Capitals

Quick Links

Prospect report: Nathan Walker out four-to-six weeks with broken hand

Prospect report: Nathan Walker out four-to-six weeks with broken hand

Hershey update: 21-13-7-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-0-0-1

After a rough month, the Hershey Bears tried to end January on a high note with three points in two games. But there was some bad news as well as Nathan Walker suffered a broken hand that will keep him out for the next four-to-six weeks.

Walker broke his hand blocking a shot in the Bears’ win on Saturday over Springfield. The injury comes at an inopportune time not just for the team, but for him as well. When talking about bringing prospects in from Hershey on Monday, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz brought Walker’s name up specifically.

“Nathan Walker was a name that we were thinking about bringing up and he got hurt this weekend so he’ll be eliminated there for a little bit.”

While the NHL was enjoying its All-Star weekend, the AHL held its All-Star festivities as well. Travis Boyd scored two goals and one assist in the 3-on-3 tournament as the Atlantic Division fell in the championship game.

Following the NHL All-Star break, the Caps recalled defenseman Christian Djoos and forward Chandler Stephenson. The callup was the first NHL callup for Djoos who, as Trotz said, was being rewarded for good play.

With the Bears off for the AHL break, the time allowed the Caps to get a closer look at Djoos. He may not have gotten into a game, but he did get some valuable practice time at the NHL level.

Stephenson, meanwhile, played in his third NHL game this season on Wednesday in place of an injured Justin Williams. He was reassigned to Hershey on Thursday, but with the Caps playing in Montreal on Saturday, it is likely the team will make another call up for an extra body on Friday.

Scott Murray, the associate goaltending coach for Hershey, spoke to the Lebanon Daily News about the Bears’ goalie tandem this season including prospect Vitek Vanecek:

There’s always room for improvement, regardless of how young or old a goalie is, but if you look at last year Vitek exceeded expectations with South Carolina. We didn’t want to rush him so if he needed to go back there again that’s what would have happened but he earned himself a spot here. So far this year he has exceeded expectations again, is pushing the envelope, and that’s a good trend for him.

As a high pick it isn’t always easy to do that. The ultimate goal for anybody in that position is to prove himself as fast as possible, without rushing it, so he can be an option to give us great minutes but also be available to do the same thing for Washington quicker than was in the original plans.

Coach Troy Mann does an unbelievable job of setting up how we protect our goalies but when we needed them to come up with the big saves, Vitek has really done that to keep things going in our favor or holding the fort. He’s done a really good job of finding those saves to help us turn things around.

Vanecek made 37 saves on 39 shots on Friday in the team’s shootout loss to Providence.

RELATED: Trotz calls Backstrom one of the best passers ever

Other prospect notes:

Buzz is starting to grow as the NHL trade deadline nears. While everyone focuses on the big NHL names that could be on the move, there are always some prospects added to trade deals as teams shop around young players as trade bait. Ross Sellers provided an interesting trade scenario on the Mile High Sticking blog between the Capitals and the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche are clear sellers at the deadline which means a player like Jarome Iginla will be on the market. Sellers posits Washington as a possible trade partner because the team could use a leader like Iginla given its recent history of playoff struggles. The most interesting part is what he thinks Colorado could get in return.

Unfortunately, the Capitals are also right up against the salary cap, and would probably need the Avs to take a player like Daniel Winnik or Lars Eller home with them.

If the Avs do end up taking on a contract like that, then they can ask for more in return from the Capitals.

The Avs could possibly ask for a 2nd round draft pick, and a middle level prospect like Jonas Siegenthaler, especially if they throw in a fourth round draft pick themselves.

First off, you can take Lars Eller off the table given Washington acquired him in the offseason specifically for depth scoring in a playoff run. No way the Caps break up the third line and trade away a player they targeted to help them in the postseason.

As for Siegenthaler, keep in mind that this is a player the team traded up to get in the 2015 draft. When I say the team, I don’t mean George McPhee, I mean Brian MacLellan, the current general manager. He saw something in Siegenthaler that made him trade into the second round to get him.

Could the team have soured on Siegenthaler since? Sure. He struggled in his first stint in Hershey last season and dealt with personal issues in training camp that made it hard to really evaluate where he was in his development. But Siegenthaler’s stock should be high again after a tremendous performance in the World Juniors tournament. To think MacLellan would be interested in shopping around a second-round pikc like Siegenthaler now at the deadline seems unlikely.

Tim McGauley’s second professional goal was a big one as he scored the overtime winner on Saturday to lift South Carolina over Florida.

Other big performers this week were Beck Malenstyn who scored three goals for the Calgary Hitmen (WHL) and Chase Priskie who scored twice in Quinnipiac's win over Arizona State on Friday. Connor Hobbs had one goal and two assists including a game-winning one-timer with just 24 seconds remaining to lead Regina over Moose Jaw on Wednesday.

Finally, forward Brian Pinho sat down for a video segment on “This Week in Friars Hockey” in which he talks about being a team leader as a junior and he gives his Super Bowl prediction.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps struggle to diagnose the problem with the PK

Quick Links

Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

usatsi_10423605.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

Nicklas Backstrom has made a career out of setting up other players, but what many forget is that he is a pretty darn good scorer in his own right. Just not these days.

Backstrom had three goals in the first six games of the season, but since then he has been held scoreless. His last goal game on Oct. 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA!

Offense, in general, has been hard to come by for the veteran center who also underwent a career-long seven-game pointless streak.

While Backstrom has managed to get back on the score sheet with three assists in his last five games, he still can’t seem to get a goal.

“Obviously you want to score,” Backstrom said. “That's a no brainer, but at the same time you've just got to stick with it. I mean, at least I created chances tonight.”

While the goals may not be there, however, the chances are. For Barry Trotz, that’s an encouraging sign.

“Backy was on the bench, I gave him a little tap I said you know the hockey gods will even that out,” Trotz said. “You probably could have had three tonight and he'll probably get one of those leaky lizards go through the legs or through the arms and one from a bad angle. They'll even it out for him.”

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN GETS STITCHES AFTER GETTING HIT BY PUCK, BUT REMAINS INDESTRUCTIBLE

With Backstrom taking on a more defensive shutdown role this season, his offensive numbers have taken a hit. The Capitals, however, do not have the same scoring depth as in recent years and need Backstrom, still arguably their best center, to produce offensively in order to be successful. He is just too good of a player to not produce.

But given his recent play, Trotz is not all that concerned and believes the goals are coming. Backstrom seems to agree.

“The sun goes up the next day anyway even if I don't score,” he said, “So you've just got to stick with it, work hard and hopefully you'll get rewarded.”

Quick Links

Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

usatsi_10423140.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

It's always scary when you see a player get hit in the head with a puck. It's even scarier when you're a fan of the Caps and that player is Alex Ovechkin.

But there's is one thing you should always remember before you worry about the Great 8: He is not built like a normal human being.

Ovechkin was struck in the face by a puck in the second period of Saturday's game against the Minnesota Wild. It was a scary moment made scarier by the pool of blood he left behind on the ice as he made his way to the locker room.

RELATED: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS BEAT THE WILD

"Anybody who takes a puck to the face, you hope that they're not hurt badly," Barry Trotz said after the game. "Anytime you get hit to the face there's usually pretty good leakage. I saw, I knew he got hit in the face and in the mouth area and there was pretty good leakage around our bench and he went off and we were just hoping that it's not too serious."

Remarkably, it wasn't serious. Ovechkin missed the remainder of the second period, but returned for the third. After the game, there were a few stitches in his lip, but otherwise there appeared to be no serious damage.

Ovechkin said that after he had been hit he "Just tried to feel my tooth and it was fine. Just moving a little bit, but it's fine. It's hockey."

The fact that no serious damage was done turned what was a scary moment into one both players and coach could laugh at afterward.

MORE CAPITALS: WHO WERE THE 3 STARS OF THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA?

"He's a big strong man and he's got a few zippers so he's a lot better looking now that they fixed him up and all that," Trotz said. "It's when you get stitched up, that's the great thing about medicine, they can make you look great."

"It can be much worser," Ovechkin said when asked if he was scared in the moment. "I could lose my teeth."

Nicklas Backstrom had the same thought many of you are probably asking yourself right now: "Does he have any more teeth?"

It was just another reminder that Ovechkin is truly a machine. You know what they say, "Russian Machine...never gets broken."

I think that's how the saying goes.