It only took one preseason game, but the Anthony Mantha experiment on the first line could already be over.
After reformulating the team’s two groups in the morning to an NHL squad and an AHL squad, Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette replaced Mantha on the right side with Tom Wilson. Mantha jumped down to the left side of the second line, skating with Lars Eller and Daniel Sprong.
The full lines are via NBC Sports Washington’s JJ Regan.
— JJ Regan (@JJReganNBCS) October 1, 2021
According to Natural Stat Trick, the Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson line has skated over 636 minutes at five-on-five together since winning the Stanley Cup as the team’s first line in 2018. The line has generally struggled defensively together (45.5-percent of the five-on-five scoring chances and 45.2-percent of the high danger chances) but has outscored opponents 32 to 26 (55.2 percent) in those three regular seasons since being initially formulated.
Meanwhile, the most intriguing competition of camp is now between Hendrix Lapierre and Connor McMichael who are both vying to earn the third-center spot if Nicklas Backstrom is unable to start the season due to a hip injury. The two first-round picks shared duties centering Conor Sheary and TJ Oshie, who is good in the faceoff dot, at practice on Friday.
According to the Washington Post’s Samantha Pell, Lapierre took line rushes at 3C first before McMichael jumped in, indicating he has the edge as of this point.
Lapierre, 19, has inserted himself into the conversation seemingly out of nowhere after registering four assists in his first two games of the preseason, receiving high praise from both TJ Oshie and Peter Laviolette.
“I think he’s confident in his game,” Oshie said. “I think it shows on the ice. Just the way he was carrying the puck out there, he looked like he was just playing free and making his reads, and a lot of times they were the right ones. He got the puck deep a few times when we didn’t have numbers and made some great plays when we did. I thought he did a great job tonight.”
this kid's 19??! pic.twitter.com/4TN4nxPGYQ
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 30, 2021
A top-five talent in the 2020 NHL Draft, Lapierre fell to the Capitals at 22 after injury concerns scared off other teams. Lapierre had 31 points (8g, 23a) in 21 QMJHL games last season.
After practice, Laviolette said the team is still trying things with the lines, but they are now resembling closer to how they’ll look Opening Night.
Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said the plan for tomorrow’s preseason game against PHI is to have either Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek play the entire game.
Line combinations also will start to look more like opening night lineup but they are still trying some things out
— Samantha Pell (@SamanthaJPell) October 1, 2021
The Capitals will play the Philadelphia Flyers in their preseason game Saturday night.
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