WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Capitals could see some good news on the injury front on Saturday when they play host to the New Jersey Devils.
Washington is coming off of a 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday and is playing its second game of a back-to-back series. The Capitals are looking to make it two straight wins and get back to the strong start they had earlier in the month after a bit of a lull over the last week. There was no morning skate, but head coach Peter Laviolette said in his pregame media availability that Nic Dowd or T.J. Oshie could play on Saturday.
“We’ve got guys warming up, so I’m hopeful,” Laviolette said. “We’ll see.”
Trevor van Riemsdyk was eligible to come off the injured reserve on Saturday. However, he is still day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Dowd and Oshie have been skating over the last week. Oshie suffered a lower-body injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 17. Dowd was then injured (upper-body) following a strange hit on Brendan Smith on March 18 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
If Dowd or Oshie can’t go, Washington will again have to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen, as they have no extra skaters upfront with Johan Larsson still recovering from sports hernia surgery. They have dressed Matt Irwin and Michal Kempny on the blue line over the last two games, with each getting one full game on the third pairing with Justin Schultz.
Vitek Vanecek, meanwhile, will get the nod. Ilya Samsonov started on Friday, stopping 20 of 23 shots (.870 save percentage) en route to his 19th win of the season.
Washington remains in a comfortable playoff position with a 36-20-10 record (82 points). The Capitals sit three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the first Wild Card spot in the East. The Devils, meanwhile, sit last in the Metropolitan Division and second-to-last in the conference with a 23-26-5 record (51 points).
Players to watch for D.C.: Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is on an 11-game point streak, and Alex Ovechkin, who has nine goals in his last 11 outings and sits just 29 red lights away from 800 career goals. He is 31 away from passing Gordie Howe for No. 2 on the NHL’s all-time goals list and 124 away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894.
On the New Jersey side of the matchup, look out for Jesper Bratt, who leads the Devils with 63 points in 59 appearances. He is on a five-game point streak and has points in eight of his last nine outings, with 13 points in that span. Jack Hughes also remains dangerous and has 50 points in 44 games, including points in four of his last five appearances.
The Capitals will honor Nicklas Backstrom pregame for hitting the 1,000-point milestone on March 9 against the Edmonton Oilers. Fans will receive a squishy “NIKY” apple to commemorate the milestone, and the team will also hold a ceremony for No. 19 before puck drop.
Here were Friday’s lines:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Marcus Johansson
Anthony Mantha-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson
Connor McMichael-Conor Sheary
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby-Lars Eller-Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Matt Irwin-Justin Schultz