Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin took the ice at the team’s morning skate inside of UBS Arena on Thursday. Ovi did not skate at all on Tuesday before or during the Caps home loss to the Islanders due to the upper-body injury he suffered against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ovi’s upper-body injury will keep him out for the second straight game. Although he was out there with his teammates in a regular jersey, he did not fully participate in line rushes and head coach Peter Laviolette declared him unavailable according to The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell afterward.
Laviolette was non-committal about the status of his captain for Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, but The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir pointed out that the Caps could be employing a similar strategy to how they handled Ovi’s late-season injury from last season. That campaign saw The Great Eight miss time until dressing for the season finale.
Ovechkin’s absence provided an open lineup spot for rookie Connor McMichael on Tuesday but that does not appear to be the case for tonight’s rematch. Instead, Conor Sheary has jumped up into the top left-wing position and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby has replaced him in the bottom six.
Here is how that all shakes out via Pell.
Jonsson-Fjallby looks set for his first action in exactly a month as his last game this season came against the Carolina Hurricanes at the end of March. The Swedish winger has a goal and two assists in 21 games played during a rookie year that has seen him almost exclusively skate in a similar bottom-six role that he is occupying now.
Much of the plug-and-play nature of McMichael’s addition to the lineup on Tuesday was in part, due to not wanting to disrupt the lineup any further than needed. “The lines have been really good for 10 games now,” Laviolette said then. Now, the way he has his team lined up at this morning’s skate means only the fourth line stays entirely intact.
Making his way to the starter’s net after a very poor outing from Ilya Samsonov will be Vitek Vanecek according to Pell. Vanecek has had a remarkable amount of success against the Islanders in the past, sporting a 5-1 career record against them with a 1.74 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage. With the Caps playing the first of a back-to-back, it’s safe to assume Samsonov will wrap the regular season up on Friday.
Also making the trip up to New York was injured forward Carl Hagelin who Pell says was just an observer of Thursday’s skate. Hagelin has been out since the final day of February after suffering a serious eye injury in practice.
Before beating the Caps on the road on Tuesday the Isles had lost five games in a row. They are playing for nothing but maybe ruining the Caps’ chances at moving up in Eastern Conference playoff seeding over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens are idle today as they will play their final regular-season game Friday as well.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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