As the Washington Capitals take on the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, they will do so without several key names as the injuries pile up. Despite making call-ups, though, the Capitals are sticking with the pieces that made up their opening night roster.
Sonny Milano, Garrett Pilon and Lucas Johansen made the trip to Motor City, but will not play against the Red Wings. The three are healthy scratches, as Connor McMichael and Joe Snively will slot in with six top forwards on the shelf, while Matt Irwin will continue to fill in for John Carlson on the blue line. Also, the lines aren’t changing too much, with only a few pieces moving around on the wings but the centers staying in tact.
For head coach Peter Laviolette, the reasoning behind the lack of a roster shakeup is simple:
“Right now they’re just part of the roster. We decided to go with the guys that have been here,” Laviolette said after the pregame skate, adding, “The start of the year didn’t go exactly the way we want… tonight, we’re gonna continue to go with these guys. They can get acclimated here as they settle in a bit. We made a decision to go with the guys that we have already.”
Washington is coming off back-to-back overtime losses on Monday and Tuesday, and amid the influx of injuries, the Capitals need to make an assessment of the pieces they have, what works and what doesn’t. Thursday is a good stepping stone, as the team can begin by getting a closer look at their NHL extras in McMichael and Snively rather than immediately throwing last-minute call-ups who made the trip to Detroit into the lineup. It also rewards the players who have been waiting longer up with the big club for their chance.
Friday will be an off day before the team gets right back into game action against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. That game could likely see names like Milano debut, especially as Laviolette gets a better look at pieces and combinations that work well together.
Overall, it’s a marathon and not a sprint. The Red Wings tilt will mark a first step of assessing the state of the team and the combinations that work, and then on Saturday, things could change when it comes to player swaps, new lines or pairings.