ARLINGTON, V.A. — After a five-day break from the schedule, the Washington Capitals will return to game action on Sunday with a tilt against the Minnesota Wild.
Washington got a lot of likely positive news on the injury front, as new acquisition Johan Larsson appears ready to make his Capitals debut after recovering from sports hernia surgery. Nic Dowd also seems finally return to the lineup too from injury. He has missed the last five games after sustaining an upper-body injury following an awkward hit on Brendan Smith in a March 18 tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes.
On the blue line, it appears Trevor van Riemsdyk will also come back. TVR has also been out since March 18 following a lower-body injury and has been on the IR. Washington has missed his versatility and stability on the backend, and he will bring that back for Sunday’s critical game against a top team in the West.
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With the return of several injured names, the Capitals will see quite a shakeup on the forward lines. Not only will those players slot back in while others draw out, but the top-6 will also shuffle as head coach Peter Laviolette looks for a spark.
Here are the projected lines for Sunday:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Marcus Johansson
Anthony Mantha-Evgeny Kuznetsov-T.J. Oshie
Conor Sheary-Lars Eller-Tom Wilson
Johan Larsson-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
Connor McMichael and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby will be the extras to draw out for Washington. McMichael had been gaining traction and finding his rhythm at center, but will have to be the odd man out with Dowd returning. Meanwhile, Larsson will get to show what he can do on that powerhouse fourth line in place of Carl Hagelin, and AJF, who came up from the Hershey Bears as a potential Hagelin substitute, will take a seat.
Vitek Vanecek will start in net and has appeared to take the reins as the starter. Ilya Samsonov will back up.
The Capitals and Wild are currently in the midst of the final playoff push. Washington sits comfortably in the second Wild Card spot but is looking to find consistency and avoid complications with the New York Islanders gaining some traction. The Capitals are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and had a decent March, where they started the month 7-0-1.
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Players to watch for Washington include Tom Wilson, who is on a five-game point streak and has three goals and six points total over that span, as well as new acquisition Larsson. Also watch out for Anthony Mantha, who has points in three of his last four games.
Minnesota, meanwhile, sits second in the Central and is three points ahead of the St. Louis Blues, and the Wild Card race out West isn’t as secure, with several teams still in the running and the picture changing by the day. The Wild have been red-hot of late and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
As is the case with Minnesota, keep an eye on Kirill Kaprizov. He has goals and points in six straight games (seven goals, nine points). Kevin Fiala also has points in five of his last six games.