The Washington Capitals will be without defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk when they take on the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena.
Meanwhile, Russian centerman Evgeny Kuznetsov, who has missed the last two days of practice with an illness, will be a game-time decision.
Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery revealed the news while speaking to reporters ahead of the game. The Capitals are wrapping up a season-long home stand against the Panthers before getting back on the road for a back-to-back this weekend.
TvR did take the ice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex before the team’s morning skate which Carbery acknowledged was a step in the right direction. “Positive signs for him,” Carbery said. “Not going to play tonight but we’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then into the weekend. Maybe the backend of the back-to-back but we’ll see.”
The 32-year-old defender played just 1:34 against the Columbus Blue Jackets last week before exiting due to injury and has been listed as day-to-day by the team. He did not return to that game and the Capitals played the rest of it with just five defensemen.
Instead of recalling a defenseman to take TvR’s spot on the right-side of the team’s blueline, Carbery told reporters on Tuesday that the team will just move one of their extra left-handed players to their off side. That means that two of Alex Alexeyev, Hardy Haman Aktell, and Lucas Johansen will play against Florida. Alexeyev played a season-high 16 minutes against Columbus.
Kuznetsov also skated on Wednesday but it was his first time on the ice since playing 21:34 of ice time against Columbus. The Capitals recalled Mike Sgarbossa from the Hershey Bears in case Kuznetsov cannot go against Florida.
“[Kuznetsov] will be to be determined for tonight,” Carbery said. “Skated this morning which was a positive step but more of a game-time decision.”
If Kuznetsov cannot go, the plan is to move Connor McMichael into the top-six forward group to center the second line. Carbery says the last two center spots will have a “committee” approach with Sgabrossa, Hendrix Lapierre, and Aliaksei Protas moving in and out of roles depending on in-game context.
With Nicklas Backstrom now on long-term injured reserve, the Capitals have more than enough salary cap space to keep a full 23-man roster. Carbery was asked if due to that, Sgarbossa could stick around even past when Kuznetsov is fully healthy again.
“We need that extra forward to have the 13, especially with a back-to-back coming up,” Carbery said. “Sgarbs more for a specific role of being able to play center. We’ll see how that shakes out. I would expect him to [be with us through the weekend]. I’m not going to rule anything out just position specific on something that we need to do but for the foreseeable future right now.”
Veteran center Nic Dowd also skated on Wednesday but in a non-contact sweater. Carbery hinted that Dowd may not be ready for this weekend’s games but could return for next week’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights.
“Nic’s getting there,” Carbery said. “He’s starting to feel a lot better.”
Darcy Kuemper was the first goaltender off the ice at the morning skate so he’ll be the likely starter for the Capitals. Kuemper will be looking to bounce back from a 3-0 loss to the New York Islanders in his last start.
Puck drop against the Panthers is at a slightly later 7:30 pm. Florida is two points ahead of the Capitals in the Eastern Conference standings after beating Columbus on Monday.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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