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Galiev in, Burakovsky out for Capitals

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Galiev in, Burakovsky out for Capitals

Right wing Stan Galiev will be in the lineup and right wing Andre Burakovsky and defenseman Brooks Orpik will be out when the Capitals face off against the Colorado Avalanche tonight at Verizon Center (7 p.m., CSN).

Galiev, 23, practiced on a third line with center Jay Beagle and left wing Jason Chimera Saturday morning, while Justin Williams, who had been on the third line, moved up to a second line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and left wing Marcus Johansson.

Galiev was recalled by the Capitals on Nov. 16 after scoring three goals in five games with the Hershey Bears. He has not played for the Caps since the third game of the season on Oct. 15 when he picked up an assist.

“Gally deserves a chance,” Trotz said. “Every day he comes and practices hard and went down to Hershey and played pretty well. I expect a little more from (Burakovsky), some of the details in his game. We haven’t gotten much production from him.”

Burakovsky, 20, has just one point in his last 11 games and has not scored a goal since Oct. 23. He has just two goals and four assists in 18 games, after netting nine goals and 13 assists in 53 games as a rookie last season.

“Sometimes you pull him out and he gets to reassess,” Trotz said. “There’s nothing that gets your message across like pulling a player out. A little more detail and a little more production and he should be fine.”

Galiev, who led the Bears with 25 goals last season, said he’s looking forward to another crack at the NHL. He has one goal and one assist in four career games with the Caps.

“It’s been a long time and I’m excited to play,” Galiev said. “I just want to prepare mentally. I haven’t played in this league for a long time but those five games in Hershey should help me. I got my confidence back and I’m going to use my speed today and be the first guy on the forecheck and back check.”

Galiev also saw time Saturday morning on the Caps’ second power-play unit, where he occupied Alex Ovechkin’s spot in the left circle.

“It should be fun,” he said. “Hopefully (Ovechkin) finishes off all the power plays with a goal and I don’t have to do it.”

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Trotz said Galiev will take Williams’ spot on the third line and not Burakovsky spot on the second line because he needs to prove himself as an NHL player, and because Williams deserves more ice time because of his recent play.

“Let’s make sure you’re able to play in the league first,” Trotz said putting Galiev in the top six. “His assets are skating and his skill level. But can he produce at this level up here?”

Orpik still ailing: Orpik (lower body) received treatments at Kettler on Saturday but is still not ready to suit up. He will miss his fifth straight game tonight and is unlikely to play on Monday against the Oilers.    

“We want him to be 100 percent and once he gets to 100 percent we’ll give him a couple practices and you can expect him to be in the lineup after that point,” Trotz said. “It’s a long haul and he’s an important piece and we’re going to get him to 100 percent. It’s not a serious injury but it takes some time for what he has.”

Here’s how the Caps looked at Saturday’s morning skate:

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Stan Galiev

Brooks Laich - Michael Latta – Tom Wilson

Defense pairs

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov – Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) – Philipp Grubauer  

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Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?

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Who will the Caps' backup goalie be next season?

Very few teams have the luxury of having a backup goalie they can rely on for an extended period of time while the starter goes through a massive slump. The Capitals had that luxury in 2017-2018 thanks to Philipp Grubauer.

Not every team in the NHL has a dependable starter, let alone backup, so when a backup goalie goes 15-10-3 in a season with a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage, that is likely to catch the attention of general managers around the league.

The 2018-19 season will likely be a season of transition for the Capitals behind Braden Holtby. General manager Brian MacLellan expressed his willingness Wednesday to possibly trade backup goalie Philipp Grubauer this offseason. With the season he just had, he could potentially yield the Caps a solid return.

But, if Grubauer is indeed moved, that leaves the question of who will play backup for the Capitals this season?

The initial plan appears to be to promote Pheonix Copley from the AHL.

“Yeah, I think he's capable of it,” MacLellan said when asked if he saw Copley as an NHL backup. “Obviously, he's unproven. I think he's done what he could do at the American League level. Got through probably a little bit of a tough patch this year recovering from an injury, but I think he has potential to be that guy, yes.”

Copley, 26, played last season with the Caps’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears. He had a tough season with a 2.91 GAA and .896 save percentage in 41 games.

As MacLellan alluded, Copley suffered a serious injury at the end of the previous season and it clearly affected his season. The year prior, Copley managed a 2.15 GAA and .931 with Hershey in 16 games. He was considered Washington’s No. 3 goalie this season and was recalled for the playoffs as an emergency backup behind Grubauer.

Copley’s career includes only two NHL games.

There is another internal candidate who some fans may be hoping to see next season. That of course, is 2015 first-round draft pick Ilya Samsonov.

Samsonov, 21, signed an entry-level contract with Washington in May and will make the jump from the KHL to North America next season.

But don’t expect to see Samsonov backing up Holtby to start the NHL season.

Samsonov will be adjusting to the North American game and the smaller North American rink. Because of that, MacLellan believes he will benefit from time in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL.

"I think he needs time in Hershey,” MacLellan said. “We'll start him in Hershey I would anticipate and see how he grows, see how he gets accustomed to the small rink and hopefully get some good coaching, get our guys in that work with him. It'll be up to him. I think he'll adapt fairly quickly given his skill set.”

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Devante Smith-Pelly is hopeful he has found a home with the Capitals

Devante Smith-Pelly is hopeful he has found a home with the Capitals

“I didn't think I'd be here a year ago,” Devante Smith-Pelly told the media Wednesday. “That's for sure.”

In 2017, Devante Smith-Pelly was a member of the New Jersey Devils and thought that’s where he would play the 2017-18 season. Instead, Smith-Pelly was bought out of the final year of his contract, something that he was not prepared for as he only received word of the team’s decision on the same day they made the move.

New Jersey’s loss turned out to be Washington’s gain as the Caps signed Smith-Pelly for one year and he proceeded to score seven goals during the Capitals’ postseason run to the Stanley Cup.

“Obviously, at the start of the year, not knowing exactly where I would be to at the parade on Constitution, it's crazy," Smith-Pelly said. "I haven't really sat down and taken it all in, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I had an amazing time this year. Obviously, it's the best year of my life.”

Now as a restricted free agent, Smith-Pelly is hoping he has found a home in Washington.

Despite being only 26-years-old, Smith-Pelly has already had somewhat of a journeyman’s career. The Caps are the fifth team in which he has played for.

The issue for much of Smith-Pelly's career has been consistency.

The 2018 playoffs was not his first breakout performance. He scored five goals in just 12 playoff games for the Anaheim Ducks in 2014, but he failed to live up to that level of production again until this year’s postseason with Washington.

“I don't think I needed to prove anything,” Smith-Pelly said. “I knew what I could do, it's just me getting a chance to do it and that's it. I got a chance here and I guess it worked out.”

Expecting him to score seven goals every 24 games in the regular season is likely unrealistic, but the Caps don’t need him to do that. Smith-Pelly developed a role with the Caps being a bottom-six player, a role that he thrived in throughout the season.

“He's become a big part of the team,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He brings good energy, he's a good teammate, he's well-liked. You could tell the teammates really migrate towards him, they like him and then the crowd also likes him. They're chanting 'DSP' all the time so it's been fun to watch how he's got everybody to embrace him and his personality.”

Given when Smith-Pelly was able to do in the postseason, it is no surprise that the Caps would be interested in keeping him around. But at what cost?

Smith-Pelly was a bargain for Washington last season with a cap hit of only $650,000. He will be due a raise, but with John Carlson expected to get a monster contract, how much will general manager Brian MacLellan be willing to spend on a bottom-six winger like Smith-Pelly?

Despite the phenomenal postseason, Smith-Pelly had only seven goals and 16 points in the entire regular season. When it comes to a new contract, MacLellan will likely want to pay for that player while Smith-Pelly will no doubt look to be paid like the player who scored seven times in 24 playoff games.

As of Wednesday when he spoke with reporters, Smith-Pelly said he had not yet had any talks with the team about a new contract, but also noted that, as a restricted free agent, “there’s no real rush.”

The Caps own Smith-Pelly’s rights which helps their bargaining position. Smith-Pelly, however, is arbitration eligible and his postseason stats will undoubtedly bump his value when viewed by a neutral arbitrator.

But there's a good chance it may not get anywhere close to that point.

“On the ice and off the ice I feel like this is the best situation I've been in,” Smith-Pelly said. “Obviously, never know what's going to happen but I found a place and I want to be back.”

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