WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Capitals are back home after a long road trip up north and will see a couple of tweaks to the forward lines as they take on their division rival New York Islanders.
Lars Eller is still quarantining in Vancouver after testing positive for COVID-19. The Capitals had just 12 healthy forwards at Monday’s practice but brought up Mike Vecchione from Hershey to give the team an extra forward. Washington held an optional morning skate on Tuesday, so line combinations for Tuesday’s tilt with New York remain to be seen. On Monday, Connor McMichael filled in for Eller at center, while Daniel Sprong drew back into the mix.
When it comes to who will dress against the Isles, head coach Peter Laviolette wouldn’t say much, adding that Vecchione is just “here for now.” Based on his comments, it appears that Vecchione will be an extra and Sprong will indeed return. Sprong has been a healthy scratch for four straight games and eight of the last nine overall.
Laviolette would confirm, though, that Vanecek would start for Washington on Tuesday. Vanecek has won four straight starts and continues to prove that he can be a full-time No. 1. Through 29 games, Vanecek is 27-14-7 with a .918 save percentage and 2.35 GAA, along with three shutouts.
Here are what the Capitals’ forward lines looked like at Monday’s skate. Besides McMichael taking over for Eller and Sprong slotting in, the combinations stayed the same. Conor Sheary was still on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Meanwhile, Tom Wilson was still on the third line.
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Conor Sheary
Anthony Mantha-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Daniel Sprong-Connor McMichael-Tom Wilson
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
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Washington is 4-0-1 through its last five games and appears to have gotten back on track after an on and off stretch over the last two months. The team remains in a comfortable playoff position with a 32-18-10 record (74) points and is just three points behind the Boston Bruins for the first Wild Card spot. Meanwhile, New York is far from playoff territory but has been on a strong run with three straight wins. Former Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also recently secured his 900th career victory.
The last time these two teams squared off was on Jan. 15. Vanecek secured a 2-0 shutout for Washington.