The Caps will go through an atypical game day because of the NHL’s three-day Christmas break, which concluded last night.
The team reconvened in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday morning, hosted their pre-game skate at Kettler Capitals Iceplex and then scrambled to the airport for their charter flight to New York, where they face the Rangers at 8 p.m on NBCSN.
Typically, the Caps arrive in the visiting city the night prior and have their morning skate at the away arena. It’s not a huge tweak, but in a sport where coaches and players avoid messing with routines—particularly on game days—it’s worth pointing out.
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Other than that, Coach Barry Trotz kept things mostly the same.
Now for some notes and observations from the skate:
- Fourth-line winger Chandler Stephenson is ill and will not make the trip to New York. Based on the rushes, he’ll be replaced by Alex Chiasson, while Nathan Walker remains a healthy scratch.
- How long will Walker stick with the Caps? He hasn’t played since being reclaimed off waivers last week. The team, however, can’t send him to Hershey until 12:01 a.m. on Thursday due to the holiday roster freeze, if that's the route they chose.
- Trotz will speak to reporters at 6 p.m. at MSG and will likely confirm the starting goaltender at that time. Philipp Grabuaer, however, faced shots from the defensemen at the end of the skate, which is typically what the starter does. That would mean Braden Holtby gets the Bruins on Thursday night in Washington.
- Grubauer is 2-2-0 in five career games vs. the Rangers with a 2.20 goals against average and a .933 save percentage.
- One thing to keep an eye on: Washington’s power play is 1 for 20 over the last eight games and has slipped to 18th in the NHL at 19.1-percent.
- T.J. Oshie, who has one goal in three games since returning from a concussion, says he had his best game “in a while” in Las Vegas and feels he’s now got his timing back. He’s currently third on the team with 11 goals.
- Speaking of the power play, the first unit remain unchanged based on the morning skate. On the second unit, which doesn’t get a whole lot of run, Andre Burakovsky and Jakub Vrana switched out for one another on the goal line.
- A few weeks ago, Nicklas Backstrom stopped wearing a visor in practice in an attempt to switch up the mojo. At the time he was mired in a lengthy goal drought. As it turned out, he started scoring after ditching the visor and he hasn’t practiced with one since. When I asked him about it this morning, he said, “I’m superstitious” with a big smile. He’s got four goals and five assists in 11 games this month.
- From the NBC notes on the Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist was 1-3-2 with a 3.15 gaa and .905 Sv% in his first seven starts of the season. His last 24 starts? He’s 16-6-1 (one no-decision) with a 2.46 gaa and .926 Sv%.