By Ian Oland
The Washington Capitals have weathered an unfathomable amount of injuries to start the season, and now they may be faced to grapple with another one.
The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell reported on Twitter that third-line center Lars Eller left the ice before the Capitals began their morning skate. He did not return.
Eller’s absence prompted Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette, perhaps just temporarily, to give a big promotion to one of the team’s rising prospects, Aliaksei Protas.
This is how the Capitals lined up during the skate via Pell.
Protas skated on the third line with Marcus Johansson and Anthony Mantha on the wings. Joe Snively got into the lineup and skated with Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway. Laviolette also switched up the defense pairings, putting Erik Gustafsson back on the first pairing (after missing the Jets game due to injury) and plugging Dmitry Orlov back in with Nick Jensen. Lucas Johansen is projected to be one of the team’s healthy scratches.
Protas, who is a natural center, has skated on the wing for most of the season and has found great success lately on the fourth line. Protas has points in two of the last five games and had a season-high four shots against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. His performance against the Oilers last week — where he had the primary assist on Nic Dowd’s game-winning goal — was credited as a watershed moment for the prospect.
“Might have been Pro’s best game as a Washington Capital,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said. “He was noticeable in his strides, in his offense, and his physicality. He was really good.”
As for Eller, his status is unclear for the Blackhawks game. Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette didn’t officially rule Eller out and the team would re-evaluate him later in the day.
Eller scored on a rebound in his 900th career game on Sunday.
Eller with the cleanup 💯 pic.twitter.com/jqiuRwJmOz
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 12, 2022
Congrats on 9️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ career games, Tiger!#ALLCAPS | @LeidosInc pic.twitter.com/CoYO234U2b
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 11, 2022
The Capitals will look to extend their winning streak to five against the Blackhawks. Puck drop is at 9 pm and the game will be aired on ESPN.
Headline photo: Cara Bahniuk/RMNB
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