The Washington Capitals will play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night looking to break a two-game losing streak.
TJ Oshie and Conor Sheary are both possibilities to return to the lineup from their longterm injuries. Peter Laviolette added that the three players who took maintenance days on Friday — John Carlson, Garnet Hathaway, and Carl Hagelin — skated this morning and are “on track” to play per The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir.
“I’m hopeful they’ll be back, but I’m going to go in and get clearance on those guys,” Laviolette said after practice.
Capitals players who did extra work after the morning skate, which usually denotes these players are going to be scratched for the game, include Nicklas Backstrom, Michael Sgarbossa, Daniel Sprong, Dennis Cholowski, and Vitek Vanecek as reported by The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell. Defenseman Matt Irwin, who usually takes the extras skate, did not today, suggesting it’s possible he makes his Capitals debut.
If Sheary and Oshie return, the two veteran forwards will immediately plug into the top six. The Capitals first two lines from Friday’s practice were:
The Capitals will definitely be without centers Nicklas Backstrom and Nic Dowd for the game. Backstrom, who was cleared for contact for the first time, is still rehabbing his hip while Dowd landed in COVID protocol on Friday afternoon after missing practice due to illness.
Beyond Backstrom and Dowd, Laviolette went to one of his canned lines when asked concretely who or who not would play tonight.
“Honestly, we’re working through things in the room,” Laviolette said laughing, seemingly acknowledging how unhelpful his evasiveness is to reporters.
“I know it’s my go-to line in my pocket, but we are in a crazy year,” he explained. “I’m hopeful that some of these guys mentioned will get into the lineup. They needed to get through today. We’re not through today. Once I go back there, figure out where those guys are at, they’ll hopefully draw in. From there, you hope you’re good to move forward. But you never know. You never know. We are a moving roster. We’ve had 12 different lineups at noon time on the table (since yesterday) and it changes all the time. The first 9 had Dowd in it. You scratch him. Pull him off the side and redo it again. You gotta think about penalty killing, power play. It’s under the assumption that we may get a couple guys back so I have to make sure that happens. It’s different things. It’s crazy.”
The Capitals will turn to Ilya Samsonov in goal again for his fifth start in six games.
“The goaltending’s been steady,” Laviolette said of both Samsonov and Vanecek. “It’s giving us a chance to win. The numbers are down from a defensive standpoint and so if the goaltenders can do their job we can find ourselves winning a lot of hockey games this year. So the goaltenders have done a good job. They’ve given us chances.”
Samsonov will face the Blue Jackets’ Daniil Tarasov, who made his NHL debut on Thursday. Tarasov made 34 saves in the team’s 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars.
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