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Prospect Report: Evaluating the Caps defensive prospects

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Prospect Report: Evaluating the Caps defensive prospects

Hershey update: 21-13-2-5, 3rd in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-0-1-0

Riley Barber had perhaps his best game as a professional on Saturday to help lead Hershey to a 4-3 shootout win over Springfield. Barber scored twice and added an assist on Chris Bourque's game-tying goal.

"I felt early on that Barber was on," Hershey head coach Troy Mann said. "You saw his hands on that power play goal. It was good to see him have a big night. The puck's not always going to go in, but he's stayed patient and kept working."

You can watch the highlights from Barber's big night here:

As good as Barber was on Saturday, Travis Boyd has been more consistent over the course of the season. He currently ranks 13th among rookies in the AHL with 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists).

RELATED: Capitals players were skating on the roads, too

Bears assistant coach Bryan Helmer provided mid-season evaluations for the team's defensemen. You can read his full comments here and it's definitely worth the time, but here are some of the highlights of what he had to say about the Caps' prospects:

Tyler Lewington

He makes rookie mistakes, but he responds well after doing that and that’s what I like about him. He has to be physical and strong in front of the net because we don’t have lot of those guys on the back end.

In his first year as a pro, Lewington has established himself as a physical presence on the blue line. It's tough to do that as a 21-year-old. He has only three points in 19 games with Hershey, but offense is not his strong suit. He's sticking with what he knows and it's working for him, especially because Hershey does not have too many physical defensemen.

Madison Bowey

I compare him to John Carlson when he came here and I was still playing. He moves in from the point and always seems to do it at the right time. He wants to make plays and make something happen and plays with a swagger. He just needs to try and not do too much in the defensive end.

The issue of doing too much in the defensive end can often be a problem for talented players as they transition to a higher level of competition. In the WHL, Bowey had the skill to make up for his mistakes in his own end. That's no longer the case in the AHL and he certainly won't be able to do it in the NHL. Still, you have to like what you see thus far in his first professional season. His offensive acumen remains high, though his skill is more as a set-up man than a scorer.

Christian Djoos

Chrisitian Joos is very talented and calm with the puck who slows the game down and always seems to make the right plays. He’s put on some weight, seeing a nutritionist and working real hard at that. His hockey IQ is off the chart because he sees the game so well, but he gets in trouble in our end because he gets out-muscled.

Djoos has tremendous talent, but his size is a major concern. Hershey's website lists Djoos as 6-feet, 162 pounds and that may be generous (Elite Prospects lists him as 159 pounds). At that size, he would get pushed around at the NHL level. How could he be expected to defend against a power forward like Milan Lucic, for example? It's good to hear he's putting on weight because the talent is certainly there. If he had Bowey's size (6-foot-2, 209 pounds), Djoos would likely be considered the top defensive prospect in the Caps' system. He's that talented.

Connor Carrick

He’s starting to get it as far as playing both ends of the ice, is on the special teams doing a real good job on the PK. Overall, his whole game is coming around.

Despite the increased role he is enjoying in Hershey, Carrick just has not been able to stick at the NHL level. There was a real opportunity for him given to stay with the Caps for an extended period because of the injuries to Carlson and Brooks Orpik, but he did not take advantage. With Bowey enjoying a great rookie season, I'm beginning to wonder if Carrick's ceiling may be as an occasional call-up rather than as a full-time NHLer.

Other prospect notes:

Vitek Vanecek returned to action on Saturday in his first start for South Carolina since returning from the World Juniors tournament. It did not go well as he allowed five goals on 22 shots in the overtime loss.

The silver-lining is that Vanecek seemed to play better as the game went along. He gave up a goal just 12 seconds into the game and three goals in the first period. He would allow only one more in the next two regulation periods and even stopped a breakaway in overtime before he was eventually handed the loss.

You can see highlights from the game here:

Brian Pinho is enjoying a terrific sophomore season for defending national champion Providence College. With an assist in Saturday's win, Pinho matched a career high five-game point streak. He has also matched his point total last season with 18 despite playing in 17 fewer games. 

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby: 'Our goal isn't to win the regular season'

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Capitals Injury updates: Braden Holtby a possibility to start in Montreal

Capitals Injury updates: Braden Holtby a possibility to start in Montreal

The Capitals were able to pull out a win Friday in Colorado without Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie or Braden Holtby. With a game Monday in Montreal, the team hopes it will not be quite as shorthanded against the Canadiens.

Washington practiced Sunday in Montreal and three goalies took to the ice. Holtby was on the ice along with Pheonix Copley and Ilya Samsonov 

Holtby suffered an upper-body injury Wednesday morning prior to the game in Winnipeg. That injury kept him out of the lineup both Wednesday and Friday. The Caps netminder told Chris Kuc of The Atlantic that he is ready to play, but still needs to be cleared by doctors.

Head coach Todd Reirden said after practice that Holtby was a possibility to start Monday.

With Holtby’s status still up in the air, Samsonov remains with the team in case he is needed to suit up as a backup.

While Holtby was on the ice for practice, both Kuznetsov and Oshie were not. Reirden told the media that both players are day-to-day and are with the team in Montreal. Their status for Monday remains uncertain.

With no Kuznetsov or Oshie, Reirden kept the offensive lines largely the same from Friday except for switching Devante Smith-Pelly to the third line and moving Brett Connolly down to the fourth.

Alex Ovechkin – Lars Eller – Tom Wilson 
Jakub Vrana – Nicklas Backstrom – Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson – Travis Boyd – Devante Smith-Pelly
Dmitrij Jaskin – Nic Dowd – Brett Connolly

Reirden switched up the lines frequently on Friday and Stephenson, Boyd, Smith-Pelly combined for a goal in the second period.

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Capitals vs. Canadiens: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

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Capitals vs. Canadiens: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

When the Capitals traveled to Montreal to face the Canadiens earlier this month, they suffered one of their toughest losses of the season, allowing three goals in the final three-plus minutes of the third period, falling 6-4 in devastating fashion.

The Caps will be looking for revenge on Monday evening, as they get their first crack at the Canadiens since that devastating loss.

Alex Ovechkin enjoys playing against the Canadiens. In 47 games against Montreal in his career, Ovechkin has 51 points (29 goals and 22 assists), including a two-goal performance in their meeting earlier this season.

Here is everything you need to know about Capitals vs. Canadiens which takes place Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS at CANADIENS: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens, Game 20 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: Monday, November 19, 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals vs. Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals at the Canadiens on the new MyTeams by NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7, 106.7 The Fan, 1500 AM

CAPITALS at CANADIENS TV SCHEDULE

6:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live
7:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:30 PM: Capitals at Montreal Canadiens
10:00 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS at CANADIENS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Max Domi, LW, Canadiens: In 20 games, Domi has recorded a point in all but three of them. His 24 points are tied for the ninth-most in the NHL.

Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals: Ovechkin loves playing against the Canadiens, as he has totaled 51 points in 47 career games against Montreal. In their first meeting this season, he netted two goals in the 6-4 loss.

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