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Capitals Notebook: Protas Fills In On Top Line, Unique Combos Arise Amid Injuries



Capitals forward Aliaksei Protas

As the Washington Capitals prepare for the Montreal Canadiens on Thanksgiving Eve, their roster situation is getting stranger and stranger.

Just days after coming off the injured reserve, T.J. Oshie headed back to the IR on Wednesday after suffering another lower-body injury following his return for the Capitals’ 4-0 victory over San Jose on Saturday.

To make matters worse, Conor Sheary also remains out. The 29-year-old suffered an upper-body injury in warm-ups against the Seattle Kraken on Sunday and was a late scratch. He returned to the ice prior to Wednesday’s morning skate but after skating for a few minutes, he left the ice and did not return.

In addition, Lars Eller is still absent and remains on the COVID-19 protocol.

RELATED: Capitals Place Oshie On Injured Reserve

In wake of even more injuries, the Capitals not only called up Mike Sgarbossa and Beck Malenstyn but will also roll with some interesting line combinations.

With Washington missing Sheary, Oshie and Eller, head coach Peter Laviolette is trying out some interesting line combinations. One of them: Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Aliaksei Protas.

Protas has been using his size and speed to his advantage, battling for pucks and generating a lot of scoring changes of late. He also picked up his first NHL point on the West Coast swing. He also almost had his first NHL goal, but it was waved off.

As a result of his strong play, the 20-year-old has gotten more trust and responsibility in these last few games, including time on the top power-play unit. Now, he’ll get to play alongside his childhood heroes.

“I think it’s gonna be really fun, really great experience for me,” Protas said. “When you like growing up watching these guys play and then now you’re playing with them. It’s really cool and I can’t wait to get going with these guys.”

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The Belarus native said that the three mainly communicate in Russian on that top trio and that they have helped him improve his game in different areas.

“They just help me get used to play with them, help me on the line… they help me a lot,” Protas said. “How should I where should I move, how should I play. So they helped me a lot and tonight is nice.

“I think you have to be focused every time playing with these guys because they so experienced. They like playmakers and they can make the play. You won’t feel it and you won’t wait for it, but it can count, so you have to be ready every second,” he added.

Here are the projected lines for Washington’s Wednesday night showdown with the Canadiens:

Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Aliaksei Protas

Daniel Sprong-Connor McMichael-Tom Wilson

Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway

Beck Malenstyn-Mike Sgarbossa-Brett Leason

Martin Fehervary-John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen

Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz

Ilya Samsonov will get the start after posting back-to-back shutouts on the Capitals’ West Coast trip.