For the first time in nearly five months, the Capitals will play a meaningful hockey game as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, their first round-robin game of the 2020 postseason. Catch all the action on NBC Sports Washington starting with Caps Pregame Live at 3 p.m. followed by the game at 4 p.m. Be sure to stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Postgame Live.
Here’s what you need to know for Monday’s round-robin game.
Carlson is practicing, but we don’t know if he will play
John Carlson did not play the final 10 minutes of Wednesday’s exhibition and did not practice on Thursday. He did return after the team’s day off on Friday and has practiced ever since. Still, head coach Todd Reirden has been non-committal on whether he will actually play citing the need to be cautious before the actual playoffs.
“We're not going to put them in a situation where, if something were to go wrong or re-aggravate any injury or anything that's going on that would potentially cause a chance for him to miss part of Round 1. So we'll do the thing that's right for the player and obviously right for the team. We obviously wouldn't put him out there in a situation where anything could become worse because he's such a large part of our team and obviously a guy that had a tremendous year and is a huge part of our blue line."
Considering the Caps don’t have a great solution for right defenseman on the second pair, losing Carlson off the top pair would be a huge blow. If I had to wager a guess, I would say Brenden Dillon and Dmitry Orlov would become the top pair with Michal Kempny playing with Nick Jensen on the second and Jonas Siegenthaler playing with Radko Gudas on the third.
Here are the projected lines for Monday bearing in mind that practices are closed to the media and we cannot see the team’s lines.
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Ilya Kovalchuk
Richard Panik - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway
Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Brenden Dillon - Dmitry Orlov
Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen
Holtby and Vanecek get the nod
Unsurprisingly, Braden Holtby will get the start. Reirden confirmed that the 24-year-old Vitek Vanecek would serve as the team’s backup. He gets the nod over Pheonix Copley who was the team backup just last season.
Ovechkin is ready
Ovechkin scored two goals and an assist in Wednesday’s exhibition game and it didn’t even look like he was going 100-percent yet. He has more in the tank and looks like he is going to pick up right from where he left off in the regular season.
So many penalties
My first takeaway from watching the recent games is how many penalties there are. Do not make the mistake to think the refs will put away the whistles because it’s the “postseason.” Of the five games played on Saturday, there was only one in which at least one team did not get called for six or more penalties.
The power play was an issue for the Caps during their struggles prior to the pause and it looked pretty bad on Wednesday as well. If Saturday’s games were any indication, however, they will get plenty of reps.
When last we met
The Caps last played the Lightning When last we met on Dec. 21. The Caps won 3-1 to sweep the season, but these two teams went in different trajectories after that with Tampa Bay surging in the standings and the Caps faltering.
Throw away the record books. This is a brand new season.
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