The Washington Capitals skated Monday morning before their final regular-season game with the Carolina Hurricanes. The Caps will look to complete the series sweep of the Hurricanes on home ice after winning the prior three meetings.
Head coach Peter Laviolette tinkered with his lines during the morning skate, promoting Tom Wilson back to the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov per The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell. Wilson scored his 20th goal of the season Saturday against the New Jersey Devils and set a new career-high in points two games ago.
Here is how the rest of the Caps took their line rushes via Pell.
While Nic Dowd lined up on the fourth line, he likely will not play against the Canes. NBC Sports Washington’s JJ Regan reported that Dowd stuck around and got extra work with the rest of the scratches while Axel Jonsson-Fjallby did not. That suggests he will not dress and AJF will. Regan added that trade deadline acquisition Johan Larsson skated in a regular jersey for the first time but also stuck around with the scratches.
This context indicates Lars Eller will probably return to center the fourth line between AJF and Garnet Hathaway with Conor Sheary getting bumped back up onto the third line.
Though it’s possible Eller could skate on the wing when Dowd returns. Laviolette has been very happy with Connor McMichael at center in recent games.
“He’s played excellent,” Laviolette said after Saturday’s game. “His speed is really noticeable through the middle of the ice. He’s playing with a lot of confidence – he’s been really noticeable in the last five, six, seven games that he’s been in the middle of the ice.”
NBC Sports Washington’s Alan May added in his postgame analysis after Saturday’s game that he was “very impressed” by McMichael’s recent play.
“He’s showing he can be trusted,” May said. “His line was a momentum changer in the positive. I really respect the improvement I’ve seen the last couple weeks.”
Michal Kempny will get another game paired with Justin Schultz as Trevor van Riemsdyk remains out since getting injured the last time the Caps and Canes met on March 18. Pell reports that TVR skated in a non-contact jersey as he works his way back.
The only other change in the lineup is that Tom Wilson and Marcus Johansson have flipped spots. Wilson returns to a top line that had vast amounts of success with him on it earlier in the campaign. The Caps have out-scored opponents 25 to 15 at five-on-five with the 8-92-43 trio on the ice this season.
The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir reports that Vitek Vanecek will get the starter’s net after another successful March start. Vitek is 7-2-0 in March with a 2.66 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
Carolina comes into Monday night’s action atop the NHL’s Metropolitan Division. The Canes have had a rocky last ten games, going 5-3-2.
Hurricanes on the ice for their morning skate in DC pic.twitter.com/bVt9Et7xPP
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) March 28, 2022
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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