After a five-day COVID-19 pause and holiday break, the Washington Capitals welcomed some familiar faces back into the mix, but are still missing some key pieces. As a result, they made quite a few adjustments that they’ll rely on when they return to game action against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday.
Washington saw Daniel Sprong, Justin Schultz, Nick Jensen, Martin Fehervary, Dennis Cholowski and Vitek Vanecek enter the COVID-19 protocol over the holiday break. Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie were also on that list, and although Backstrom and Kuznetsov are back in action, Oshie remains out. Per the team, all three are technically still on protocol and will come off when they play.
Although Oshie is not in the mix, the Capitals do have a mostly healthy forward lineup. The team currently has all of its usual top-4 centers in the mix. If that holds, Wednesday will mark the first time all four of them will play in the same game. It also looks like Tom Wilson is ready to return from an upper-body injury he suffered in early December, as he’s been a fixture on the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.
However, the blue line tells a different story. Three of the usual top-6 defensemen are out of the picture, and Cholowski is also unavailable. That leaves Washington currently working with seven defensemen, including Michal Kempny, who was called up on Monday and could play in his first regular-season game since March 2020 on Wednesday. Also in the mix is another rookie who could make his NHL debut: Alex Alexeyev.
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The Russian has been skating on the third pairing with Matt Irwin since Monday, and if those pairings hold, he’ll be the seventh rookie to make his NHL debut for the Capitals this season.
Here are what the lines looked like on Tuesday:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Conor Sheary-Nicklas Backstrom-Aliaksei Protas
Connor McMichael-Lars Eller-Garnet Hathaway
Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Brett Leason
Dmitry Orlov-John Carlson
Michal Kempny-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Alex Alexeyev-Matt Irwin
Ilya Samsonov and Pheonix Copley are currently the only healthy Capitals goalies.
Meanwhile, the Predators are dealing with their own COVID-19 issues, and have their captain Roman Josi on COVID-19 protocol, along with Colton Sissons and Tommy Novak.