Quick Links

Prospect report: Hershey looks to make playoff push after rough January

Prospect report: Hershey looks to make playoff push after rough January

Hershey update: 24-13-7-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 3-0-0-0

After a rough January, the Hershey Bears are rebounding with four straight wins including three last week.

Stanislav Galiev was on fire with four goals and one assist in three games, including a hat trick against Binghamton on Friday. It was Galiev’s first AHL over the weekend, Galiev has already matched his entire total for January.

The Bears should get a boost this week with the return of Riley Barber. Barber has been out of the lineup since November with an upper-body injury, but was cleared for contact last week. Hershey head coach Troy Mann told CSN that if there were no setbacks, he hoped to have Barber back in the lineup on Friday, Feb. 10. With three games this week, if Barber is not ready for Friday’s contest he still should be back at some point over the weekend.

The past week has seen Chandler Stephenson and Jakub Vrana recalled by the Caps and then sent back down to Hershey. Zach Sanford is now the latest callup and is currently with the Caps.

Washington has been carrying the minimum of 12 forwards on their roster and choosing to add players from Hershey for brief stretches. Barry Trotz has called these recalls a reward for good play.

Defenseman Christian Djoos spoke with Don Scott of the Lebanon Daily News about his time in the AHL and what is was like to get drafted by the Caps in 2012.

“I was very happy to be drafted by the Capitals because I grew up in the same town as Nicklas Backstrom so Washington was my favorite team for the same reason. This is my second full year here and I like this area, the community and the people here.”

You can read the full conversation here.

Djoos tallied one goal and two assists in the Bears’ three games over the week.

RELATED: Caps have worked to eliminate the 'cheat' from their game

Other prospect notes:

Damien Riat and Jonas Siegenthaler have gotten a promotion. After a successful showing in the World Junior Championship, both players were added to Switzerland’s senior national team for the upcoming Slovakia Cup. Siegenthaler, however, will not participate due to an injury. Switzerland plays Belarus on Friday.

Ilya Samsonov is also suiting up for his national team as Team Russia is competing in the Sweden Hockey Games tournament. Russia’s first game is on Thursday against Finland.

To prepare, Samsonov caught some fruit in a shopping cart at a grocery store. No, I’m not making this up.

It was a tough week for Shane Gersich as North Dakota lost both of its games to St. Cloud State. Gersich tallied only one assist, but, as Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald writes, he has established himself as one of the top offensive playmakers in the nation.

Gersich already has 18 goals this season after tallying just nine last year. Part of that improvement is the extra work he does in the morning. Twice a week, Gersich works on his game with an assistant coach on the ice for about half an hour before heading to class.

Interestingly enough, the coaches seem to believe his boost in offense is tied to what he does defensively.

"First and foremost, he isn't a guy who waits for the puck and says, 'Hey, give me the puck, I'm going to score,'" UND coach Brad Berry said. "He goes and gets it. He's a worker.

"If you watch him on the ice, he's one of the first guys tracking back through the neutral zone, trying to get the puck back. He plays with pace and tempo. He has a passion for the game. Those are a few of the things that have led into his success."

You can read the full article here.

One player who did have a good week in the college ranks was Chase Priskie who scored two goals and one assist in a 5-2 win for Quinnipiac over Yale on Saturday.

Down in the WHL, it was a big week for several Caps prospects. Beck Malenstyn was named the third star on Friday with two assists against Vancouver. He had three assists in three games over the week. Garrett Pilon scored two goals and three assists in three games.

It was also yet another big week for Connor Hobbs who has made a habit of big games for Regina this season. He was named the second star for Wednesday’s game after scoring one goal and three assists. Hobbs currently leads all defensemen in the WHL in goals (23) and points (61).

Hobbs showed off his versatility on Saturday as he suited up at right wing. It should be noted that there are no plans to move him to forward full-time and that he was back to playing defenseman in the very next game. The move to offense on Saturday was made due to a shortage of forward options for Regina in that one game.

Despite his offensive success on the blue line, Hobbs says making the transition from defense to offense for a game is a difficult one.

“It’s just different; everything is different,” said Hobbs. “All I want to do is go get the puck like a D-man would. I have to kind of rein myself in, so to speak, and be more patient. It’s tough.”

MORE CAPITALS: Winnik: 'Hopefully we don't make any trades'

Quick Links

Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Tom Wilson stayed on brand in his return from a long suspension.

The Capitals’ big man scored a goal and took a penalty on the same play in his first game of the season, a 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. 

Wilson won’t get the 16 games back he missed for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. But he tried to make up for it in his debut. 

Wilson scored Washington’s second goal at 19:32 of the first period when he drove the net hard and deflected a pass from teammate Dmitry Orlov past Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk. But this being Wilson, nothing is totally uncontroversial.  

The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was moving fast. There was no stopping him. Wilson, with some help from Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, collided with Dubnyk. The puck was already in the net, but the referee decided Wilson needed to go think about what he’d done after Dubnyk got clocked in the head. It was a two-minute goalie interference call. 

That’s an odd play rarely called. Either the goal counts or it doesn’t, but maybe because Wilson had already scored before running into Dubnyk both calls could stand. 

“It was a first for me to score and get a penalty on the same play,” Wilson told reporters in St. Paul. “I was just going hard to the net and Snarls [Orlov] put it right on my tape. It was a great pass at full speed. I was trying to do everything I could to get out of the way. I’ll take the goal and the kill went out there and got it done. It was good to see.”

It was far from Wilson’s only contribution in his first game back. He also fought Marcus Foligno at 11:58 of the second period on the faceoff after Minnesota cut a Washington lead to 3-1. He didn’t back down when asked to go by Foligno. 

“He’s a key player for our team, brings so much energy both on the ice and off the ice,” forward Andre Burakovsky said. “Huge lift for the team to get him back earlier. Didn’t expect that and I think he had a really strong game today. Obviously, he got the goal in his first game back and then some dirty works. Obviously, I think he’s a huge guy for us in PK and it showed today.”

Wilson didn’t get the assist on the goal that put the game away. Alex Ovechkin found Orlov for a one-timer on a pass from the left faceoff circle to the right. But it was Wilson driving hard toward the goal that kept a Wild defenseman with him and allowed Orlov the space to finish Ovechkin’s pass. Those little things have been missed in the 16 games Wilson was suspended. He was relentless. 

One big issue for the Capitals: The penalty kill. Wilson has been a big part of that group in recent years and without him – and, to be fair the departed Jay Beagle and the injured Brooks Orpik – Washington entered the game 29thin the NHL in penalty kill percentage (71.7 percent). Wilson wasn’t eased into anything. He played 5:23 on the penalty kill and the Capitals killed five of six Wild power plays. 

[Wilson] does a lot not just on the ice, but in our room. Adds a ton of energy. Well respected player for how he trains,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden. “Going through a tough time and obviously kind of a surprise for us to get him back today. We were hoping to at any point here and we were able to take advantage of a fortunate bounce for our team before even the game started. But I didn’t expect him to have as strong a game as he did." 

"Obviously able to convert on a great play on a line rush, but just the other things he did. Our penalty kill, the opposition scores a goal and, you talk about shifts after goals, not giving the team any more momentum than they’ve already gotten and he gets in a fight there. There’s a lot to like about Tom Wilson and I thought he had a strong game. It was great to have him back.”


Quick Links

4 reasons the Capitals beat the Wild

4 reasons the Capitals beat the Wild

Think the Caps missed Tom Wilson? It sure looked like it.

Washington looked like a completely different team with Wilson back in the lineup Tuesday in a dominant 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Here are four reasons the Caps won:

Tom Wilson

Wilson made his season debut Tuesday after his suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator earlier in the day. Wilson’s addition to the lineup had two effects. One, it made the lineup a lot deeper. Without Wilson, Todd Reirden was having trouble putting together the right lineup. Several players cycled on the top line and every line behind the top had to shuffle. Wilson came back onto the top line and immediately the rest of the lineup fell into place.

The top line looked better, the second line looked better and the third line looked better with their regular lineups back intact.

Wilson’s return also brought a lot of energy to the team and that was evident from the very start of the game. The Caps outshot Minnesota 12-6 and took the 2-0 lead in the first period of the game. Compare that to the rather lethargic game we saw on Sunday, clearly, Wilson brought a spark.

Oh, yeah, Wilson has also had a pretty darn good game too. He scored in the first period of the game in a typical Wilson play. He completely blew past Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter and tipped in a pass from Dmitry Orlov as he crashed the net on goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Somehow Wilson was also given a goalie interference penalty… but the goal still counted? Regardless of what was an obvious reputation penalty, it was a good return for Wilson, who also had a fight with Marcus Foligno and helped set up Orlov’s second goal by crashing again and drawing the defense over to him.

Dmitry Orlov

Orlov broke a 19-game goal drought with a goal just 7:23 into the game.

Lars Eller had the puck and cut to the blue line in the offensive zone turning to the middle. Minnesota got caught puck watching as the defense shifted with Eller, leaving Orlov open on the left. Eller found him and Orlov took advantage of the extra space to score his first goal of the season.

Orlov would add an assist on Wilson’s goal and a second goal in the third period off a beautiful pass from Alex Ovechkin.

The typically reliable defensive pairing of Orlov and Matt Niskanen struggled at the start of the season prompting Todd Reirden to switch up the pairs and place Orlov with John Carlson. Clearly, the move had the desired effect in Tuesday’s game.

The schedule

Tuesday’s game was the Wild’s first at home since Oct. 27. Minnesota was coming off a seven-game road swing and they looked a bit weary at the start of the game. As mentioned above, the Wild were outshot 12-6 in the first period and then 15-8 in the second.

Really, this game was a perfect storm. Not only were the Wild tired from a lengthy road trip, but they also were dealing with a Caps team that was pumped up by the return of Wilson.

Part of what made Sunday’s loss to Arizona so disappointing was the fact that the Coyotes were on the second leg of a back-to-back with their starting goalie on IR. The Caps were not able to take advantage, but they certainly took it to a vulnerable, road-weary team on Tuesday.

The penalty kill

Washington’s porous penalty kill was the reason the Caps lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday and a major reason they fell to Arizona. The PK finally stood tall on Tuesday as the Caps were able to kill off four out of five penalties on the night. The lone power play goal the team gave up came in the third period when the Caps were already up 5-1 and the game was no longer in doubt.

You can add the penalty kill to the long list of things that Wilson instantly improved in his return. Wilson logged 16:47 of total ice time on Tuesday and 5:23 of that came on the penalty kill.