With a couple of key names missing at Wednesday’s practice, the Washington Capitals experimented with a few interesting line combinations.
Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie didn’t skate again after missing Sunday’s game and Tuesday’s practice with non-COVID illnesses. Meanwhile, Dmitry Orlov missed the skate with an upper-body injury he appeared to suffer early on at Tuesday’s skate.
On the bright side, Connor McMichael, who missed the last practice with a non-COVID illness, returned for the skate, and Ilya Samsonov, who appeared to also suffer an injury on Tuesday, was back on the ice. Mike Sgarbossa also skated after coming up to the taxi squad from Hershey on Wednesday, and Martin Fehervary continued skating. On Tuesday, he returned to the ice with the team for the first time since before the COVID-19 pause after entering protocol on Dec. 24.
At Tuesday’s skate, Garnet Hathaway got a promotion to the top line, skating with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Hathaway has been stellar of late, picking up points in five of his last six games, including two goals and four assists over that span. Meanwhile, Tom Wilson went to the second line to work with Conor Sheary and Lars Eller.
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With those changes, Brett Leason took Hathaway’s place on that checking line with Carl Hagelin and Nic Dowd. And to close out the forward lines, Daniel Sprong dropped to the fourth line to skate with Connor McMichael, Mike Sgarbossa and Aliaksei Protas.
On the blue line, Trevor van Riemsdyk, who has been versatile and a key part of Washington’s success this season, took Orlov’s place on the second pairing with Nick Jensen. Michal Kempny had slotted in there on Tuesday. Matt Irwin, meanwhile, returned to the defense after filling in on the forward lines on Tuesday, taking TVR’s spot on the last pairing with Justin Schultz. That left Michal Kempny and Dennis Cholowski working together as the extras.
Here were the full line combinations, per The Washington Post‘s Samantha Pell.
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Garnet Hathaway
Conor Sheary-Lars Eller-Tom Wilson
Carl Hagelin-Nic Dowd-Brett Leason
Daniel Sprong-Connor McMichael/Mike Sgarbossa-Aliaksei Protas
Martin Fehervary-John Carlson
Trevor van Riemsdyk-Nick Jensen
Matt Irwin-Justin Schultz
Michal Kempny-Dennis Cholowski
Both Capitals goalies in Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, who has also been skating since returning from COVID-19 protocol, were on the ice.