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Caps prospect watch: March Madness begins for college hockey

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Caps prospect watch: March Madness begins for college hockey

It's not just March Madness for basketball, the college hockey tournaments are underway as well.

The matchup of most interest to Capitals fans was the battle between Shane Gersich's North Dakota and Steven Spinner's Nebraska-Omaha in the NCHC quarterfinals. North Dakota emerged victorious with a 4-0 win on Friday and a 4-3 overtime win on Saturday. Gersich scored one goal while Spinner tallied one assist.

North Dakota will play St. Cloud State on Friday in the semifinal of the NCHC Frozen Faceoff.

Providence College also advanced in the Hockey East tournament after dispatching Maine in two games in the quarterfinals. Caps prospect Brian Pinho recorded one assist in the two games. Providence will play Northeastern in the semifinals on Friday.

The postseason came to an end for Chase Priskie's Quinnipiac as they were defeated in two games by Cornell.

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

Other prospect notes:

  • Pinho earned two end of season Hockey East awards for his strong senior season as announced on Wednesday. He was named the winner of the Gladiator Custom Mouthguards Best Defensive Forward Award and also garnered Third Team All-Star honors.
  • The Hershey Bears are dealing with a number of injuries as Riley Barber (upper-body), Mason Mitchell (upper-body) and Connor Hobbs (lower-body) have all been ruled out of all three of Hershey's games this weekend. Head coach Troy Mann said he considers Barber to be week-to-week.
  • With injuries mounting the Bears recalled forward Hampus Gustafsson from the ECHL. He has spent most of the season with South Carolina, recording 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in 29 games. In the 14 games he has with Hershey already this season, he managed two assists. Defenseman Kris Bindulis was also re-assigned from South Carolina to Hershey. He has 15 points in 34 games with the Stingrays and two penalty minutes to show for his six games with the Bears earlier in the season.
  • Goalie Vitek Vanecek's start on Saturday marked the 100th professional game of his career. In his Hershey career, Vanecek has recorded a 28-18-9 record with a 2.67 GAA, .903 save percentage and seven shutouts. Goalie is a crowded position in the Capitals' organization with Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer with the NHL squad and Ilya Samsonov considered the future starter in Washington. Vanecek has done well in the AHL, but has not to this point shown he can compete for playing time at the NHL level.
  • Speaking of Samsonov, his highly anticipated North American debut has been delayed as his KHL team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, won its first-round playoff series over Avtomobilist in six games. The chances he would come to North America this spring were already remote given the fact that the Bears will almost certainly not make the playoffs which means he would not have as much opportunity to practice and play. Advancing to the second round in the KHL makes it even less likely we see him before summer/fall.
  • The Capitals and South Carolina Stingrays extended their affiliation agreement through the 2019-20 season, it was announced on Thursday. Holtby, Grubauer and Jay Beagle all have played for South Carolina in the past.
  • Goalie Adam Carlson seems to have earned the confidence of the coaches of his ECHL team. The Kansas City Mavericks had three games this past week and Carlson started all three of them stopping 74 of the 81 shots he faced (.914 save percentage). He was named the second star of the game on March 7 after leading the Mavericks to a 4-1 win over Colorado.
  • Check out the highlights of Djurgardens IF win over Orebro in the SHL (sometimes the video says it can only play in Sweden, but I have watched it three times despite not being in Sweden). The first goal of the game was scored by forward prospect Axel Jonsson-Fjallby. He is someone who is generating a lot of excitement after a strong performance in the World Junior Tournament. He projects to be a bottom-six, penalty kill type of player, but his blistering speed always makes him a threat on the offensive end of the ice.
  • Defensive prospect Dmitriy Zaitsev missed two games for the Moose Jaw Warriors after taking an illegal hit from Swift Current's Tanner Nagel. Nagel was assessed a three-game suspension for the hit, but Zaitsev's status remains in flux for now.

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

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Is Todd Reirden's constant shuffling on the fourth line an issue for the players?

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Is Todd Reirden's constant shuffling on the fourth line an issue for the players?

ARLINGTON – On Thursday in San Jose, Todd Reirden’s lineup included Dmitrij Jaskin, Chandler Stephenson and Devante Smith-Pelly playing on the fourth line. That was a different line than in the previous game when Stpehenson and Smith-Pelly played on the wings with Nic Dowd at center. Two games prior to that, Dowd was the center with Jaskin and Travis Boyd as his wings.

And on it has gone all season as the Caps continue to shuffle their fourth line in search of the best combination for what the team hopes will be another lengthy playoff run.

Washington returned almost the exact same team from last year’s Stanley Cup champion squad. One exception was the fourth line as center Jay Beagle left in free agency. While it is not uncommon to see fourth lines shuffle throughout the season as coaches try to get their scratches into the lineup, there has been no constant to the fourth. While last season, you knew who the center was even if you did not know the wings, it is unclear who if anyone has taken control of a fourth line spot with less than a third of the season remaining.

“It’s challenging,” Dowd said. “I don't think anybody will tell you any differently.”

“Last year, there was a little bit of shuffling, but for the majority it was you know who your center is for sure,” Smith-Pelly said. “For the second half, it was me, [Beagle] and [Stephenson] a majority of the games so that made things a little bit easier, but at the same time, things happen. You've got to be able to play with anybody. Of course it's not the ideal situation, but that's just the way it is.”

At this point of the season, it is pretty clear what the top three lines would be if the playoffs started tomorrow. What the fourth line will look like, however, is anyone’s guess as no combination has gained an upper hand over any of the others.

Part of the issue for the Caps has been the myriad of injuries and roster issues the team has faced unlike in prior years such as Tom Wilson’s early suspension and an early injury that kept Boyd out until November. The trickledown effect has had a major impact on the bottom line. But even when healthy, Reirden has continued shuffling the bottom line with regularity, preventing any combination to gain much consistency at all.

“That does get tough, especially when maybe you're playing good, you put together a couple good games or whatever it may be,” Boyd said. “Your mindset in the game is something that you can't really replicate in practice no matter how hard you try. So if you end up missing a game or two, it usually takes a period or so to kind of get back into that game mode where you've got to be thinking fast enough and that physcial contact part and all that.”

“I think you can only do your best to manage your own game and then when you step in there,” Dowd said, “I think that importance of keeping it simple and allowing guys that you haven't played with in a while or maybe you haven't played with them all year, to allow guys to play within the system and know where you are and then if you get some games under your belt and you play together a while, then you can start kind of creating chemistry and creating reads off each other.”

For Reirden, however, this is all part of the plan. Once the trade deadline is reached and he knows what officially what his roster will be, then we should finally get an idea of who has the upper-hand on the fourth line.

 “For me, until that deadline passes then you're not really married to anything because as we know things can change in the game,” Reirden said. “But after that, at that point then you want to try to get something pretty consistent.”

After the Feb. 25 deadline, however, Washington will have only 19 games left in the season. Will that be enough time for the fourth line to gel?

“It's not the ideal situation, but that is the situation we're in,” Smith-Pelly said. “You have to be able to adjust and you've got to play well with whoever the center is. Don't really use that as an excuse, you've just got to figure it out.”

 

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NHL Trade Tracker 2019: latest deadline rumors, trades and news

NHL Trade Tracker 2019: latest deadline rumors, trades and news

The 2019 NHL trade deadline is almost here, marking the final point in the regular-season that teams can make major moves and deals to position themselves for the stretch run and the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 2019 NHL trade deadline takes place on Monday, Feb. 25, with a final cutoff time for trades to be made at 3 p.m. ET The 2019 trade deadline is the same as the year prior, which was the first season the NHL decided to move the deadline up a week.

With just a few days until the deadline, the rumors, news and reports are beginning to heat up.

All the latest rumors, news, and notes on the 2019 NHL trade deadline are right here.

2019 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker:

February 10: NEWS - If the Capitals are to make a trade deadline deal, it seems forward Andre Burakovsky might be the most viable candidate given his financial situation. Said general manager Brian MacLellan, “I think the only thing we're going to look for is, is there a hockey trade to be made, salary for salary, player for player in the forward group."

February 13: TRADE - The Vancouver Canucks got some much-needed goalie depth in the form of 27-year-old Marek Mazanec. Acquired from the New York Rangers, Vancouver gave back a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. 

February 14: RUMOR - With a retooling looming in Minnesota, some moves could be made at the deadline. A name being thrown around is Eric Staal. Though he has a no-trade clause with 10 teams, his name will surely be mentioned leading up to the 25th. 

February 14: REPORT - The Oilers and Flyers have begun preliminary talks on a trade, most likely surrounding a swapping of goalies. In this case, Cam Talbot could be the biggest piece. 

February 14: RUMOR - It is looking more and more likely that Jeff Skinner will stay with the Sabres for the remainder of the season. While shopping him was an option, the upcoming restricted free agent and Buffalo seemed to be more focused on getting a deal done to have him be there for the rest 2019 and beyond.

February 15: RUMOR - Wayne Simmonds will most likely not be in Philadelphia after the deadline, as all signs point toward the forward and his current team parting ways. Things could change in the next week, but if Simmonds is available, plenty of teams will be interested in acquiring the 30-year old

February 15: RUMOR - The Artemi Panarin saga with the Columbus Blue Jackets will be an interesting one to follow leading up to the trade deadline. An unrestricted free agent following the season, it was reported last week that he plans to test the market. Now, it's up to Columbus to decide what to do with him for the rest of this season. 

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