ARLINGTON, VA — The Washington Capitals may need to make a few more tweaks to their roster before facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.
The Capitals could be without their number one goaltender to open the season after Darcy Kuemper and his wife Sydney welcomed their first child Thursday night. Kuemper did not participate in Friday morning’s optional skate, and head coach Spencer Carbery indicated a final decision would be made later in the day, potentially impacting players elsewhere on the roster.
“We’re very happy for the Kuemper family last night,” he said. “And we’ll see. They were at the hospital last night, so we’ll see how today goes. If you have to make some adjustments lineup wise, we will this afternoon.”
He later added, “We just have to be careful with setting players up for success in terms of, he’s been up a lot. And we just want to be mindful of the fact that we want to put him in a position to have success. So we’ll figure that out this afternoon and may have to make some according lineup decisions based off of that decision.”
Should the new dad sit out against the Penguins, Charlie Lindgren would make his debut in his second season with the Capitals. Lindgren told Monumental Sports Network’s Tarik El-Bashir that he was prepared to take the net if needed.
“My job is to be ready,” he said.
In 2022-23, Lindgren got into 31 total games, putting up a record of 13-11-3. Carbery expressed full confidence that his backup goaltender could rise to the occasion.
“I’ve loved his game in the preseason. I thought he was good in the action that he saw. And these are sometimes opportunities that you stumble into. It comes to you because of something else that happens and now all of a sudden you get a great opportunity to play opening night in the National Hockey League and you snag that opportunity. And that, for him, if it comes to fruition, I think it’s a great chance for him to continue what he’s shown already in training camp and in the exhibition season.”
Kuemper’s absence could have ripple effects on the team’s skaters. The NHL’s CBA allows teams to recall an emergency backup goaltender only if the absence is “due to incapacitating injury, illness or League suspension,” meaning the Caps may need to recall a goaltender from the Bears to serve as Lindgren’s backup. Should they make a call-up, the team will need to send another player down to fit the replacement under the salary cap.
Of the players currently on the Capitals’ roster, only Aliaksei Protas and Connor McMichael are waivers-exempt. Protas remained on the ice after Friday morning’s skate had ended, potentially indicating he would be the one sent down.
Should the Capitals temporarily send Protas down to Hershey, both Matthew Phillips and and Anthony Mantha would likely make the lineup. Phillips previously appeared likely to sit out of the opener, skating in the same spot as Mantha during practice Thursday.
On the backend, Alex Alexeyev took the scratches skate with Protas. Alexeyev appears to have been beaten out on the left side of the team’s defense depth chart by 2016 first-round draft pick Lucas Johansen. Johansen is slated to get into his fourth career NHL game skating next to Nick Jensen.
Carbery and the Capitals will now make their final decisions ahead of puck drop at 7:30 pm.
Update (3:00pm): The Capitals have recalled AHL goaltender Clay Stevenson and sent down Aliaksei Protas, meaning Lindgren is likely to start Friday night.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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