News, notes and quotes from today’s morning skate at Kettler as the Caps prepare to face the Minnesota Wild tonight at Verizon Center (6:30 pregame, CSN):
Holtby returns: Braden Holtby (38-6-3, 2.22 GAA, .923 SP) will make his sixth straight start for the Caps. He was pulled after allowing three goals on 18 shots in Wednesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Canadiens. Philipp Grubauer took the loss in that game despite allowing one goal on 16 shots. Holtby is 9-0-1 following losses this season and the Caps are 11-1-1 following defeats.
“This time of year, no matter what position you’re in, it’s usually the toughest part of the year to keep things together and keep moving forward,” Holtby said. “All three of those goals (Wednesday) there’s really no place you can put those (rebounds) differently.”
Latta out, Orlov too?: Michael Latta missed Friday’s morning skate with flu symptoms and is expected to be unavailable tonight. It’s likely the Caps would have gone with a fourth line of center Mike Richards between left wing Brooks Laich and right wing Stan Galiev anyway.
Dmitry Orlov was the last defenseman to leave the ice following the skate and he could be replaced by Taylor Chorney after his giveaway led to the Canadiens’ first goal on Wednesday night. Orlov has six goals, 18 assists and is a plus-14 this season and is one of eight Capitals that have played in all 59 games.
“You don’t want to take the creativity out of Orly,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “I just said to him, ‘Just make real good hockey decisions coming out of our zone.’ I give all the players lots of freedom to do what they do offensively. It’s hard to make light plays in the defensive zone.”
Wilson on benching: Tom Wilson said he understands Trotz’s reasoning for benching him in the second period on Wednesday after he took boarding and hooking penalties 12 minutes apart in the first period.
“I think Trotzy is sending me the message that it’s unacceptable,” said Wilson, who has five goals, 14 assists and 130 penalty minutes this season. “It’s no rocket science. It’s two penalties in a short period of time by a player who shouldn’t be doing that. He put me on the bench the whole period there and I can’t be going out there taking penalties.”
Wilson’s boarding penalty came when Montreal defenseman Greg Pateryn turned his back on him just as he arrived. Wilson, who has been a marked man this season, has been instructed to go in with his stick first in those situations
“Guys are now brave because they turn their backs last minute and you’ve just got to understand that,” Trotz said. “If you just remember stick on puck, it takes you away from hitting through the guy. If they’re staring at you, you can go through them. A lot of guys are spinning at the last moment trying to draw penalties.”
MORE CAPITALS: Round table: Will players be rested down the stretch?
Here’s how we expect the Caps’ lineup to look tonight:
Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Marcus Johansson – Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich – Mike Richards - Stan Galiev
Injured: Jay Beagle (hand), Michael Latta (flu)
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt – John Carlson
Brooks Orpik – Taylor Chorney/Dmitry Orlov
Braden Holtby (starter) – Philipp Grubauer