SUNRISE, Fla. — Brett Leason will make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in Game 2 against the Florida Panthers, coach Peter Laviolette said at his Thursday press conference.
The Capitals are without Tom Wilson, who is dealing with a lower-body injury he suffered in Game 1. It is unclear what his timeline for a return is, though Laviolette said Wilson remains day-to-day and did not rule him out for Game 3 on Saturday in Washington.
“Brett’s done a really good job for us the entire year in the position that’s available tonight,” Laviolette said. “As we look at it, it ends up being a right wing position with Dowd and Larsson. It’s a position that he’s come up and he’s played for us many times and done a really good job inside of that role that we’re asking him to play.”
Washington leads 1-0 in the series after a strong performance in Game 1, but the Capitals will be handed a tall task absent one of their best players in Wilson.
The team has rookie forwards Connor McMichael and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby with the team in Florida, but elected to recall Leason from AHL Hershey because he fits more the style that Wilson’s absence creates. Additionally, they’ve seen Leason play well in the role he'll be taking on earlier this season.
“Had it been a centerman position that was open, it might be a different person, had it been a left wing position open, it might have been a different person,” Laviolette said. “He’s done a really good job for a few games, quite a few games for us this year. He’s played well.”
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Leason played in 36 NHL games this season and tallied three goals and three assists. He last played with the team on March 20, but has played just four NHL games since February 2. With the Bears this year, he had 13 points in 31 games.
He was also in the lineup for all three of the Capitals’ regular season games against the Panthers, in which the team went 1-1-1. He tallied two assists in those three games.
“Obviously I’ve played with Dowder a lot this season, so that obviously helps,” Leason said. “I’ll get comfortable, do my role, and do what Lavi expects of me.”
The 23-year-old and 2019 second-round draft choice has not played a postseason game since his days with the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL. In both of his seasons with Hershey (in 2019-20 and 20-21), the AHL's Calder Cup playoffs did not happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leason said he watched Game 1 on television, and was with his girlfriend when the call came to head to Florida to meet up with the team.
“The series looked fast out there,” Leason said. “They are both fast teams and they are really fast and they like to include their D in the rush, and just got to limit their transition.”
The Capitals will skate Leason on the fourth line with Johan Larsson and Nic Dowd. Right wing Garnet Hathaway moves up to the third line to skate with Anthony Mantha and Lars Eller.
It figures to be a whirlwind night for Leason as the Capitals look to take a two-game series lead before heading home to Washington for Game 3 on Saturday afternoon.
“He was really calm, just talking to him this morning,” Laviolette said. “We went over the pre-scout and the systems and things that happened in the first game. Pretty level-headed kid. But I’m sure tonight, as it ramps up and you go out on the ice with the fans the way they were last game and the noise in the building. It becomes really exciting. Once you get into it, it’s just hockey.”
All first-round games of Capitals vs. Panthers will be available regionally on NBC Sports Washington and streamed live on the MyTeams app.