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Pheonix Copley is back from injury and that's good news for the Caps' goalie depth

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Pheonix Copley is back from injury and that's good news for the Caps' goalie depth

Highly-regarded goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley is expected to be back in the nets for Hershey on Friday when the Bears play in Rochester.

That, obviously, is good news for Capitals’ minor league affiliate. But it’s important for the big club, too.

Why?

Because for the past few weeks, Washington was an injury or illness to Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer away from being forced to dip deep into their system for help at the game’s most important position.

RELATED: CAPS' PENALTY KILL WASN'T GREAT BUT GOT THE JOB DONE

Now—assuming everything goes smoothly for Copley in his return—the Caps will have their No. 3 netminder healthy and ready for duty in the event there’s a need.

Capitals Coach Barry Trotz used the word “comfort” when asked about what Copley’s return means for Washington.

“It means we have a good third goalie,” Trotz said after Friday’s optional practice in Arlington.  “We had been using guys that were really [No.] four or five on the depth chart playing in Hershey. So an injury to us, or God forbid we had two injuries, we’d be into our five and six, really.”

“And that,” he cracked, “is even deeper than Vegas.”

Trotz, of course, was referring to the Golden Knights, who have seen three goalies go down with injuries in the season’s first 12 games.

That’s an extreme example. But it’s not uncommon for teams to need their No. 3 goalie at some point during a grueling 82-game regular season.  

And now the Caps can breathe a bit easier knowing that their No. 3 is back in action.

Copley originally suffered a significant groin injury while playing for the Bears in the postseason last spring. After a summer of rehab, the 25-year-old arrived in Washington’s training camp healthy. He made three appearances in the preseason, in fact, and played well.

Upon returning to Hershey, though, Copley aggravated the original injury and was advised to rest and rehab. He ended up missing about a month, including the Bears’ first nine games.

“We figured out what’s wrong…Obviously, he’s healed up if he’s going in tonight,” Trotz said.

MORE CAPITALS: CAPS' TOP PROSPECT REPORTEDLY SUFFERS CONCUSSION IN KHL GAME

If Copley feels good against the Americans and doesn’t face too heavy a workload, he could start Sunday’s game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  

Copley’s return wasn’t the only good news on Friday for the Caps’ goaltending situation, though. No. 4 goalie Vitek Vanecek, who suffered a lower-body injury in a preseason game with the Capitals and has been sidelined since, has been reassigned the ECHL Stingrays. If all goes well, he could rejoin Hershey as the Bears’ No. 2 goalie very soon.

“Hopefully we get that in order because it gives us comfort,” Trotz said. “Obviously, we’ve got Grubi, who is healthy, but it gives us comfort because things happen quickly as you’ve seen around the league.” 

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Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

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Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

Nicklas Backstrom has made a career out of setting up other players, but what many forget is that he is a pretty darn good scorer in his own right. Just not these days.

Backstrom had three goals in the first six games of the season, but since then he has been held scoreless. His last goal game on Oct. 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA!

Offense, in general, has been hard to come by for the veteran center who also underwent a career-long seven-game pointless streak.

While Backstrom has managed to get back on the score sheet with three assists in his last five games, he still can’t seem to get a goal.

“Obviously you want to score,” Backstrom said. “That's a no brainer, but at the same time you've just got to stick with it. I mean, at least I created chances tonight.”

While the goals may not be there, however, the chances are. For Barry Trotz, that’s an encouraging sign.

“Backy was on the bench, I gave him a little tap I said you know the hockey gods will even that out,” Trotz said. “You probably could have had three tonight and he'll probably get one of those leaky lizards go through the legs or through the arms and one from a bad angle. They'll even it out for him.”

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN GETS STITCHES AFTER GETTING HIT BY PUCK, BUT REMAINS INDESTRUCTIBLE

With Backstrom taking on a more defensive shutdown role this season, his offensive numbers have taken a hit. The Capitals, however, do not have the same scoring depth as in recent years and need Backstrom, still arguably their best center, to produce offensively in order to be successful. He is just too good of a player to not produce.

But given his recent play, Trotz is not all that concerned and believes the goals are coming. Backstrom seems to agree.

“The sun goes up the next day anyway even if I don't score,” he said, “So you've just got to stick with it, work hard and hopefully you'll get rewarded.”

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Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

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Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

It's always scary when you see a player get hit in the head with a puck. It's even scarier when you're a fan of the Caps and that player is Alex Ovechkin.

But there's is one thing you should always remember before you worry about the Great 8: He is not built like a normal human being.

Ovechkin was struck in the face by a puck in the second period of Saturday's game against the Minnesota Wild. It was a scary moment made scarier by the pool of blood he left behind on the ice as he made his way to the locker room.

RELATED: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS BEAT THE WILD

"Anybody who takes a puck to the face, you hope that they're not hurt badly," Barry Trotz said after the game. "Anytime you get hit to the face there's usually pretty good leakage. I saw, I knew he got hit in the face and in the mouth area and there was pretty good leakage around our bench and he went off and we were just hoping that it's not too serious."

Remarkably, it wasn't serious. Ovechkin missed the remainder of the second period, but returned for the third. After the game, there were a few stitches in his lip, but otherwise there appeared to be no serious damage.

Ovechkin said that after he had been hit he "Just tried to feel my tooth and it was fine. Just moving a little bit, but it's fine. It's hockey."

The fact that no serious damage was done turned what was a scary moment into one both players and coach could laugh at afterward.

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"He's a big strong man and he's got a few zippers so he's a lot better looking now that they fixed him up and all that," Trotz said. "It's when you get stitched up, that's the great thing about medicine, they can make you look great."

"It can be much worser," Ovechkin said when asked if he was scared in the moment. "I could lose my teeth."

Nicklas Backstrom had the same thought many of you are probably asking yourself right now: "Does he have any more teeth?"

It was just another reminder that Ovechkin is truly a machine. You know what they say, "Russian Machine...never gets broken."

I think that's how the saying goes.