As you are most likely very well aware, the NHL has fined the Washington Capitals $100,000 for player violations of the league’s COVID‑19 Protocols. We then got the news minutes later that more specifically, the Caps Russian quartet of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and Ilya Samsonov is now unavailable due to these supposed violations.
So, what’s next for the Caps lineup and what options do they have if these guys have to miss a game(s).
We don’t know yet for sure if the Caps Russians will miss any games as that information is not disclosed by the league, but it’s quite possible they will miss at least Friday’s game against Buffalo.
In December, we learned the NHL would introduce “taxi squads” of 4-6 players to be on standby so that lineup holes due to injury or illness during a worldwide pandemic could be easily filled to ensure completion of the season.
The specific wording that we will be most interested in due to these recent events impacting the Caps roster is this section in the NHL’s 2020-21 Transition Rules:
Notwithstanding the foregoing, applicable to the 2020-21 season only, if a club has less than twelve (12) forwards or six (6) defensemen on its active roster who are able to play in its next regular-season game specifically by virtue of players being designated non-roster on account of being unavailable due to COVID-19 Protocol, such club will be permitted to recall a player(s) from the “Taxi Squad” at the deficient position(s) without the Club having to play the previous game with fewer than 18 skaters.
The Capitals currently have eight defenders on their active roster, so they are covered in that aspect, but they will need to bring up a forward from the aforementioned taxi squad to get to 12 active skaters there and a goaltender to backup Vitek Vanecek. We can assume that the goaltender will likely be Craig Anderson as he was seemingly the third goaltender in training camp, but the forward position is where the real juice is.
Conor Sheary is your likely replacement on the left side for Ovechkin, but the Caps would need a center to complete their full four-line lineup. They have Brian Pinho, he of two career NHL playoff games already on their taxi squad…but could they reassign either Zach Fucale or Pheonix Copley and give Connor McMichael his NHL debut? Time for some line projections.
Sheary – Backstrom – Wilson
Vrana – Eller – Sprong
Panik – McMichael – Oshie
Hagelin – Dowd – Hathaway
Siegenthaler – Carlson
Dillon – Schultz
Chara – Jensen
Here’s my thought process:
What say you, commenters?
Headline photo courtesy of Elizabeth Kong
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