J.J. Regan

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Evgeny Kuznetsov leaves game after taking an elbow to the head

Evgeny Kuznetsov leaves game after taking an elbow to the head

About midway through the first period, Kuznetsov skated towards the boards when he was hit in the head with an elbow by Tanev. Kuznetsov was not looking and Tanev clearly raised the elbow for the high hit. He was assessed a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head. Kuznetsov left for the locker room.

Kuznetsov was not on the bench for the start of the second period and it was announced soon after that he would not return due to an upper-body injury. He will be re-evaluated on Thursday.

Kuznetsov was just another in a long list of injuries the team suffered for Wednesday’s game. Pheonix Copley got the surprise start in Winnipeg as it was announced prior to the start that Braden Holtby would not dress due to an upper-body injury. Michal Kempny was also out of the lineup due to an illness. He is considered day-to-day.

A hit to the head that caused an injury to Kuznetsov calls into question whether any supplementary discipline will be coming for Tanev. The hit cannot be deemed anything but intentional and avoidable and it also caused an injury. 

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Pheonix Copley to start in Winnipeg as Braden Holtby out with upper-body injury

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Pheonix Copley to start in Winnipeg as Braden Holtby out with upper-body injury

Braden Holtby will miss Wednesday’s game in Winnipeg due to an upper-body injury which will give Pheonix Copley his second start in as many nights. The team will also dress an emergency backup for the game. Isabelle Khurshudyan was the first to report the news.

In addition, Michal Kempny will miss Wednesday’s game as well due to an illness. He is considered day-to-day. Jonas Siegenthaler will get into the lineup for his second NHL game.

Pheonix Copley started Tuesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. He turned aside 26 of the 28 shots he faced for a .929 save percentage in the win.

It is unclear when the injury to Holtby occurred. Copley was a surprise start in Tuesday’s game, but if the team suspected Holtby could miss Wednesday, recalls from Hershey could have been made prior to now which would have prevented the need for an emergency backup.

The backup for the Capitals will be Gavin McHale, the goaltending coach for the women’s team at the University of Manitoba. McHale, 31, is in his second season at UM and is listed by the website Elite Prospects as 6-feet 7-inches. The last time he played competitively was in 2014-15 with the Warren Mecs of the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League. This is not the first time he has been called upon in the NHL as he was an emergency NHL backup in the past for the Colorado Avalanche in February.

Depending on the length of Holtby’s issue, a call-up for either Ilya Samsonov or Vitek Vanecek could be a possibility. Vanecek has been out with an upper-body injury meaning Samsonov would be the most likely candidate should the Caps need him.

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Why Tom Wilson’s return to the lineup could shake up the Caps roster

Why Tom Wilson’s return to the lineup could shake up the Caps roster

The return of Tom Wilson Tuesday gave Todd Reirden his full offensive lineup for the first time this season. It is not hard to figure out where he fits in the lineup. The real question is now what his return means for the rest of the roster.

Wilson found a home on the top line last season alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. He provides defensive balance to a very offensive duo; he is able to win puck battles along the boards because of his physical play, which generates more offense and he has the offensive skill and skating ability to keep up with his incredibly skilled linemates.

That was all evident on Tuesday, as Wilson scored a goal in his return in very typical Wilson fashion.

After trying in vain to find a suitable replacement for Wilson on the top line, Reirden immediately plugged him back into the top line. Instantly, a lineup that looked jumbled with players trying to find their spots suddenly looked complete again. The top nine that Washington rode to the Stanley Cup last season was restored.

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly

With Wilson back, Washington is at the maximum roster limit of 23 players and just slightly under the salary cap. But they also have two extra forwards on the roster. Most teams do not typically carry two extra forwards because it means sitting two assets in the press box every single night. You need one to plug in in case of emergency, but a second is most likely better served being traded or moved down to the AHL.

Assuming the top nine sticks, that leaves the team with Nic Dowd, Travis Boyd, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson and Dmitrij Jaskin.

If the Caps were interested in moving one of those players, a fourth line player won’t yield much in a trade. That makes placing a player on waivers as the best option.

The question is who?

There are compelling reasons to keep each of those five players. Dowd and Boyd are centers and a team can never have enough of those, Smith-Pelly was one of the team’s playoff heroes with seven goals in the postseason and Stephenson brings a lot of speed. The most likely choice would appear to be Jaskin who has only two points in 12 games since he was claimed off waivers by the St. Louis Blues. There is clear potential there and he has improved drastically since he was first acquired just prior to the start of the season. There is definitely more there than what we have seen from him.

But Jaskin also was not part of last season’s Stanley Cup roster.

The good news for Jaskin and all the team’s depth players is that there is no rush for the Caps to make any sort of roster move since they can technically carry the current roster as is and, per Cap Friendly, they can still fit everyone when Brooks Orpik returns from LTIR by sending Jonas Siegenthaler back down to Hershey.

But a decision is likely to come sooner rather than later to avoid having to sit two forwards in the press box every night. That makes these next few games critical for everyone on the fourth line to make an impression.

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