The Washington Capitals jumped on the ice for practice on Sunday for the first time since getting shut out in their Home Opener by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals are preparing to put that disappointment behind them as they’ll host the Calgary Flames at Capital One Arena on Monday night.
While Friday’s season-opening matchup featured a couple of last minute roster tweaks due to the absence of starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper, those moves have now been reset. The biggest news is that Aliaksei Protas is back from his paper move to the Hershey Bears and has been immediately has been placed in his normal right wing spot on the team’s fourth line.
Protas’ arrival back into the fray turned Anthony Mantha into the extra forward at Sunday’s skate. That suggests Mantha will be healthy-scratched against the Flames.
Here are the full lines and defense pairings provided by Monumental Sports Network’s Tarik El-Bashir.
Mantha’s demotion comes after an unimpressive showing against the Penguins. After skating 11:52 of total ice time, Mantha’s stat line showed just one shot attempt, one giveaway, and two faceoff losses. The team’s checking line got pulverized at five-on-five.
With the normally dependable Nic Dowd on the ice at five-on-five, the Capitals saw negative differentials in shot attempts (-17), scoring chances (-7), and high-danger chances (-4). Spencer Carbery moving Protas back onto the line with Dowd may help soothe some of those issues as the two have put up great numbers when paired together in the past. At five-on-five with those two on the ice the past two seasons, the Caps have seen 53.6 percent of the shot attempts, 58.5 percent of the expected goals, 56.7 percent of the scoring chances, and 58.2 percent of the high-danger chances.
The other notable storyline among the forward group is that Matthew Phillips looks like he’ll get a chance for a little personal revenge on Monday. Phillips was drafted by Calgary in 2016 and spent his entire career in the Flames organization until departing for DC this past offseason. Despite tremendous production at the AHL level, Phillips was never really given a chance to show his stuff at the NHL level, skating in just three games since he officially turned pro during the 2018-19 season.
Phillips hasn’t been focused on any vindictive feelings during his time with the Capitals so far though. “I don’t know about proved people wrong,” Phillips said last week. “There’s also a lot of people that I’d like to say that I proved right. I’m just really excited to be here and they gave me a great opportunity and put a lot of trust in me so just trying to do my best every day.”
The only other change in the team’s lineup from the squad that took on the Penguins is that Alex Alexeyev appears set to make his season debut on the backend next to Nick Jensen. That spot was occupied by Lucas Johansen against Pittsburgh and Johansen skated the least of all Capitals defensemen (13:31) in the game. Alexeyev signed a two-year extension with the Capitals last May.
New dad Darcy Kuemper was on the ice for his regular goaltending duties. Kuemper missed the season opener due to the birth of his first child and regular backup Charlie Lindgren filled in for him. Lindgren faced 35 shots and stopped 31 of them in the loss.
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
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