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Caps prospect watch: Ilya Samsonov watch begins as he enters KHL playoffs

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USA TODAY Sports

Caps prospect watch: Ilya Samsonov watch begins as he enters KHL playoffs

The KHL playoffs are underway.

Goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov's Metallurg Magnitogorsk entered the postseason as the fifth seed in the East. With starting goalie Vasily Koshechkin returning from the Olympics, Samsonov ended up starting Games 1 and 2 against Avtomobilist. He played well winning the first game and turning aside 52 of the 56 total shots he faced (.929 save percentage) in the process.

The series now stands tied at 2.

Samsonov is in the final year of his contract meaning when his season is done, he could, in theory, come to North America.

Let's get this out of the way: Samsonov will not be replacing either Braden Holtby or Philipp Grubauer in Washington this season. Yes, goaltending has become an issue for the Caps over the past month, but the solution is not a 21-year-old goalie who has never played the North American game.

So what does Samsonov's short-term future hold?

Potentially, Samsonov could come to North America after the KHL season ends and play in Hershey. A few games in Hershey and a few weeks of practice could help his transition when he makes the full-time jump next season, as is expected.

There are just two problems. First, Samsonov's team has to lose. Second, there are only 16 games remaining in the regular season for Hershey and they are not going to make the playoffs.

If Samsonov loses in the first round, there is a slight chance we could see him in Hershey this spring, but it seems far more likely his North America debut will not take place until the fall.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S UPDATED CAPS’ PROSPECT RANKINGS HERE

Other prospect notes:

  • Conference hockey tournaments are underway in college. The big story for Caps fans is the North Dakota vs. Nebraska in the quarterfinal round of the NCHC Playoffs. That matchup pits prospect Shane Gersich against Steven Spinner. The series will be best two out of three.
  • Forward Brian Pinho will lead Providence against Maine in the Hockey East Quarterfinals. They will play a best of three series.
  • Defenseman Benton Maass' season has come to an end after New Hampshire was swept in two games by Maine. in his first collegiate season, Maass registered four goals and 13 assists in 36 games.
  • Bears defenseman Connor Hobbs took a high hit from Lehigh Valley's Nicolas Aube-Kubel in Friday's game. He missed both of Hershey's remaining two games over the weekend with an upper-body injury and is considered day-to-day. Aube-Kubel was suspended two games for the hit.

  • Forward Tim McGauley, who was recently called up to Hershey from the ECHL, recorded an assist in the Bears' shootout loss on Sunday. The assist is the first AHL point of McGauley's career.
  • Forward Kris Bindulis scored the overtime winner for the South Carolina Stingrays on Saturday. Of his four goals this season, two of them have been overtime winners.
  • Adam Carlson is thriving with his new ECHL team, the Kansas City Mavericks. He made two starts over the weekend and won both, stopping 66 of 71 shots he faced (.930 save percentage).  Head coach John-Scott Dickson spoke glowingly of the team's goalies saying, "With Carlson and Mavric (Parks) we have two young goalies who are getting better with each start. We're all excited to see what they do the rest of the season."
  • Garrett Pilon finished a strong February for Everett in the WHL. He led the team in points with 15 (eight goals, seven assists).

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings 

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Capitals turn experimental as Stanley Cup playoffs approach

Capitals turn experimental as Stanley Cup playoffs approach

WASHINGTON – The Capitals are sick and they are tired and they are injured and they are experimenting.

That’s the takeaway with six games left to go in the regular season after a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday at Capital One Arena. Todd Reirden mixed his defensive pairs routinely and did the same in the third period with his forward lines, which led to a goal for Jakub Vrana.

Washington extended its lead in the Metropolitan Division to three points over the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins. But they have been forced to look at different options thanks to an injury to defenseman Michal Kempny and illness spreading through the forward ranks at a bad time.

And so that’s how John Carlson started the game on the right side of the top pairing as usual, but was soon on the left side of the ice, with Nick Jensen moving up to replace Christian Djoos. At various times, Brooks Orpik played with Jensen and Djoos on the third pair. Kempny is out indefinitely, so Reirden doesn’t have much time to configure his ideal pairings. And trying to win a division title while doing so is problematic. 

“I feel perfectly comfortable playing with any of our D,” said Jensen, who was acquired just before the NHL trade deadline in late February. “I think they're all capable of playing great defense, and I think they're all really great D and we tend to all be on the same page a lot of the time. When we're switching up D-pairings there, it might be a little bit of an adjustment period, but we'll get used to it as it goes down the line as we keep playing with each other.”

They’d rather have Kempny, of course. Washington had turned the tide on shot attempts during the 10 games after Jensen was acquired and the lineup was stable. It was a good sign heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Unfortunately, Kempny is out indefinitely and no one is sure if or when he will return.    

“We're looking for the right combinations that work for us that can set us up for future success,” Reirden said. “Just some guys that aren't 100-percent in terms of lets say sickness wise that are low on energy so you have to manage those minutes as well. So there's a lot of things in play that cause for that type of mix and match stuff both with up front and on our blue line.” 

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Capitals' significant others show off puppies, announce Homeward Trails donations

Capitals' significant others show off puppies, announce Homeward Trails donations

If you didn't think you could love the Caps more, think again.

With an assist from some puppies, Caps' significant others Katrina Connolly, Paige Dowd, Tasha Maltman and Taylor Pischke announced a $177,000 donation to Homeward Trails Animal Rescue on the jumbotron during Sunday's 3-1 win over the Flyers.

All of the proceeds came from the Caps' 2019 canine calendars and were donated on behalf of the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation. Since 2014, the foundation has donated over $400,000 to Homeward Trails through the Capitals' annual canine calendars.

The puppies featured on the jumbotron are all available for adoption.

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