(SportsNetwork.com) - Adam Oates knows his team will be the underdog in all three of its games during a trip to the West Coast, but the Washington Capitals head coach is still gunning to post a perfect record on the trek.
Oates' boys will kick off the three-game California trip on Tuesday when the Capitals visit Bruce Boudreau's Anaheim Ducks.
Sitting two points out of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Washington needs every point it can muster at this stage of the season. The club, however, is just 12-16-5 on the road in 2013-14 and will face the top three teams in the Pacific Division during this trip.
After tonight's game in Anaheim, the Caps will visit Los Angeles on Thursday before completing the swing Saturday in San Jose. The Ducks and Sharks are tied for the top spot in the Pacific with 97 points apiece, while the Kings are 15 points behind.
"You've got to win them all," said Oates. "We haven't played L.A. yet, but we played Anaheim here (in Washington). We could've won the game, and San Jose same thing. I know they're better than us in the standings, but you've got to have the attitude you're going to beat them."
Washington does carry a bit of momentum into the trip, having won its last two games by beating Vancouver and Toronto during a recent two-game homestand. After picking up a 4-3 win over the Canucks on Friday, the Capitals downed the Maple Leafs by a 4-2 score on Sunday.
Troy Brouwer picked up a pair of goals to lead Washington past Toronto. Joel Ward contributed a goal and an assist, with Jason Chimera tallying and Karl Alzner adding two assists for the Capitals, who had lost five of six games before winning twice over the weekend.
Jaroslav Halak was solid in net on Sunday, making 27 saves. The veteran goaltender is 3-2-0 with a 2.42 goals against average and .924 save percentage in five games with the Caps since coming over from Buffalo in a trade.
Halak expects to get the start tonight. The 28-year-old Czech is 4-5-0 with a 2.93 GAA in 10 career games against Anaheim.
Tuesday's game marks the second time Boudreau will be meeting his old team since the Capitals fired the head coach early in the 2011-12 season. The Ducks helped Boudreau make a triumphant return to D.C. on Dec. 23, when Anaheim recorded a 3-2 win at the Verizon Center.
Washington still boasts a 4-1-1 record in its last six games against the Ducks and Anaheim has lost three in a row versus the Caps on home ice. Tuesday's tilt marks the first meeting between the clubs in Orange County since the Caps notched a 7-6 win on Feb. 16, 2011.
The Ducks recently went 2-1-0 on a three-game road trip. The swing began with a disastrous 7-2 loss in Calgary before Anaheim righted the ship with wins at Colorado and Los Angeles.
Friday's 6-4 win over the Avalanche halted a four-game slide and the Ducks were able to follow the victory up the next night with a 2-1 triumph over their Southern California rivals.
Frederik Andersen made 37 saves to help Anaheim edge the Kings on Saturday. Tim Jackman and Patrick Maroon scored for the Ducks.
"It was a good hockey game," said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. "It was back and forth, and a little chippy here and there. Those are the games we need to get used to during the stretch."
Anaheim is 24-6-4 as the home team this season, but will try to halt a three- game slide at the Honda Center on Tuesday.
Veteran defenseman Stephane Robidas could make his debut for the Ducks on Tuesday. Robidas was acquired from the Dallas Stars before the trade deadline, but he hasn't played since Nov. 29 due to a fractured right leg.
Robidas practiced on Tuesday and with Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler dealing with a lower-body injury, he could be in the lineup tonight. The 37-year-old defenseman had four goals and one assists in 24 games with the Stars this season before his injury.
The Capitals, meanwhile, learned Monday that forward Brooks Laich will miss the rest of the regular season after having an operation on a groin muscle. Laich, who has eight goals and seven assists in 51 games this season, will be sidelined for the next 4-to-6 weeks.