The Washington Capitals saw adversity strike again on Tuesday against Pittsburgh, as Vitek Vanecek exited early in the first period with an upper-body injury. Now, they may see Pheonix Copley make his season debut between the pipes when they take on the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
Washington assigned Copley to the taxi squad from Hershey. If Vanecek is not ready to go, Copley could dress and even end up starting for the Capitals against Edmonton. Ilya Samsonov is coming off a busy workload in an unexpected start, where he shined with 43 saves on 45 starts en route to a big 4-3 OT win over Pittsburgh. So, head coach Peter Laviolette may not want to have him make back-to-back starts.
Samsonov came in relief of Vanecek early in the game against the Penguins after he collided hard with Kasperi Kapanen. He then surrendered a power-play goal and would not reeturn.
Copley has been outstanding for the Bears of late, winning both of his starts at the end of January. In those games, he stopped 52 of 55 shots for a .945 save percentage and 1.47 GAA.
The 30-year-old is 12-7-3 with a .906 save percentage and 2.50 GAA through 21 games this season. His numbers lead all Hershey netminders. In 215 total career AHL games, Copley is 112-67-24 with a .910 SV% and 2.54 GAA.
He is also no stranger to the NHL, having spent 2018-19 up with the Capitals as Braden Holtby’s backup. In 27 games, he was 16-7-3 with a .905 save percentage and 2.90 GAA.
Washington also recalled Copley with Vanecek on COVID-19 protocol back in December and early January, though he did not play. The Capitals gave a couple of games to his counterpart Zach Fucale, who continues to work his way onto the NHL radar. Hunter Shepard is also up in D.C. and dressed as the backup last night after Vanecek exited. He remains on the taxi squad.
Copley is a native of North Pole, Alaska and attended college at Michigan Tech, where he majored in mechanical engineering. He caught up with WHN to discuss his academic work and passion for books away from the ice.