ARLINGTON, V.A. — The Washington Capitals’ lineup didn’t see much change at practice on Monday, but there was one difference that stood out.
After being a healthy scratch for the first two games, McMichael finally drew into the mix. He took Hendrix Lapierre’s spot on the third line between Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie. The 20-year-old was making the most of his opportunity during the skate, showing speed and hustle along with strong playmaking. He engaged in battles, skated hard and felt comfortable playing alongside the two veterans.
“They’re two amazing players,” McMichael explained. “Osh is really good with the puck and Shears is pretty quick. That’s what I think I have in my game, so I think I’ll be able to do great on that line. We had some pretty good chemistry in practice.”
McMichael doesn’t know if he’s playing tomorrow but said it was a good sign to be on that third line.
“I thought we had a pretty good practice today so if I do get in tomorrow, I’ll be ecstatic, so I’m excited,” McMichael said.
Head coach Peter Laviolette said that was the option they’d consider, and that having both him and Lapierre is vital in filling in for Nicklas Backstrom.
“We obviously have a void that we need to fill for a little bit, and those two guys are natural centermen. They’re both here, they’re both young,” Laviolette said. “This is their real first opportunity to get in and out of games, and so we want to take a look at both of them and get an evaluation on where they’re both at just for moving forward.”
READ MORE ON WHN: Capitals May Have Found Full-Time Starter In Vitek Vanecek
Meanwhile, Backstrom has been skating, and Laviolette said he did hit the ice earlier on Monday. The Swede is on the LTIR and cannot return until Nov. 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers at the earliest, but right now, it appears the Capitals are being patient as he continues to rehabilitate and come back from a hip injury.
“He’s at the beginning of the process. I don’t have the exact details. I can’t tell you the plan yet, because I think they’re working through it. But he’s at the beginning,” Laviolette said. “We’re going to make sure that we’re doing everything to give his chances of coming back, being successful, that he feels good, he feels like he’s worked hard through this time, is in good shape. And eventually, you’ll see him out on the ice… we’ll go through that process. But he won’t be with our team tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, the Capitals continue to evaluate their goaltending situation, and right now, it would appear that Vitek Vanecek remains the go-to, though Peter Laviolette would not confirm anything for Tuesday against Colorado. He did say the plan was to eventually get Ilya Samsonov some action between the pipes.
Vanecek has been stellar in the first two games for Washington, boasting a .938 save percentage and 1.44 GAA.
“At some point, we’re going to put Sammy in. With regard to the goaltending, we’re looking for great goaltending, and I think we’ve gotten that,” Laviolette said. “I’ve said from camp that Vitek, to me, got the nod because of what he did and then the first two games, he hasn’t disappointed. His numbers are excellent, he’s made a lot of big saves through the course of the games to give us a chance… he’s done the job. At the end of the day, we’re looking for somebody to step up.”
In other news, Alex Ovechkin is the NHL’s second star of the week. He got stick taps at practice for his accomplishment. In two games so far, the Capitals captain has three goals and five points.