The Washington Capitals are making some changes to their top-6, and with Lars Eller returning to the lineup, Daniel Sprong is the odd man out and will be a healthy scratch for Sunday’s matinee with Carolina.
Sprong had been interchanging on the second-line left wing with Connor McMichael at practice on Saturday as Eller slotted back in at 2C with Tom Wilson on the right side.
Eller is back in after missing the last six games due to COVID-19. The 32-year-old tested positive on the Capitals’ West Coast swing and had to quarantine in Anaheim for 10 days while dealing with “mild” symptoms. He said he felt good and his breathing was normal as he got back on the ice and will be full-go against the Hurricanes.
With No. 20 back, Washington now has 13 healthy forwards, with T.J. Oshie, Anthony Mantha and Nicklas Backstrom still nursing injuries. Beck Malenstyn and Mike Sgarbossa were recently called up to make up for Oshie and Eller’s voids, and their fourth line with Brett Leason has gotten trust and praise from head coach Peter Laviolette.
READ MORE ON WHN: Capitals’ Eller Opens Up About COVID-19 Experience, Sanity In Quarantine
Taking that into account, there was no desire to break up that line — or the Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway combination. So, it came down to the second line and looking at the big picture, it looks like McMichael has won that spot in the lineup over Sprong.
Through 20 games this season, Sprong has just three goals and six points, including a goal and helper in his last seven. His 43 shots rank fourth on the team, and though he’s getting chances, he can’t seem to execute.
McMichael has two goals and seven points through 19 games and he has also improved in many different areas. He is getting to the net, generating high-danger chances and also helping bolster the power play. At center, he appears much more comfortable and improved in the face-off dot. He has won over 60 percent of his face-offs in three of his last four games.