The Washington Capitals are in The Big Apple for their first game after the Christmas break. It also marks the team’s first game against the New York Rangers this season. The Caps are riding a four-game win streak and are 9-2-1 in the month of December to this point.
The oft-injured Caps will be taking on their Metro Division rivals without their top defenseman.
John Carlson will miss Tuesday night’s action after taking a slap shot to the head in last Friday’s victory over the Winnipeg Jets. The NHL’s media site shows that the Capitals placed Carlson on injured reserve.
With Carlson’s absence as well as recent injuries to TJ Oshie and Martin Fehervary, here is how head coach Peter Laviolette put his forward lines and defense pairings together at the team’s Madison Square Garden morning skate. The lines come via The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir who is in New York City for the game.
#Caps a.m. skate lines and pairs ahead of NYR:
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) December 27, 2022
The team’s forward group remains the exact same twelve names on the same lines that took down the Jets last Friday. Caps captain Alex Ovechkin will look to get on the board again post leap over Gordie Howe into sole possession of second on the NHL’s all-time goal-scoring list. New York native Sonny Milano will also bring his recent hot streak of six points in his last five games into the fray.
The big changes come on the backend with Carlson out indefinitely due to the incredibly scary injury he suffered that required a hospital stay this past weekend. Filling his regular spot next to Erik Gustafsson on the “top pairing” will be Trevor van Riemsdyk.
At the beginning of this season, that pairing was once slated to be the third defense pairing before the injury bug ravaged the Capitals. Gustafsson and TVR have played over 152 minutes together this season at five-on-five and with them on the ice in those minutes the Caps have seen 52.9-percent of the shot attempts, 50.2-percent of the expected goals, 54.6-percent of the scoring chances, and 56.1-percent of the high-danger chances.
Carlson’s absence also will provide an opportunity for young defenseman Alex Alexeyev to get back into the lineup. Alexeyev has not played since he was hit with a headshot from Seattle Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak on December 9. The Russian blueliner has played in five games so far at the NHL level this season.
The team also recalled defenseman Lucas Johansen from the Hershey Bears on Tuesday morning to provide now much-needed cover on the backend.
— John Walton (@JohnWaltonPxP) December 27, 2022
El-Bashir also reports that goaltender Darcy Kuemper will return to the starter’s net after he took down the Ottawa Senators last Thursday in his return game from an upper-body injury. On the season, Kuemper is now 9-9-2 with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
The Rangers will enter the game one point above the Caps in the Metropolitan Division standings with one game in hand. They are only slightly less hot than the Capitals as winners of eight of their last 10 compared to the Caps who have won nine of their last 10.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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