The Washington Capitals are in for an interesting game on Tuesday, as Peter Laviolette returns to his former home in Nashville for a tilt with the Predators. Not only is Laviolette seeking his 700th career NHL win, but the team is also looking to put an end to a month-and-a-half long slump that has seen them trade wins and losses and unable to break out of bad habits and inconsistency.
With a win on the line, Laviolette is turning again to Ilya Samsonov to start, per The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell. Vitek Vanecek is on the road trip, but he is still recovering from an upper-body injury suffered on Feb. 1 against Pittsburgh. Pheonix Copley is also with the team. Samsonov struggled in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Ottawa, surrendering four goals on 26 shots (.846 save percentage), and through 27 games he is 15-7-3 with a .903 SV% and 2.91 GAA.
Washington held an optional skate on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena, so it’s unclear what exactly the lines will look like. However, the combinations only saw a slight change at Monday’s practice with the top-6 switching things up. Here’s what the combinations looked like at MedStar Capitals Iceplex:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Joe Snively-Nicklas Backstrom-Conor Sheary
Connor McMichael-Lars Eller-Daniel Sprong/Brett Leason
Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Maritn Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
This will be Laviolette’s first game at Bridgestone Arena since leaving the Predators following a 19-15-7 start to the 2019-20 season. He is not too focused on reuniting with familiar faces or the looming milestone victory, but is instead looking to get the Capitals to stop playing “.500 hockey.”
Still, when he does hit win No. 700, captain Alex Ovechkin insisted that the team would be thrilled for their bench boss.
“We gonna be happy for him obviously. He knows how to win. He love the game and we will be happy for him,” Ovechkin said.
“I think he’s honest to the player. He loves hockey. That’s the most important thing. He wants to win, he always wants to be a champion. He’s that kind of person,” he added.