The Washington Capitals will get two of their stars back against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Thursday.
Forwards Nicklas Backstrom and TJ Oshie both took line rushes at the team’s morning skate and are slated to play in the big divisional game.
This is how the Capitals lined up during the skate via The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir.
#Caps a.m. skate lines and pairs ahead of PIT:
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) January 26, 2023
Backstrom missed Tuesday’s loss to the Colorado Avalanche with a non-COVID illness and Oshie was absent due to the birth of his fourth child.
The most notable omission comes in Tom Wilson who could miss the game due to the lower-body injury he suffered against the Avs. Wilson did not skate at all on Thursday and was listed previously as day-to-day by head coach Peter Laviolette.
Laviolette said Wilson was a game-time decision against the Pens.
The veteran bench boss appears to have also chosen to return young forward Aliaksei Protas to the press box. Protas had three shots on net in 12:20 of ice time in Colorado. The Caps were dominant with the big Belorussian on the ice at five-on-five. They saw positive differentials in shot attempts (+14), scoring chances (+4), and high-danger chances (+5) in those minutes.
Backstrom’s return will come in between wingers Sonny Milano and Marcus Johansson. The majority of Backstrom’s games since he returned from offseason hip surgery have come with Milano as one of his wingers. They have formed a highly successful partnership for the Caps as the team sees 54.9 percent of the shot attempts, 63.2 percent of the expected goals, and 56.3 percent of the high-danger chances with the two on the ice at five-on-five.
Oshie on the other hand will come back and get a shot as the team’s top-line right wing paired with Alex Ovechkin and Dylan Strome. Nicolas Aube-Kubel had previously been skating with that high-scoring duo but is pointless in four-straight games. Oshie has played just over 38 minutes with Ovechkin at five-on-five this season and the Caps have outscored opponents 2-0 during that ice time.
didn't forget about our date with the 🐧 tonight pic.twitter.com/tbXumADqiN
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 26, 2023
Darcy Kuemper will get the start as he was the first goaltender off of the ice at the skate. Kuemper started all three of the team’s games on their recent Western Conference road trip. He came out of those games with a 1-2 record after stopping 63 of 70 shots.
The Penguins will come into the action tied with the Capitals at 56 standings points but with three games in hand. After two losses in a row and just four wins in their last ten, the Caps have tumbled down into the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Points are a necessity right now for a Washington team that also has a very hot Buffalo Sabres team breathing down their neck. Buffalo has won four games in a row and now sits just three points behind the Caps with three games in hand as well.
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong/RMNB
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