By sending forward Paul Carey and defenseman Connor Carrick back to the AHL Hershey Bears on Monday, the Caps took a calculated risk heading into their three-game road trip, which begins Tuesday night in Nashville against the Predators.
With forward Marcus Johansson (upper body) and defenseman Brooks Orpik (lower body) unlikely to play on Tuesday night, the Caps will have just 12 healthy forwards and six healthy defensemen when they take on the Preds.
That means Stan Galiev is likely to return to the lineup, replacing Carey on the fourth line. Carey scored one very big goal in his two-game stint with the Caps, netting the game-tying goal in Newark to set the stage for Alex Ovechkin’s shootout game-winner.
Carey’s goal is one more than Galiev has scored in 14 games with the Caps this season.
The question moving forward for the Caps is when Johansson and Orpik are ready to return to the lineup. Coach Barry Trotz said he’d like to see both players get through at least one practice before returning. Since Johansson was injured less than two weeks ago, in the game before the All-Star break, he might need just one full-contact practice on Wednesday before returning to the lineup on Thursday night in Minnesota.
Orpik has been sidelined since Nov. 10, so it’s possible Trotz would like to see him skate with the team all this week before getting him back in the lineup when the Caps return from their three-game trip, which concludes Saturday night in Dallas.
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Ovi on fire: Alex Ovechkin scored his 30th goal of the season on Sunday, becoming the third player in NHL history to score 30 or more goals in each of his first 11 seasons in the league, joining Mike Gartner (first 15 seasons) and Wayne Gretzky (first 13). Ovechkin is the only player in the NHL to score 30 or more goals in every season since 2005-06. He has four goals in his last six games.
Nisky business: Matt Niskanen’s game-winning goal on Sunday was his first game-winner of the season and the 11th of his career. Niskanen was named the game’s first star and led all skaters in ice time (24:51) and shots (7).
Beastly: Braden Holtby is 25-1-3 in his last 30 appearances with two shutouts, a 2.08 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
Bura-cuda: Andre Burakovsky’s assist extended his career-long point streak to seven games (6 goals, 3 assists). He has earned 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) in his last 10 games.
Kuz-tastic: Evgeny Kuznetsov has earned 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) in his last 10 games.
200: Tom Wilson played in his 200th NHL game on Sunday, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to play 200 games before his 22nd birthday, joining Bob Carpenter, Scott Stevens, Gaetan Duchesne and Kevin Hatcher.
Dominant at home: The Capitals have posted a 14-1-1 record in their last 16 games at Verizon Center and have outscored their opponents 61-34 during that span. In addition, Washington is 20-4-2 at home this season and has earned a point in 19 of its last 21 home games (17-2-2).
Back-to-back: The Capitals completed their 10th back-to-back set of the season over the weekend. The Caps are 16-3-1 in back-to-back games this season, outscoring opponents 71-45.
Beasts of the East: The Caps are 30-7-2 against the Eastern Conference this season, ranking first in the NHL in wins against conference opponents.