The Washington Capitals had a day off after a tough back-to-back with travel and were back on the ice Friday in preparation for a test against the St. Louis Blues.
The Caps suffered several injury scares in their win over the Buffalo Sabes on Wednesday but luckily seem to have escaped any sort of heavy damage. Both Sonny Milano, who has been out with a non-COVID illness, and Nick Jensen, who was the most dinged up in that victory, participated in the team’s morning skate.
Milano jumping back into the lineup means someone has to come out and that appears to be Anthony Mantha.
The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir provided the complete forward lines and defense pairings.
#Caps at a.m. skate ahead of STL:
INJ but skating: Jensen-Carlson
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) March 17, 2023
Mantha comes out of the lineup after a two-point performance last Saturday against the New York Islanders that snapped both a 19-game goalless streak and a 12-game pointless streak. He has since provided zero points in two games against the Rangers and Sabres and skated less than 10 minutes of ice time against Buffalo on Wednesday (9:58).
The big winger is no stranger to the press box this season as head coach Peter Laviolette has sat him multiple times. Mantha being the extra forward means that Aliaksei Protas will stay on a fourth line that has been tremendous since the hulking Belorussian was added back to it. In 25:19 of five-on-five ice time with Protas on the ice, the Caps have seen positive differentials in shot attempts (+13), scoring chances (+6), and high-danger chances (+4).
The most successful top trio that the team has had this season has also been reunited. That line is made up of captain Alex Ovechkin, Dylan Strome, and Conor Sheary. With those three on the ice at five-on-five this season, the Caps see 51.4 percent of the shot attempts, 56.4 percent of the expected goals, 53.3 percent of the scoring chances, and 56.6 percent of the high-danger chances.
While Jensen did participate in the skate, he did so as injured defenseman John Carlson’s partner. That indicates that he is not a sure thing to play against the Blues and Gabriel Carlsson, who skated with Matt Irwin could replace Jensen in the lineup and play in his first game in over a week.
According to El-Bashir, Darcy Kuemper was the first goaltender off of the ice at the skate and will jump back into the starter’s net after Charlie Lindgren took down the Sabres. In March, Kuemper has started six times and has a 3-2-1 record with a 2.49 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.
The Blues come into Friday night’s action quite far out of the Western Conference playoff picture with 63 points from 67 games played. Their last outing was an insane one that saw Jakub Vrana score two goals while wearing a full bubble shield on his helmet after taking a skate blade to the face and netminder Jordan Binnington lose his mind and get suspended two games for punching someone with his blocker.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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