Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov has been a full participant at practice for the past two days. Despite that, it doesn’t sound like head coach Spencer Carbery is ready to confirm his availability for Wednesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Kuznetsov missed Saturday’s win over the Columbus Blue Jackets with an illness and still has a lingering cough. The Russian centerman also stuck around for extra work after the skate and did not practice with either power play unit.
Carbery gave an update on Kuznetsov’s status after practice.
“We’ll see how he is tomorrow,” Carbery said. “He’s missed quite a bit of time just with being sick over the last couple weeks and having three days off of skating. Skated the last couple days. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
Kuznetsov currently ranks third on the team in scoring with eight points (3g, 5a) from 14 games. His minutes against Columbus were mostly split between two of the team’s youngest skaters in Hendrix Lapierre and Connor McMichael.
Lapierre took on the five-on-five workload while McMichael subbed in for Kuznetsov on the power play and soaked up more penalty-killing time. If Kuznetsov cannot go against the Blue Jackets, McMichael will likely get more work in the team’s first unit power play.
Here’s how the two units looked at practice via NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti.
PP1: Carlson, Ovechkin, Oshie, Strome, McMichael
PP2: Sandin, Phillips, Wilson, Mantha, Milano
At Monday’s skate, Kuznetsov split time during line rushes at third-line center with Lapierre. Lapierre had a career-best night when he subbed in for Kuznetsov, recording three points (1g, 2a). His goal ended up being the game winner.
Lapierre seemed to form instant chemistry with linemates Aliaksei Protas and Sonny Milano. The trio put up eight total points (3g, 5a) in the win. Postgame, Carbery credited them as the team’s difference makers.
“It’s one thing (for Lapierre) to do a few things — and Pro as well and Sonny Milano — to do those things and chip in with a goal obviously that’s huge and important, but the guys recognize when you single-handedly get the team two points, and that’s what happened,” Carbery said. “Those three goals that they score, that’s the difference in the game. That’s the two points in the win column for us, and that’s because of their line.”
The Capitals are carrying two extra forwards on their roster and Carbery confirmed that Nic Dowd, who missed Tuesday’s skate for maintenance, would be fine to play against the Sabres. If Kuznetsov cannot play, the Capitals will have plenty of center depth to cover for his absence again.
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
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