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Capitals react to Couturier missing series


Capitals react to Couturier missing series

Alex Ovechkin didn’t score a goal or record an assist, but his hit on Flyers center Sean Couturier midway through the second period of Thursday night’s 2-0 win may have altered the course of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Flyers.

According to a release issued by Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, Couturier will miss two weeks with an upper body injury.  

“If he’s out that’s a huge loss,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “He’s probably the best defensive forward on that team. Good faceoff guy, does a lot of good things. It’s a big loss and unfortunately that’s the way playoffs are.”

Ovechkin’s hit on Couturier came 11:13 into the second period with the two teams locked in a scoreless tie. Couturier had just released the puck on a pass intended for Brayden Schenn when Ovechkin drove him into the boards, where Couturier's left shoulder took the brunt of the impact. 

A delay of game penalty to Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning less than five minutes later led to John Carlson’s power-play goal, which stood up as the game-winner thanks to Braden Holtby’s 19-save shutout.

During the regular season Couturier ranked sixth on the Flyers with 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists) and was third among Flyers forwards in shorthanded ice time.

“Obviously, Couturier is an important part of what they do,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “They’re going to have someone step up and fill a role. We expect them to come with a real good effort. I don’t think it will affect us a whole lot. We’re going to stick to the script.”

With Couturier out, look for the Flyers to turn to 21-year-old center Scott Laughton, a first-round pick of the Flyers in 2012 who recorded seven goals and 14 assists in 71 games this season, his third in the NHL.

Caps fans may remember Laughton for the open-ice hit he took from Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen back on Jan. 14, 2015. The shoulder-to-chest hit was reminiscent of Scott Stevens’ open-ice hit on Eric Lindros during the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals between the Devils and Flyers and prompted a fight between Niskanen and Laughton in the next meeting between the Caps and Flyers. After that fight there is audio of Laughton thanking Niskanen for obliging.

Trotz said he expects the series to “settle down” after seeing 56 hits and 56 penalty minutes in Game 1, but he also said his players are fine if the rough stuff continues.

“We’re built to play any game you want to play,” Trotz said. “We have to be more disciplined. Our game is four lines that come at you, but we have to be more disciplined.”

MORE CAPITALS: Wilson criticizes Schenn, hopes he didn't 'wake up' Simmonds

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).

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3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

The Caps rocked the green in warmups, the red for the game and left a bit black and blue after a brutal 6-3 win over the New York Islanders.

Based on how things went in Brooklyn on Thursday, odds were that there would be some bad blood when the two teams met Washington on Friday. One night after giving up seven goals, the Islanders gave up another six in Washington and frustrations over a rough season boiled over all game long.

Ross Johnston was ejected for continuing to fight Tom Wilson even after the referees intervened, both teams combined for 56 PIMs and Evgeny Kuznetsov left the game in the second period after a slash from Thomas Hickey as he went headfirst into the boards.

The sting of the rough night was mitigated somewhat, however, by the 6-3 score as the Caps won their fourth straight.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Chiasson: Playing in his first game since March 8, Chiasson made the most of his opportunity with a three-point night. Jakub Vrana did the legwork as he drove the net with the puck. Jaroslav Halak stuck out his stick catching Vrana which spun the netminder around and out of the crease. Chiasson came up behind for the easy layup.

He would repay the favor with an assist for Vrana's goal later in the third. Chiasson's first assist on the night came in the second period as his initial shot was saved, but he stayed in the face of Halak long enough to prevent him from making the save on Matt Niskanen's goal.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: When things were getting ugly, Backstrom made the Islanders pay with a power play goal on the two-man advantage.

After Johnston lost his marbles and Cal Clutterbuck was called for interference on Oshie, the Capitals needed to take advantage and put the Islanders away or watch New York build momentum. That was the critical juncture of the game. Backstrom also added an assist on the two-point night.

3. Braden Holtby: The recent struggles of Holtby have been well documented. After yielding the crease to Philipp Grubauer the last four games, Holtby got the start on Friday and played very well in the winning effort. The defense in front of him certainly helped allowing only 13 shots in the first two periods, but the Islanders were buzzing in the third period. New York battled back to make it 5-3 and Mathew Barzal had a breakaway opportunity with a chance to cut the deficit to one. Holtby made the save to deny Barzal and shut the door on the comeback attempt.

In all, Holtby turned aside 22 of the 25 shots he faced.