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Caps GM Brian MacLellan gives early thoughts on the trade deadline

Caps GM Brian MacLellan gives early thoughts on the trade deadline

With the trade deadline a little over a month away, Brian MacLellan says he’s still evaluating what path the Capitals should take.

He told CSN’s Al Koken on Tuesday’s game broadcast that the Caps’ health between now and March 1 will impact his decision making.

MacLellan also indicated that he’s comfortable with the organization's depth, particularly up front.

“I'm not sure yet,” MacLellan said, asked by Koken if he's inclined to make any moves. “It’s going to depend on our health going into the deadline.”

MacLellan added: “We’ve had a chance to see [prospects Jakub] Vrana and [Zach] Sanford, so we know we have some depth there. And there are a couple of other guys that have played well in Hershey that we could possibly use.”

RELATED: Senators snap Capitals point streak

Vrana and Sanford have played 12 and 20 games for the Caps this season. Both rookies are currently in Hershey.

Other Bears forwards who have seen ice time in Washington this season include Liam O’Brien, Paul Carey and Chandler Stephenson. Stephenson made his season debut with the Caps during Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat in Ottawa, the team’s first loss by more than a goal in 54 days (dating to a 3-0 loss to the Islanders on Dec. 1).

At last year's deadline, MacLellan added a couple of depth players to a roster that eventually claimed the Presidents’ Trophy, dealing for winger Daniel Winnik and defenseman Mike Weber, who cost the Caps a third round draft pick in 2017 and ended up appearing in only 10 regular season games and two postseason contests. 

This year, though, MacLellan hinted that he’s happier with his group.

“Fairly similar,” he said, asked to compare this year’s roster to last year’s. “Maybe we’re a little deeper this year. I like what our third line has done this year. I like what our fourth line has done. Maybe our penalty killing is a little bit better. Our power play hasn’t produced at the rate it did last year, but I think we’re generating chances. And we haven’t relied on it, which is a positive sign.”

All that said, it doesn’t mean MacLellan will stand pat. A good executive never tips his hand and, although the Caps have been mostly healthy this season, a lot can happen over the next four-plus weeks.

But we already know this much: Washington has stayed under the 23-man maximum quite often this season in an effort to bank as much cap space as possible.

“We’ll explore everything,” MacLellan added, “but I’m more comfortable with our depth than I have been the past two years.”

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin wrestles Senators forward to the ice by his head

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Remembering the other series-clinching goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov

Remembering the other series-clinching goal from Evgeny Kuznetsov

When you think about Evgeny Kuznetsov in the playoffs, most probably think of his overtime-winning goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2018 that ended the series and handed Washington a long-awaited victory over its archrival. But that wasn’t the first series-clinching goal Kuznetsov scored.

Before the Stanley Cup was brought to Washington, before the bird celebration, there was another epic moment of Kuznetsov’s career that now feels overshadowed by the 2018 run.

In 2015, the Caps returned to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. They entered the postseason as the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division, drawing the third-place New York Islanders in the first round.

A back-and-forth series, it ultimately went the distance with Game 7 being played in Washington. As even as the series had been, the Caps dominated that Game 7, suffocating the Islanders and giving up only 11 shots on goal. Joel Ward put Washington ahead 1-0, but Frans Nielsen tied it early in the third period. Despite the dominant defensive performance, Jaroslav Halak (remember him?) would not allow the Caps to the chance to put the game away.

Just when it began to feel as if Halak was going to steal away another Game 7 from the Caps, a young Russian center in just his first full NHL season took over.

With less than eight minutes remaining in the third period, Kuznetsov took a pass along the half wall, showed Frans Nielsen his back and when Nielsen bit, he spun and cut to the center of the ice. Nielsen was caught a step behind and whacked Kuznetsov in desperation, actually diving to the ice to try to keep him from breaking loose. In one slick move Kuznetsov had cut through the Islanders’ defense and was in alone on net. Halak went down to the butterfly as Kuznetsov cut to center, but Kuznetsov showed incredible patience and did not immediately shoot. Suddenly, Halak was committed and helpless. He dove to his right desperately holding up the glove as Kuznetsov kept gliding across the ice, but Halak had left too much of the net open by going down too soon and Kuznetsov hit the corner.

With 7:18 remaining in the game and the series, Kuznetsov had given the Caps the 2-1 lead.

The series was a breakout performance for Kuznetsov who returned the following season and earned a top-six role, something not all that easy for young players to do under head coach Barry Trotz. It also gave a franchise still bearing the scars of Halak’s 2010 upset a measure of revenge.

And the rest is history.

What heroics does Kuznetsov have in store for the Islanders on Saturday when the two teams meet at 1 p.m.? Tune in to NBC Sports Washington at 12 p.m. for coverage.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.


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Caps at Islanders: Ovechkin is in for final game before bye week

Caps at Islanders: Ovechkin is in for final game before bye week

The Capitals (32-11-5) head to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders (28-14-4) in the last game before the bye week. Tune in to NBC Sports Washington for all the action! Pregame coverage starts at 12 p.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live bringing you up to the 1 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for postgame coverage with Caps Postgame Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here is what you need to know for Saturday's game.

Ovechkin is in

By skipping the All-Star Game, Alex Ovechkin is subject to a one-game suspension. He must serve that suspension in either the last game before the bye week or the first game back. Todd Reirden said following Thursday's game that Ovechkin will play on Saturday meaning he will miss the Jan. 27 game against the Montreal Canadiens. This should come as no surprise considering the Islanders game is a division game and the Montreal game is not.

Here are the lines based on Friday's practice:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

Ovechkin is red-hot

It is a good thing Ovechkin is playing Saturday because he is red-hot right now. He has five goals in just the past two games and sits one behind Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time in goals.

Holtby starts

Ilya Samsonov started the last two games and played well, but with the bye week upcoming, Reirden felt it important to get Braden Holtby back in. He confirmed Friday that Holtby will be the starter.

Holtby has not registered a save percentage above .900 in six straight starts and he sits at .899 for the season. He has still managed a 18-9-4 record for the season, however. Reirden said the last two games for Samsonov allowed Holtby the chance to "reset." HIs last game was on Jan. 11 against the New Jersey Devils.

When last we met

With Holtby in net, he will have a chance to rebound after this last start against the Islanders, a tough 4-3 loss at home on New Year's Eve. He allowed four goals on 22 shots in that game.

It was a very sloppy affair, not what we are used to seeing from the typically buttoned-up Islanders defense and turnovers were a problem for both sides. Semyon Varlamov closed the door in the period, stopping a whopping 17 shots as Washington poured it on looking to tie it.

Here's a recap of the game.

Washington is 1-1-0 against the Islanders this season with the final matchup coming on Feb. 10.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.