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Prospect Report: Barber earns first professional hat-trick

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Prospect Report: Barber earns first professional hat-trick

Hershey update: 24-13-3-6, 2nd in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 2-0-0-0

The Hershey Bears went into the AHL All-Star break hot with a point streak of nine games. That ninth game was a win due largely to the performance of Riley Barber who had four points and recorded his first professional hat-trick — a natural hat-trick no less — in a 5-1 win over Syracuse on Saturday.

Check out the highlights here:

Sure, the third goal was an empty-netter, but don't count against him. It was a tremendous game by Barber who is really coming into his own in Hershey. He has seven points in the last four games and is 16th among AHL rookies with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists).

Travis Boyd is also having an outstanding rookie season and is tied for sixth among rookies with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists). Boyd recorded a goal and an assist in Hershey's two games last week.

Connor Carrick joined Chris Bourque from the Bears in the AHL All-Star Game. Carrick took part in the hardest shot competition in the skills challenge and registered a 95.0 mph shot. Here's a recap of the skill challenge from Chocolate Hockey.

Carrick tallied an assist for the Atlantic Division in the All-Star Game against the Central Division.

RELATED: Are Orpik and Johansson close to having return dates?

Other prospect notes:

Congratulations to Jonas Siegenthaler for scoring his first goal for the ZSC Lions last week. Check it out here:

Some injury updates from Regina where both of the Caps' prospects are currently out with injury. We already knew that Colby Williams is dealing with wrist issues stemming from an injury he suffered over the summer. Now, however, Connor Hobbs is out as well. According to Greg Harder of the Regina Leader Post, Hobbs hit his head on the ice during a fight in a game on Jan. 15 and suffered a concussion. It is the second concussion he has suffered this season and could miss significant time. 

Stars & Sticks continued releasing updates on the top Caps prospects last week with profiles on SiegenthalerCarrick, Barber (timely), Ilya Samsonov, Madison Bowey and Jakub Vrana. Be sure to check out each profile for some great analysis. Here are my thoughts:

The Caps traded into the second round to get Siegenthaler and it's not hard to see why. At only 18 years old, Siegenthaler is 6'3" and 220 pounds. Yet, he remains an extremely skilled skater. The comparison to Brooks Orpik is an apt one, though I believe Siegenthaler will be a better skater.

Carrick is the only one of these profiles that I disagree with. Author Bradley Davis writes that Carrick "is one of the most exciting prospects that the Washington Capitals have right now. He has a great chance of making a big impact in Washington within a couple of years."

I'm not so sure.

At only 21, Carrick has already established himself as Hershey's top defenseman and he's only getting better, but there are two issues that give me pause on him. One is his size. The Caps' website lists Carrick as 5'11", 185 pounds. I've seen him in the locker room and that may be a tad generous. He needs to add some muscle.

The second issue is that when the Caps recalled him this season in clear need of defensive depth, he lasted three games before being sent back down. You need to be very careful when evaluating players based on when they are recalled and for how long, teams and coaches have to balance protecting prospects while also getting them playing time. Really good prospects stay in the AHL because it's better to play at a lower level than sit in the press box in the NHL. Having said that, with both Brooks Orpik and John Carlson injured, there was an opportunity for him to get some playing time and he could not take advantage. He looked completely lost in his brief stint and it's not as if this was Carrick's first rodeo. He already had 34 NHL games under his belt coming into this season.

Yes, Carrick is 21 and yes, he is still getting better, but I'm not as optimistic as Stars & Sticks that he has much more than third-pair potential. I wouldn't be surprised if he made the Caps roster in two years and I also wouldn't be surprised if he was a career AHLer.

Go ahead and throw out what ever you think the ceiling is for Barber. The 21-year-old winger has overachieved at every step in his career and is doing it again in Hershey. He was a sixth-round draft pick for the Caps and yet he is now establishing himself as an offensive threat in the AHL.

Barber's offense, however, isn't even his best attribute. It's his leadership that really shines and for that reason, I see him going farther than his talent would seem to dictate. He could have a very solid NHL career as a second or third line winger.

The Caps' drafting Samsonov was met with a lot of confusion, but his potential is undeniable. He has tons of raw talent, he just needs time to develop it. The good news is that the Caps have nothing but time as they boast one of, if not the best goalie in the NHL in Braden Holtby who is only 26.

Bowey's performance at the junior level was a very exciting indication of his potential and he has done nothing to temper those expectation in the AHL. He is a future top-pair defenseman with great offensive instincts. He has both the size and the talent, but most importantly he is the type of defenseman that has become so coveted in this era of NHL hockey based on the increasing importance of puck possession.

It's not hard to envision a future top pair of Siegenthaler-Bowey patrolling the Caps' blue line.

In Hershey, Vrana has showed flashes of the talent that made him a first-round draft pick. A wrist injury kept him out for 20 games and a suspension forced him to miss another two. He did not appear to lose a step after he initially returned from the injury and is likely to become one of the Bears' top offensive weapons again now that his two-game suspension is up. He is a bit small, but he has definite first-line potential at the NHL level.

MORE CAPITALS: Friday Six-Pack: Trade talk, injuries, and are Caps for real?

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Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 60: Capitals vs. Lightning Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Lightning game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals (34-18-7) take on the Lightning (39-17-3) Tuesday, February 20 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Washington.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME ON?

The Capitals-Lightning game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Lightning game:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey

Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Taylor Chorney

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-LIGHTNING GAME?

The Capitals-Lightning game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

CAPITALS-LIGHTNING OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE