 goals and 30 points in his last 19 games and scored twice in last year's 4-3 overtime setback at home to Washington. Backstrom scored twice for the Capitals in their second straight win over Chicago.

Ovechkin missed most of the game after receiving a major and game misconduct for shoving Campbell violently into the boards. Campbell was hurt on the play and Ovechkin was suspended for two games.

Washington snapped a two-game series home losing streak when it last hosted Chicago on Oct. 11, 2008.

03/13 10:30:43 ET


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