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Prospect report: Ilya Samsonov steals the show in World Juniors

Prospect report: Ilya Samsonov steals the show in World Juniors

Hershey update: 18-7-5-2, 4th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-1-0-0

News broke last week that Madison Bowey, one of the Caps’ top defensive prospects, would be out indefinitely after suffering a cut by a skate to the tendon in his ankle.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir caught up with Bowey last week to talk to him about the injury. The projected time frame for the injury at this point is three months which would mean he would return at the beginning of April.

On the ice this week, Liam O’Brien put on a show for the Bears in Friday’s win over Bridgeport. O’Brien scored two goals and an assist in the game.

Watch the highlights here:

The game was the first three-point game of O’Brien’s career. He now has 18 points on the season, two more than he had in all of last season.

With the Caps currently carrying only 12 forwards on the roster, a call up from Hershey is imminent. Now is a good time for a player like O’Brien to be showcasing his talent.

When thinking about the team’s prospects in Hershey, O’Brien is not the player many jump to when considering who the Caps may call up. He is a gritty forward who is not afraid to drop the gloves. He played in 13 games for the Caps in 2014-15 scoring one goal and one assist. But O’Brien is proving he can me more than just an agitator this season.

"In the past, you'd think of him as maybe a tough guy, fourth-line left-winger, try to get him some penalty-kill time, try to turn the momentum," Hershey head coach Troy Mann said, "but now he's able to do that and contribute offensively, as you saw on the pass to Stephenson on the first goal."

It has been a tough season for Stanislav Galiev who has been limited to only 15 games due to injury. But the Russian forward had a good week with one goal and two assists including a great spin move to set up Brad Malone for the goal (see it in the video above). Malone made the play harder than it needed to be as Galive fed him the puck on his forehand with an empty net yawning, but Malone elected to deke and go for the five-hole rather than take the easy goal. Luckily, he still was able to finish the play.

Zach Sanford scored the Bears’ lone goal in a 4-1 loss to Providence on Saturday. In just nine games with Hershey, Sanford already has five goals and four assists.

RELATED:Orpik among the many Capitals amped up for Jackets

Other prospect notes:

Ilya Samsonov had a rough start tot the World Junior tournament allowing five goals against Canada, but he has played very well ever since.

On Dec. 29 in Russia’s first game against USA, Samsonov made 34 saves in a 3-2 loss. He followed that performance with two shutouts against Slovakia and Denmark. The in Wednesday’s semifinal rematch with USA< Samsonov really kept Russia in it for much of the game, making 40 saves in the 4-3 shootout loss.

You can see highlights of all four games he played over the past week here: USA (first round), Slovakia, Denmark, USA (semifinal)

It’s important to keep in mind while watching Samsonov that he is 19 years old and still very much a work in progress. You can see he over commits on a few goals and is slow to react on others, especially when dealing with a screen. The third goal he allowed in the semifinal game is ugly. That’s one he has to have.

But the junior tournament also highlighted Samsonov’s raw potential. He is similar to Braden Holtby in that he seems to play with an aggressive style. He is quick with the poke check which he used to stop a penalty shot in Russia’s first game with USA. While the third goal in the semifinal game was bad, he also came up with a big glove save on a penalty shot to keep the deficit at one in the third period. That was a big-time save in a big-time moment.

Samsonov has a 2.33 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage at the World Juniors. There have been only four shutouts in the entire tournament and he has two of them.

Russia will play in the third-place game against Sweden on Thursday.

It was also a successful tournament for the Caps’ two Swiss prospects, Jonas Siegenthaler and Damien Riat. Both players tied for second on the team in points with 1 goal and five assists each. Siegenthaler’s six points have him tied for second among all defensemen.

The reviews of Siegenthaler were particularly glowing as the young defenseman proved to be the Switzerland’s workhorse on the blue line. He led the team in ice time with an average of 25 minutes per game.

TSN analyst Craig Button also named Siegenthaler as a junior all-star.

In the college ranks, Chase Priskie tallied one goal and one assist in the Three Rivers Classic for Quinnipiac and was named to the All-Tournament team. Brian Pinho recorded three assists in Providence’s two games and now leads the team in points with 17 in 18 games.

Forward Beck Malenstyn had an impressive week in the WHL as he scored three goals and one assist in three games for the Calgary Hitmen. He now leads the team in goals with 16 and is second on the team in points with 25.

South Carolina goalie Adam Carlson was scratched from his start last week. He was not on the bench for either of the Stingrays’ games this week and is listed as day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

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NHL goalie for a day: Gavin McHale suits up as emergency goalie for the Caps in Winnipeg

NHL goalie for a day: Gavin McHale suits up as emergency goalie for the Caps in Winnipeg

Wednesday’s game in Winnipeg was a complete nightmare in terms of injuries for the Caps. There was a silver lining, however, as the Caps' nightmare turned into a dream night for local goalie Gavin McHale.

Prior to the game, the team announced Pheonix Copley would get the surprise start due to an upper-body injury to Braden Holtby. Head coach Todd Reirden said after the game that Holtby suffered the injury while working on the ice with goalie coach Scott Murray earlier in the day.

There is an emergency goalie available at every game for either team in case of situations such as the one the Caps faced Wednesday. The most famous example came in March when Scott Foster, a 36-year-old accountant, not only dressed for the Chicago Blackhawks but actually had to play when the team lost both Anton Forsberg and Collin Delia to injury.

With only one healthy goalie on the roster and no time to recall anyone from Hershey to get to Winnipeg, the Caps had to call on Winnipeg’s emergency goalie. Enter Winnipeg native McHale.

To their credit, the Caps made the best of a bad situation and welcomed McHale with open arms.

“I think the biggest thing is just every guy in here was so nice to me and made me feel so good, just to be a good person, it’s a really important piece of what hockey players are,” McHale said. “This is a pretty successful team last year so to be welcomed in like that in a bit of a crazy situation was a pretty nice feeling.”

“Pretty successful last year”? OK, bit of an understatement there, but sure.

Anyway….

McHale, 31, is the goaltending coach for the women’s hockey team at the University of Manitoba. The last time he played competitive hockey was in 2014-15 as a member of the Warren Mecs from the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League.

He also may or may not be a Jets fan.

“I’m not at liberty to say that right now,” McHale said.

Interestingly enough, lightning has struck twice for McHale as this was not the first time he has been called upon to be a backup in an NHL game. He suited up for the Colorado Avalanche in February as the emergency goalie when Jonathan Bernier appeared to suffer an injury against the Jets. Somehow, McHale did not get to keep his jersey from that night. This time, hopefully he will able to save his Caps sweater as a keepsake.

“If I get to keep it, it’s getting framed really fast,” McHale said. “There’s a couple puck marks on it too actually surprisingly.”

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Injuries hit Capitals hard in 3-1 loss to Winnipeg

Injuries hit Capitals hard in 3-1 loss to Winnipeg

The Capitals were already facing one of the toughest back-to-back challenges in the NHL. Then they found out their starting goalie would not play and less than nine minutes into the game lost their No. 1 center. 

That about summed up a 3-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. The last time an NHL team swept a back-to-back set of games against the Jets and Minnesota Wild was 2012. 

Washington played well enough taking a 1-0 lead on a Jakub Vrana goal in the first period and the game was tied until 12:51 of the third period when a shot by Ben Chiarot skipped past goalie Pheonix Copley. The Jets added an empty-net goal to seal the win. 

The loss is one thing. Winnipeg is a tough place to play and maybe the favorite to come out of the Western Conference. But injuries have begun to mount and that’s the big takeaway. 

Holtby showed up to the rink Wednesday morning and it was assumed he’d play after Copley won the game in St. Paul against the Wild. Instead, Holtby was ruled out with an upper-body injury and the Capitals had to sign an emergency goalie – Gavin McHale, a 31-year-old assistant coach for a local women’s college hockey team in Winnipeg. That is less than ideal. 

Holtby’s injury might not be a big deal. You’ll know if Washington recalls top prospect Ilya Samsonov from AHL Hershey for Friday’s game in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche. 

“That was this morning. [Holtby] came over with our goalie coach and did a skate this morning and was not able to back up tonight or play,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. “So he was kind of a game-time decision and he wasn’t able to participate tonight.”

Holtby will be re-evaluated Thursday after he gets continuing treatment for his injury. There has to be concern about Kuznetsov, who took an elbow to the face at 8:52 of the first period from Jets forward Brandon Tanev. Kuznetsov left the game and did not return. 

That left the Caps shorthanded most of the night with Lars Eller playing center alongside Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson on the top line. Ovechkin ended up playing 24:21. Eller played 18:48 and Backstrom 21:41. Not having Kuznetsov would be an issue. He’s not a player they can replace for long. 

“Was more precautionary,” Reirden said. “Obviously a blow to the head. We had to continue to evaluate him tomorrow, but we needed to make sure he didn’t return to the game.”

Washington, of course, could look to last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs when they missed Backstrom for Game 6 during the second round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with a hand injury and the first three games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.

Oshie was the final blow. He was slammed to the ice by Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey and the back of his head hit the ice. Reirden compared the play to a hit by Florida Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson on Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson. He was suspended two games on Oct. 15.  

Oshie certainly didn’t look right. He had to stay on the ice as the Caps pushed for the tying goal with the net empty down 2-1. But it took a while for him to get back to his skates and then he wasn’t able to jump on a loose puck in the slot moments before Winnipeg put the game away at the other end of the ice with an empty-net goal. 

The result is one thing for the Capitals (8-7-3), who are still struggling to generate multiple wins in a row. The status of their three key players is more important after a 1-1-0 start to a four-game road trip. 

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