The Washington Capitals are in St. Louis as they’ll look to salvage whatever they can from what has been a very poor road trip. The Caps are losers of two in a row and will need to beat a hot Blues team to snap that streak.
At Thursday’s morning skate, the in-game change from Tuesday’s loss in Florida of Aliaksei Protas being promoted to the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov seems like it will stick for at least the start of the game inside Enterprise Center. Protas will make his official return to the top six after filling in on the team’s checking line for an extended spell.
There are a handful of changes to the Caps’ forward lines as you’ll see via the Washington Post’s Samantha Pell.
The new first line did have some moderate success at five-on-five when put together last season for over 88 minutes as the Caps outscored opponents 5-2 with the Russian-speaking trio on the ice. On Tuesday in Sunrise, the Caps out-attempted the Cats 13 to 7 with them out there together.
“I thought that they were good,” head coach Peter Laviolette said pregame. “We made the switch after the first period and I thought we really pushed offensively in the second and third period. He moved up there and they seemed to get into the offensive zone. He’s such a big guy, works really hard, he’s strong on pucks, and can make some plays. They had some good looks and some good chances so we’re going to leave that for now.”
Protas’ move up to that line forces Sonny Milano back down to the second line after the shortlived experiment that saw him switch wings and play with Ovi and Kuzy for just under five total minutes. Conor Sheary also stays in the top six. He has been an almost permanent fixture in it this season due to long-term injuries to players like TJ Oshie and Connor Brown.
All of that shifting higher up in the lineup means that Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway needed a new partner for the team’s ultra-defensively deployed fourth line. Marcus Johansson has been chosen as the next soldier there and was actually tested out on that line during the preseason. That test hasn’t led to any sort of regular season work until now as the three have only seen the ice together for a little over six and a half minutes this year.
Last but not least, Connor McMichael draws back in after Joe Snively took his place against the Panthers. McMichael has yet to record a point in five games this season. Snively earned his first point of the season in that game against Florida but looks like he will go back to the press box.
Morning skate underway in the Loo… pic.twitter.com/zCqWk1nRt2
— John Walton (@JohnWaltonPxP) November 17, 2022
Pell also reports that injured defenseman Dmitry Orlov was back on the ice after he did miss a skate earlier in the week. Orlov got in some work on the extra defensive pair with Alex Alexeyev as he continues to work his way back from a lower-body ailment.
The first netminder off of the ice, according to Pell, was Charlie Lindgren as it looks like Laviolette will give his backup the opportunity to take on his former teammates. In five games for the Blues last season, Lindgren went a perfect 5-0 with a 1.22 goals-against average and a .958 save percentage. That performance was enough for him to earn a three-year, $3.3 million contract with the Caps this past summer.
“I’m excited,” Lindgren said pregame. “When I think of St. Louis, I think of a lot of good memories here. It’ll be good to see some of the guys tonight and then hopefully we take it to them on the ice.”
Normal number one Darcy Kuemper has struggled in his last two starts, giving up four goals in each. It looks like he’ll get back in the cage against his own former team in the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
The Blues will come into the action winners of four games in a row although they will be playing the back half of a back-to-back after beating the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night in Chicago.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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