- Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters including NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti (Twitter link) that they have ruled out winger Tom Wilson for their final two games before the All-Star break. The 28-year-old left Tuesday’s game against Colorado after blocking a shot off his right leg. The team plans to re-evaluate him after the break. Wilson has played in just eight games this season after missing time with an ACL injury and has two goals and an assist so far.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of minor injury news to report from tonight’s games. We start in Florida, where head coach Paul Maurice said pregame that Sam Bennett wouldn’t be in the lineup when they take on the Penguins tonight.
Bennett took an awkward fall in yesterday night’s loss to the Rangers, immediately leaving the game and staying in the room through the first intermission. It didn’t hold him out of the rest of the game, however, as he would later return. While he won’t suit up tonight, it does seem to be a short-term absence for Bennett, who’s been in and out of the lineup over the past month with some minor injury concerns. Eetu Luostarinen, who’s impressed with 10 goals and 22 points in 49 games this year, slides into the top six with Bennett out.
- After leaving injured reserve a few days ago, Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry is back out of the lineup with an injury. His absence leaves both Pittsburgh and Florida without backup goalies on the bench for tonight’s game, as Spencer Knight was unexpectedly still unable to play and was a late absence from the Florida lineup. It’s hopefully a short-term absence for Jarry, who’s been spectacular with a .921 save percentage in 27 appearances for the Penguins this year.
- There’s some positive news on Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone, says ESPN’s Emily Kaplan. While he’ll be out through the All-Star break as expected, his back issue is different than the one that plagued him throughout last season, greatly reducing the likelihood of his long-term career being affected. Kaplan also says defenseman Shea Theodore, who’s been out since early December with an undisclosed injury, is an option for Friday’s game against the Rangers.
- Days after returning from significant hip surgery recovery, Nicklas Backstrom is back out of the Washington Capitals lineup with a non-COVID illness and is day-to-day. The 35-year-old has three assists in seven games since returning to the lineup.
- The Anaheim Ducks will also be down a player due to illness: defenseman John Klingberg. 25-year-old call-up Colton White moves into Anaheim’s top-four in Klingberg’s absence, playing on his off-side. Klingberg has just 15 points in 40 games this season, a career-low as he’s destined for free agency once again this offseason.
- Don’t expect the Washington Capitals to follow in the Boston Bruins’ footsteps regarding load management. While it was reported earlier this week that Bruins might consider resting captain Patrice Bergeron at points down the stretch, Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette told The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir that he does not intend to employ a similar technique with the Capitals roster, which has been prone to injuries for much of the season. El-Bashir suspects that the Capitals’ slim cushion on a playoff spot in a tight Eastern Conference discourages Laviolette from resting any stars, something the Bruins and their world-shattering pace don’t have to worry about.
After sending him down earlier this month, Aliaksei Protas has been recalled once again by the Washington Capitals. This move follows the announcement that Nic Dowd will miss some time with a lower-body injury.
Protas, 22, played five games with the Hershey Bears during his demotion, recording three assists in the process. Previously, he had played 41 games with the Capitals, scoring three goals and ten points. The 6’6″ forward saw less average ice time than a year ago, and before his send-down was getting just a handful of shifts.
Selected 91st overall in 2019, Protas hasn’t quite developed the offensive touch that the team had hoped for but is a reasonably reliable option to stick in the bottom six. He still doesn’t use his massive frame all that effectively (or at least all that aggressively), but has generated positive possession results so far, even in tough deployments.
Whether he gets into the lineup right away remains to be seen, as the Capitals head out on the road for three games. They’ll take on the Arizona Coyotes tomorrow night before having a pair of tough matchups in Vegas and Colorado to follow.
In the midst of a defensively excellent season, there will be a significant setback for Washington Capitals forward Nic Dowd. Head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters today that Dowd “will be out a while” as he undergoes evaluations on a lower-body injury.
Dowd sustained the injury last night, leaving after just two shifts against the New York Islanders. It’s his second lower-body injury this season, as one earlier caused him to miss a December 17 contest against Toronto. It’s unclear if the two are related.
The Alabama product has been a consistent fourth-line pivot since joining the Capitals in 2018. He has ten goals and 19 points in 44 games this season and continues to be a cornerstone presence defensively for Washington’s forwards.
He’s added more points this season, though, and is on a solid pace to break his career-high mark of 24, set last season. Lars Eller will have to do a lot of heavy lifting defensively in Dowd’s absence, and getting the legendary Nicklas Backstrom back in the fold recently eases the loss.
- Carl Hagelin was on the ice again this morning ahead of practice for the Washington Capitals, though he didn’t stay on when the main group arrived, according to Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. Washington recently got Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson back and now might have another veteran forward to add to the group in the coming weeks. The question now will be where exactly Hagelin fits into the lineup, given how long he’s been out. He last appeared in an NHL game in February of last year, scored just three goals last season, and is now 34.
December 8: According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Snively has cleared waivers. Snively will head to the Hershey Bears, Washington’s AHL affiliate, says Samantha Pell of the Washington Post. No new players were placed on waivers on Sunday, Friedman added.
December 7: With Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson set to return tomorrow, at least one waiver placement was expected from the Capitals today. That has come as NorthStar Bets’ Chris Johnson reports (Twitter link) that Washington has placed winger Joe Snively on waivers.
The 27-year-old saw his first NHL action last season and certainly made the most of it, notching four goals and three assists in just 12 games with the Caps. He also was quite productive at the minor league level with AHL Hershey, collecting 15 goals and 23 helpers in 35 contests with the Bears. That was enough for GM Brian MacLellan to commit a two-year, one-way extension worth $800K per season to Snively, a nice reward for the late bloomer.
However, things haven’t gone as well this season for Snively. He has been a frequent healthy scratch, suiting up just six times and just once since mid-November. He has a single assist in those contests while averaging just over 12 minutes a night. The role he was supposed to fill as a bottom-six offensive contributor has since been filled by early-season signing Sonny Milano and now with Backstrom and Wilson set to return, Washington just can’t afford to keep Snively on the roster any longer.
Despite the limited action and production this season, there is a chance that a team is willing to take a chance on Snively. With a cap hit that’s just $50K above the league minimum in 2022-23 (and just $25K above the minimum next season), claiming him would be of little risk to even most cap-strapped squads if they’re looking to try someone else in a depth role. Washington will find out if they’re able to return Snively to Hershey at 1 PM CT on Sunday.
The good news for Washington keeps on coming. After revealing earlier today that center Nicklas Backstrom will make his season debut on Sunday against Columbus, they’ve now announced (Twitter link) that winger Tom Wilson will also suit up for the first time in 2022-23 against the Blue Jackets.
The 28-year-old underwent surgery back in May to repair a torn ACL. Originally diagnosed with a recovery period of six to eight months, this return date falls pretty much in the middle of that range.
While Wilson has gotten himself into trouble from a league disciplinary standpoint over the years, he has also become one of the premier power forwards in the NHL. He has reached the 20-goal mark in three of the last four seasons with the one he didn’t being the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign where he scored at a 23-goal pace.
As is the case with Backstrom, Wilson will certainly need some time to get back into prime playing shape but he’ll be a big addition to what has already been a fairly deep attack so far this season. He has spent a lot of time in recent years on Washington’s top line and while it will likely take a little while for him to get there, that could very well be the spot he winds up in eventually.
With Aliaksei Protas being sent down to make room for Backstrom, the Capitals will likely have to turn to the waiver wire to create a spot for Wilson to be activated into. Wingers Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Joe Snively appear to be the likeliest casualties with them having limited roles when they’ve been in the lineup. While the Capitals could designate one of them as waivers/non-roster tomorrow, it’s possible that they could make that waiver placement today, freeing up the roster spot and cap space on Sunday before formally activating both Wilson and Backstrom.
A few months ago, there were questions as to whether Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom would be able to play ever again, let alone this season. However, his recovery from hip resurfacing surgery has gone well and the veteran is ready to suit up as the team announced (Twitter link) that he will make his season debut tomorrow against Columbus.
Backstrom will become only the second NHL player to play after undergoing this procedure. Long-time blueliner Ed Jovanovski was the other as he suited up in 37 games with Florida back in the 2013-14 season before the team bought him out.
The 35-year-old’s return will undoubtedly be a big boost to Washington’s lineup. Even while playing through the injury last season, he had 31 points in 47 games while before that, he had been in the top three in scoring for the Capitals for nine straight years. While there will certainly be an adjustment period as he plays his way back into game conditioning, Backstrom should be able to deepen what has already been a pretty strong attack this season as the Caps enter play today with the fourth-most goals in the NHL.
Backstrom, who carries a $9.5MM AAV, is currently on LTIR which means that the Capitals will need to get cap-compliant in order to activate him. They’ve already made the first move as Tarik El-Bashir of The Athletic relays (Twitter link) that defenseman John Carlson has been transferred to LTIR. Carlson, who will miss a few months after taking a shot to the face last month, carries an $8MM AAV which will cover most of what they’ll need to clear to activate Backstrom.
The Capitals needed to free up a roster spot as well in order to welcome Backstrom back onto the roster. It will be sophomore center Aliaksei Protas that cedes his spot as the team announced that he has been sent down. Protas was a healthy scratch last night against Nashville and was the lone waiver-exempt player on the roster so he was the logical choice. The 22-year-old has largely been a regular this season having played in 41 games (while recording 10 points) but subbing in Backstrom for him will certainly improve Washington’s chances of holding down a playoff spot in the tight Metropolitan Division.
The Washington Capitals are expected to get T.J. Oshie back in the lineup tonight, though he has been officially listed as a game-time decision. The veteran forward hasn’t played since December 17 and has just 22 appearances under his belt this season. Those have been relatively unsuccessful appearances, too, with Oshie registering just two points in the 11 games prior to the injury. He has just five goals and 11 points on the year.
Still, with Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, and Tom Wilson all returning relatively soon, the Capitals have several key veterans getting back for the second-half run. Whether that can result in legitimate Stanley Cup contention remains to be seen, but they’ve been doing just fine so far. Washington is 8-1-1 in their last ten and have closed the gap to just two points between them and the tail-spinning New Jersey Devils for second in the Metropolitan Division.