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Capitals Game Day

Capitals Game Day: Defense Shuffles As Caps Battle Sabres

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Capitals defenseman Matt Irwin

The Washington Capitals are looking to bounce back following two consecutive losses and are ready to see some lineup changes as they head up north to take on the Buffalo Sabres.

Head coach Peter Laviolette is also going with Ilya Samsonov between the pipes on Friday, as Vitek Vanecek will face Jack Hughes and the New Jersey Devils on Saturday in the second game of a back-to-back.

Signs pointed to Nic Dowd potentially returning from an injury that has held him out the last two games as he took rushes at the morning skate, per The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell, but he will remain out and miss his third straight game. Washington will again run with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, but Matt Irwin will be on a pairing with Justin Schultz while Michal Kempny will be the extra.

Here are the lines for Friday’s game:

Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Marcus Johansson

Anthony Mantha-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby-Lars Eller-Garnet Hathaway

Connor McMichael-Conor Sheary

Martin Fehervary-John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen

Matt Irwin-Justin Schultz

Michal Kempny

T.J. Oshie was also at the morning skate in Buffalo and was skating with extras. He will likely miss his fourth straight game after suffering a lower-body injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 17. Trevor van Riemsdyk is still on the injured reserve and can come off for Saturday’s game against New Jersey. Johan Larsson, who was acquired at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, is still recovering from sports hernia surgery and will not draw in yet.

READ MORE ON WHN: What Johan Larsson Brings To Table For Capitals

Meanwhile, on the blue line, it appears that Laviolette is going with Irwin over Michal Kempny.

Irwin did dress for the Capitals’ 5-2 loss against the St. Louis Blues, but he was mainly an extra as the team dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen for cap reasons. He skated just 29 seconds to get credit for a game played in the defeat. Irwin’s last full game came on Jan. 28 against the Dallas Stars. Through 16:49 minutes, he dished two hits and three blocks and was a plus-2. With Irwin in the lineup, Washington is 9-5.

Laviolette’s decision to dress Irwin over Kempny comes after a tough outing for Kempny against the Blues. Kempny took two unnecessary penalties and also struggled quite a bit in his own end. However, he did have surges where he helped generate pressure on the forecheck.

The Capitals had a great start to the month of March, going 7-0-1 before dropping their last two games.

When it comes to players to watch, Evgeny Kuznetsov is still on a tear after extending his point streak to 10 games on Tuesday, but also keep an eye on Marcus Johansson, who had some good looks and will stay on that top line and look to make an impact against his former team in Buffalo, while also getting time on PP2 again. Tage Thompson is the guy to keep an eye on for the Sabres; he’s on a three-game point streak and has six points in his last five games overall. Jeff Skinner also has points in back-to-back games.

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