ARLINGTON, V.A. — It’d been nearly three years since Pheonix Copley suited up for the Capitals in the regular season when he took the ice against the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday. Now, he is getting his first start since 2019 as the team returns from the All-Star Break and begins the playoff push against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Copley was the first netminder off the ice at Tuesday’s morning skate, indicating that he will get the call against CBJ. He put up a strong showing against the Oilers, stopping 21 of 22 shots (.955 save percentage) after relieving Copley just 5:07 minutes into the first period following three goals against on four shots.
Head coach Peter Laviolette confirmed that Copley will get the start, citing that he had done a strong job in relief of Samsonov and due to the fact that Samsonov didn’t get to skate on Monday.
Samsonov will back up Vitek Vanecek, who suffered an upper-body injury on Tuesday, was still absent from practice. Per the NHL media site, he is on the injured reserve.
Copley has been on a strong stretch in Hershey of late. In his last six games, he has boasted a .944 save percentage. He said he has felt good and has started to get into a rhythm of late.
“For sure. Yeah, I mean, every time I get a chance out there I want to prove that I’m capable of playing a lot of games and capable of sticking [with it], that’s always my mindset when I get the chance,” Copley said, adding, “Now I got the chance and my goal is to keep continue to prove that I can play at this level. My mindset when I was going through all that was to use the frustration as a tool and work a little.”
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Meanwhile, it looks like Alex Ovechkin will return to the lineup against Columbus as well. He tested negative for COVID-19 and is clear to return from protocol.
The 36-year-old said he felt good and was asymptomatic after testing positive for COVID-19. He was disappointed to miss the game against Edmonton and the All-Star Weekend but is excited to gear up for the second half of the season, especially with more names likely to return from injury in the future.
“Most important thing like we gonna have Osh and Mo coming back soon,” Ovechkin said. “We gonna finally have full spots in the lineup but overall I think before the year we know like it’s gonna be hard year because of the covid and all this [protocols], you know? Nothing right now it is what it is. You have to go and play.”
Ovechkin said it was Laviolette’s decision whether or not he will play, but the head coach said No. 8 looked good and ready to go. He was back on the first line in line rushes, skating with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Conor Sheary. Connor McMichael also looks set to return after being a healthy scratch on Wednesday.
Here are what the line combinations looked like at the morning skate:
#ALLCAPS lines at morning skate:
— Sammi Silber (@sammisilber) February 8, 2022