ARLINGTON, V.A. — After a day off following a rewarding team win over the two-team defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the Washington Capitals got back to work ahead of a busy weekend that sees two key East matchups with 12 games left in the season.
Washington continues to experiment with new-look combinations as the team prepares for key back-to-back games this weekend. The Capitals face Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon and then return to D.C. to host Boston on Sunday.
Garnet Hathaway returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s game with a non-COVID illness. However, it looks like a bug could be going around, as Conor Sheary was sick and missed Friday’s skate.
For the most part, head coach Peter Laviolette kept the same lines that found success against the Bolts back on Wednesday. With Sheary out, Hathaway skated on the first-line wing with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin. Connor McMichael stayed in at third-line center, while Lars Eller continued to work on the fourth-line wing.
McMichael had started to get into a rhythm while switching back to his natural center position, and Hathaway’s absence on Wednesday gave him an opportunity to draw back in. Meanwhile, Eller got to work in a new position, transitioning to the from pivot.
Laviolette liked what he saw from the combinations and thought both Eller and McMichael did a good job with their new roles. However, it’s unclear whether or not Washington will stick with these type of combinations if Sheary is ready to go for the weekend.
Here are what the combinations looked like:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Garnet Hathaway
Anthony Mantha-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson
Marcus Johansson-Connor McMichael-T.J. Oshie
Lars Eller-Nic Dowd-Johan Larsson
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby rotated in as the extra forward, and Michal Kempny and Matt Irwin were the extra blueliners. Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek are expected to split the weekend workload.