Lars Eller participated in the Capitals’ optional skate on Friday, but left early.
Later, Peter Laviolette announced that Eller would sit out against the New York Rangers, missing his third straight game and fourth of the last five.
The Capitals will instead roll with their 11 forward/seven defensemen lineup again.
Vanecek will be in net tonight vs. the NYR, per Laviolette.
Eller (lower body) remains out. He took part in the optional morning skate, left the ice a little early and had a long chat with the trainer. As a result, #Caps will go 11F and 7D again.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) March 19, 2021
Vitek Vanecek will start Friday night with the assumption that Ilya Samsonov will get the nod Saturday during the teams’ rematch.
“It’s just a little bit more challenging keeping guys fresh,” Laviolette said of the weird lineup. “I’ve got matchups in the back of my head as well and so I’m trying to see two or three down the road and what’s coming and manage it that way.
“It’s easier with four centers. You’ve got the four lines and you put them out. Worry more about their zones and where they’re playing and the matchups. And now you’ve got to juggle the three centermen so certainly it’s left us shorthanded.”
The Capitals have rarely used their seven defenseman in games — lately, it’s been Trevor van Riemsdyk — instead choosing to play its three starting centers more — especially Nicklas Backstrom and Nic Dowd — and give TJ Oshie sporadic looks there.
“For TJ, he’s such an easygoing guy and he’s so versatile and I think that he’s got such great hockey sense that I don’t think it matters much to him,” Laviolette said. “He would probably rather play his position but since we’ve asked him to jump in and play some shifts at center, I think he’s done a really good job. I don’t steer away from it. It’s not like I’m afraid to call his number, but I think he’s real smart. Defensively, he’s got a really good understanding of a lot of positions on the ice. Whether it be penalty killer or power play or right wing or left wing or center, I just think he’s one of those guys that’s versatile enough to handle that. He’s really bailed us out when we needed him to bail us out.”
Despite being without Eller and Tom Wilson for many of its game this month, the Capitals have managed to put together a six-game winning streak. Overall they have won 9 of their last 10.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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