WASHINGTON, D.C. — With just 10 games left in the season, the Washington Capitals are finding their spark at the perfect time, while also dealing with a few ailments. As they look for their fourth straight win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, the team will also continue to experiment with line shuffling as another key player could sit against the Flyers.
After missing Sunday’s matinee against the Boston Bruins due to body maintenance, Nicklas Backstrom took part in rushes on Tuesday and appears to be back in the mix. Head coach Peter Laviolette and Backstrom both said that the Sunday scratch was planned and allowed him to get some rest. With No. 19 in and no more players dealing with a non-COVID illness that held Garnet Hathaway and Conor Sheary out last week, Washington saw a majority of its forwards healthy. In turn, there were more line changes upfront.
Lars Eller returned to the third-line center. Marcus Johansson, who picked up his first goal back with the Capitals on Saturday, moved back up to the top-6, while Anthony Mantha went down to 3LW to work with Eller and Tom Wilson. The Johan Larsson-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway line reunited. Connor McMichael will draw back out after coming in for the last three games.
On defense, Dmitry Orlov is questionable but hopeful against Philly as he deals with a lower-body ailment. In turn, Matt Irwin found himself drawing in on the bottom pairing with Justin Schultz, while Trevor van Riemsdyk moved to the top-4 to fill in for Dmitry Orlov.
Here are what the lines looked like, per The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Conor Sheary
Marcus Johansson-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Anthony Mantha-Lars Eller-Tom Wilson
Johan Larsson-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Nick Jensen
Matt Irwin-Justin Schultz
READ MORE ON WHN: Meetings, Shift In Mentality Helped Capitals Find Spark At Perfect Time
As the Capitals goalies continue to battle for the No. 1 spot, head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters that Ilya Samsonov will get his third start in the Capitals’ last four games. Samsonov is 6-1-0 with a .920 save percentage in seven career games against Philadelphia. He last played on Saturday in Pittsburgh, recovering from a shaky start for a perfect final two periods (29/32 shots, .906 save percentage) en route to his 50th NHL win.
When it comes to players to watch, keep an eye on Alex Ovechkin, who has goals in three straight games, as well as Wilson, who hit a new career-high in goals (23) back on Sunday and also hit 50 points in a season for the first time in his career. Another player to monitor is Eller. The Dane hasn’t had the season he wanted, but of late, he’s been making himself noticeable and picked up two points in his return to pivot back on Sunday.
On the Flyers side, this is the first time Philly will face Washington since the Claude Giroux trade. They will look to Travis Konecny, who has points in back-to-back games, to step up. Cam Atkinson is also the Flyers’ leading scorer with 50 points in 72 games and will be looking to break out.
Washington (40-22-10, 94 points) is looking to continue to shake up the East playoff picture and move up in the Metropolitan Division race. Meanwhile, the Flyers (23-31-11) sit second-to-last in the Metro and are looking to finish the season strong and bust out of a tough stretch that has seen them drop three of their last four games and go 3-7-0 in their last 10 games.