The Washington Capitals will get both Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson back against the Columbus Blue Jackets and that means two forwards need to leave the Caps’ lineup.
After Sunday’s morning skate, it’s becoming clear who those two forwards will be. Shockingly, one of them is Anthony Mantha.
The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir provided the reporting from the team’s optional morning practice.
With Backstrom and Wilson set to return tonight vs. CBJ, Mantha and Aube-Kubel are taking the scratches' skate. Irwin is, too. #Caps
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) January 8, 2023
Mantha, who earns $5.7 million against the salary cap, has played on the team’s fourth line in their last two games. His 9:48 of ice time against the Nashville Predators on Friday was a season-low and was the first time he played less than 10 minutes in a game for the Capitals, besides when he injured his shoulder last season, since being acquired from Detroit.
He has tallied 54 points (22g, 32a) in 93 games with the Caps spread over three seasons.
The Caps have possessed the puck better during Mantha’s shifts this season, with an on-ice shot-attempt percentage of 53.1, more than any other forward except Aliaksei Protas (54.8 percent). The big winger is having a truly solid season analytically but has been unable to stick in the team’s top-six forward group.
Caps head coach Peter Laviolette last spoke about Mantha on Friday during his pregame press conference with the media.
“I thought he played well last night,” Laviolette said then. “I thought he worked hard. That’s what we’re looking for from him.”
Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Matt Irwin look to be the other healthy scratches as they got in extra work with Mantha. That indicates that Sonny Milano will stick in the lineup and that Alex Alexeyev will be back on the third pairing after sitting against Nashville. Among all NHL forwards that have played at least 200 minutes at five-on-five this season, Milano ranks 24th in total points per 60 minutes. He has tallied four goals in his last eight games overall.
El-Bashir also reports that goaltender Darcy Kuemper was the first off the ice at the skate. That means he will be in the starter’s net for the Caps against Columbus after stopping 25 shots against them in a 6-2 win last Thursday.
The Blue Jackets will arrive at Capital One Arena playing the back half of a back-to-back. They took down the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in a shootout on Saturday night. They still sit dead last in the Metropolitan Division and second to last in the entire league with 26 standings points from 38 games.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.