The Washington Capitals’ got incredible goaltending in their 4-3 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but not from their initial starter. Vitek Vanecek left the game early in the first period with an upper-body injury after being slammed into by Penguins forward Kasperi Kapanen in the crease.
Ilya Samsonov replaced Vanecek in net and made 43 saves on 45 shots to pick up the victory. Taxi squad goaltender Hunter Shepard served as Sammy’s backup in an emergency.
Wednesday, the Capitals play their second game in consecutive nights as they take on the Edmonton Oilers at home and they have a big decision to make in net. If Vanecek remains injured and cannot play or serve as a backup, do they start Samsonov, who had a heavy workload against the Pens, or turn elsewhere?
Wednesday morning, the Capitals potentially solved one part of the puzzle by assigning Pheonix Copley to the team’s Taxi Squad from Hershey. Copley, who was the team’s backup goaltender during the 2018-19 season, could either serve as the team’s emergency third goaltender from the Taxi Squad or he could be called up before the game to start or be the team’s backup.
The same remains true for Capitals prospect goaltender Hunter Shepard, who could also be in play to start or be the team’s backup goaltender tonight.
With the middling Oilers in town, the Capitals could get aggressive and give one of their prospects a shot to start.
Stay tuned. With no morning skate, Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette will likely announce the starter around five during his pregame press conference with reporters.
Here’s the full press release from the Capitals:
Capitals Re-assign Pheonix Copley to Taxi Squad from Hershey
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Washington Capitals have re-assigned goaltender Pheonix Copley from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL) to the taxi squad, senior vice president and general manager Brian MacLellan announced today.
Copley, 30, has posted a record of 12-7-2 with two shutouts, a 2.50 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage in 21 games with Hershey this season, leading the Bears in each respective category.
During the 2020-21 season, the 6’4”, 200-pound goaltender led Hershey goaltenders in wins (10), shutouts (2) and games played (15) and ranked seventh in wins and eighth in goals-against average (2.66) in the AHL. Copley and Zach Fucale received the AHL’s Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award in 2020-21, presented to the goaltenders on the team which allows the fewest goals per game in the regular season.
In 212 career AHL games, Copley has a 112-67-24 record with 15 shutouts, a 2.54 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.
The North Pole, Alaska native appeared in 27 games with Washington in 2018-19, posting a 16-7-3 record with one shutout and a 2.90 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage. In 29 career NHL games with the Capitals and the St. Louis Blues, Copley has a 16-8-3 record with a 2.98 goals-against average and .901 save percentage.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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