WASHINGTON, D.C. — Looking back at March 12, 2020, the Washington Capitals were preparing for a — possible — tilt with the Detroit Red Wings at Capital One Arena. That game, which was ultimately canceled hours before puck drop, was the last of the 2019-20 regular season for both clubs before the COVID-19 pause.
Now, these two very different-looking teams will make up that game on Wednesday. Washington currently sits second in the Metro and 4-0-2 to start the year and Detroit is third in the Atlantic with a 3-2-1 record through six games.
It will be Anthony Mantha’s first tilt with his former team since the Red Wings traded him to the Capitals in exchange for Jakub Vrana, a 2021 first-rounder and 2022 second-rounder. He had dinner with Dylan Larkin, Robby Fabbri and Michael Rasmussen.
“I never got traded. Never. So first game tonight,” Mantha said with a smile. “It’s gonna be fun, I think. I’m excited… just to see how it is on the ice, it’s gonna be an experience that’s for sure. I’ll just try to have fun and score some goals.”
Fabbri agreed, saying it’ll be a fun tilt.
“It’ll be different, first one against him,” Fabbri noted. “It was nice to have some dinner and be able to do that stuff on the road and get to see him last night. So that will be fun, there will be some laughs out there for sure.”
Wednesday would have been Vrana’s homecoming as well. However, he is out until at least late January after suffering a shoulder injury to open training camp and undergoing surgery.
Nick Jensen will also face off against his former club in Detroit. Dennis Cholowski is also a former Red Wing but will be a healthy scratch.
READ MORE ON WHN: How Capitals Plan To Spark Their Struggling Power Play
Meanwhile, at Washington’s morning skate, things got a bit interesting. Nic Dowd (day-to-day, lower-body) skated with the team in a blue jersey while getting back up to speed. The lines appeared the same as last game against Ottawa, with Lars Eller taking his place with Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway.
However, later on, Daniel Sprong was taking reps with the team’s scratches, indicating that he could be out for Wednesday’s tilt. He played just 7:42 minutes against the Senators skating on a line with Conor Sheary and Hendrix Lapierre.
Taking that into account, the Capitals need an extra forward. That could be Dowd returning.
Vitek Vanecek will get the start for the Capitals after Ilya Samsonov started last game against Ottawa, making 32 saves on 37 shots. Vanecek last started against the Flames but was pulled after the first period after surrendering three goals on 13 shots.
Here’s what Washington’s lines looked like at the morning skate:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Anthony Mantha-Connor McMichael-T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin-Lars Eller-Garnet Hathaway
Conor Sheary-Hendrix Lapierre-Daniel Sprong
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Nick Jensen
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Justin Schultz
If Dowd does draw in, I’d imagine that Eller would return to the second line and that we’d see either Connor McMichael or Hendrix Lapierre move to the wing.
Washington’s power play will get a chance to operate against Detroit, who has the ninth-worst penalty-kill percentage in the league (76 percent). Thomas Greiss will get the nod for the Wings.