The Washington Capitals took to the ice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Thursday with a very familiar face ready to get back into a game for the first time in three months. John Carlson has returned and will play against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Carlson’s arrival back into the fray means some shifting in the team’s lineup was necessary, including a major role reduction for young defenseman Rasmus Sandin.
The Caps did not do full line rushes at the practice but here is what NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti perceived the lineup to look like.
The forward lines will not be different from the team’s embarrassing 7-6 overtime loss to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who recently signed an extension, will be the healthy scratch up front.
On defense, Carlson will make his return on the first pairing with Martin Fehervary, his partner for almost the entirety of the 2021-22 season (1,048 minutes). This season, the two have played somewhat sparingly together at five-on-five (67:13) and it’s probably for good reason as the Caps have gotten absolutely caved in with them on the ice. In those minutes, the team has seen just 43.3 percent of the shot attempts, 31.3 percent of the expected goals, 39.3 percent of the scoring chances, and 25.1 percent of the high-danger chances.
Rasmus Sandin, the team’s de facto number one guy on the backend since his arrival via trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been relegated to the second pairing with his partner from Tuesday’s game, Nick Jensen. Sandin has skated 25 minutes per game in his nine appearances in a Caps uniform. That number will be reduced with the minutes-eating Carlson back.
The first example of that will come on the power play as Gulitti says that Carlson will be taking his first unit duties back from Sandin. The Caps have seen a slight uptick in their power play effectiveness with Sandin at the helm (23.3 percent) versus when he was not yet on the team (20.9 percent).
In his nine games with the Caps, Sandin has gone without a point in just two of them. He has three multi-point outings and ranks tied for second on the team with Alex Ovechkin in overall team scoring (12 points).
Trevor van Riemsdyk is back from his father-to-be duties and will pair up with rookie Alex Alexeyev. TVR has been right behind Sandin at over 23 minutes per game in the month of March. A whopping 2:53 of that coming with the team shorthanded.
Darcy Kuemper is also ready to take back the starter’s net. Kuemper has missed the past two games with an upper-body injury. Backup Charlie Lindgren struggled mightily in those two games, giving up 12 goals on 79 shots.
The Blackhawks will come into Thursday night’s matchup at the bottom of the league’s Central Division. They have lost two in a row and won just three of their last ten overall.
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
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