The Washington Capitals will put their four-game winning streak on the line against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. And it looks like they will have to take on Auston Matthews and co. without two of their best players.
The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir reported that Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov both missed the Capitals’ morning skate in Toronto. While Orlov continues to nurse a lower-body injury that kept him out of action against the Philadelphia Flyers, Kuznetsov has a non-COVID illness that has been going around the team.
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette told El-Bashir that both players have “to be determined” statuses for the game.
If Kuznetsov is unable to go, rookie Connor McMichael will likely draw back into the lineup as he is the only other center on the roster. Conor Sheary and Garnet Hathaway missed one game each last week with non-COVID illnesses so that could signal how long Kuzy may remain out.
Filling in for Orlov in the game against the Flyers was Matt Irwin who went on to score a goal in the 9-2 victory. Irwin skated the second-most even-strength minutes in the game.
Without Kuznetsov, the Capitals will have to rely even more on Alex Ovechkin to shoulder the scoring load. Ovi has torched the Maple Leafs in the past, especially when he plays in Toronto. In 51 career games against the Leafs, Ovechkin has 41 goals and 74 total points. Twenty-five of those games have come on the road and he has 24 goals and 35 points in those games.
Alex Ovechkin preparing to face the Leafs in Toronto for the first time since Oct. 29, 2019 pic.twitter.com/4doaFT4dv4
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) April 14, 2022
According to El-Bashir, Ilya Samsonov will get the start again. The Russian netminder has won all three of his starts in April. He has been roughed up against Toronto in the past, sporting a 4.50 goals-against average and a .857 save percentage in 80 minutes of action against them.
The Leafs are one of five teams in the NHL that have already eclipsed the 100 standings points mark and they have won seven of their last ten games. Matthews will also come into Thursday night’s action just two goals shy of reaching 60 goals in a season for the first time in his career. If he gets there against the Caps, he will be the first to do since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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