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Prove It: Laviolette Gives McMichael ‘Unbelievable’ Chance With Oshie Out



Capitals forward Connor McMichael

The Washington Capitals are again facing adversity, as T.J. Oshie joins an ever-growing injury list and will be out indefinitely. And with him out and the team in need of a top-6 winger, all eyes are on Connor McMichael.

McMichael, who has been a healthy scratch for eight of nine games to open the season, will draw back in on Monday against the Carolina Hurricanes, skating on the second line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Marcus Johansson. Head coach Peter Laviolette sees it as a big chance for the 21-year-old to show what he can do, and he expects him to capitalize.

“This is an unbelievable opportunity for him,” Laviolette said.

McMichael, who had 18 points in his 68-game rookie year in 2021-22, will play in just his second game of the 2022-23 campaign. Coming into the season, he had the opportunity to win the second-line center role and a permanent spot in the lineup with Nicklas Backstrom out long-term following hip resurfacing surgery. However, he could not make the most of it, and after a so-so camp and preseason, he found himself among the scratches.

“He’s excited to play. I think when you come to camp, you want to get into the lineup and be a starter and be a regular. And it had not worked out for Mikey that way to this point,” Laviolette added.

READ MORE ON WHN: Washington Capitals Tweak Lineup vs. Carolina Hurricanes As Injuries Pile Up

Amid the scratches, the 6-0, 185-pound center has been working to stay in game shape and waiting for his chance to draw back in. Some were also curious as to whether or not he would head to the AHL’s Hershey Bears for more ice time and opportunity to develop. Laviolette put that conversation to rest, affirming he is “part of our 23” and won’t be going back down.

“It is hard for sure. Mentally and trying to stay in shape, and our coaching staff has done a great job running drills to keep our conditioning up and on the mental side you just got to keep telling yourself your time’s gonna come and that’s what I’ve been doing. Obviously, situations like this do happen and I’m ready.”

When he made his season debut on Oct. 20 against the Ottawa Senators, he didn’t get to impress much, having his first NHL fight but not much else in just 8:33 minutes of ice time. This time, though, he and Joe Snively are the only extra forwards, and with Oshie, Backstrom (hip resurfacing surgery), Tom Wilson (ACL surgery), Carl Hagelin (hip surgery) and Connor Brown (lower-body) all hurting, he has 60 minutes to make his case on Monday.

It won’t be easy, as he and the shorthanded Capitals will face the high-flying Hurricanes, who are among the NHL’s top teams and play with speed and star power. Washington isn’t making any excuses though, as was the case on Saturday when they rallied from first-period injuries to Oshie and John Carlson (day-to-day) for a 3-0 win over the Nashville Predators.

“This is the hand we’re dealt for tonight, and we’re gonna play that hand hard,” Laviolette said.