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.
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.
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.
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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.”