The Washington Capitals got in a full practice on Monday after taking Sunday off post their victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Russian centerman Evgeny Kuznetsov missed that game against Columbus but returned from his illness for Monday’s skate.
Connor McMichael, who had been deputized to fill Kuznetsov’s absence in the lineup, stayed as the team’s second-line center during practice despite Kuzy’s return. McMichael has played the last two games in the Capitals’ top-six and scored a goal in Tuesday’s shutout win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
Here is how the team lined up via Monumental Sports Network’s Tarik El-Bashir.
McMichael stayed between Anthony Mantha and TJ Oshie while Kuznetsov split time with Hendrix Lapierre on the third line. McMichael has had an impressive start to his second full season of NHL action, earning more and more responsibility from head coach Spencer Carbery as the games have gone on.
He has also most importantly rewarded Carbery for that faith. Among all regular Capitals forwards, McMichael ranks third in individual shot attempts per 60 minutes (15.2), second in individual expected goals per 60 minutes (1.1), second in individual scoring chances per 60 minutes (9.2), and second in individual high-danger chances per 60 minutes (4.6).
The team’s third line was its best on Saturday night and “single-handedly” won them the game according to Carbery. Lapierre, Sonny Milano, and Aliaksei Protas combined for eight points (3g, 5a) in the victory. Lapierre recorded his first three points of the season in the win and could be the tough luck recipient of a healthy scratch due to Kuznetsov’s return.
“I think it’ll help Lappy just continue to grow,” Carbery said postgame. “It’s not going to change his trajectory in one game, but it just will build confidence for him going forward and just build on that, build on that. So good for him.”
The first line remains familiar as Dylan Strome stays with Alex Ovechkin after he fed The Great Eight a layup goal against Columbus. Same goes for the fourth line who started just one of their shifts in the win in the offensive zone.
O ain't missing that pic.twitter.com/oAZ027fUNk
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 19, 2023
On defense, Rasmus Sandin is back with John Carlson after the two were reunited on the top pair for much of the game against Columbus. That two-man unit combines to skate 43:39 of ice time per game this season with Carlson ranking first in the league there (26:16) and Sandin ranking 34th (23:23).
Joel Edmundson has earned a promotion into the top four after a successful debut with the Capitals. He skated 21:42 of ice time in his first game of the season and with him on the ice at five-on-five, the Capitals saw a plus-3 differential in high-danger chances.
“I thought he was solid,” Carbery said. “It’s always difficult coming in when guys have got their engines up and running and I thought he was solid. He played a bunch, reads and that were good, puck touches were good. I felt like he was smart about it. He’s a veteran guy. He played within himself tonight, was smart with his touches, kept it simple, moved pucks when he needed to. I think that will only get better as he gets more comfortable and games and minutes under his belt.”
Edmundson’s partner for the night, Trevor van Riemsdyk, made his own return from injury in that game and is now slated to skate with Alex Alexeyev on the third pairing. Lucas Johansen moves back out of the lineup and skated with extra forward Matthew Phillips. Phillips was healthy scratched against Columbus and looks headed for another scratch come Wednesday.
The Capitals’ next matchup comes against the Buffalo Sabres at Capital One Arena. The Sabres sit sixth in the Atlantic Division and will be without top gunner Tage Thompson after he suffered a “week-to-week” upper-body injury blocking a shot against the Boston Bruins last week.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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