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Prospect report: Nathan Walker out four-to-six weeks with broken hand

Prospect report: Nathan Walker out four-to-six weeks with broken hand

Hershey update: 21-13-7-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-0-0-1

After a rough month, the Hershey Bears tried to end January on a high note with three points in two games. But there was some bad news as well as Nathan Walker suffered a broken hand that will keep him out for the next four-to-six weeks.

Walker broke his hand blocking a shot in the Bears’ win on Saturday over Springfield. The injury comes at an inopportune time not just for the team, but for him as well. When talking about bringing prospects in from Hershey on Monday, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz brought Walker’s name up specifically.

“Nathan Walker was a name that we were thinking about bringing up and he got hurt this weekend so he’ll be eliminated there for a little bit.”

While the NHL was enjoying its All-Star weekend, the AHL held its All-Star festivities as well. Travis Boyd scored two goals and one assist in the 3-on-3 tournament as the Atlantic Division fell in the championship game.

Following the NHL All-Star break, the Caps recalled defenseman Christian Djoos and forward Chandler Stephenson. The callup was the first NHL callup for Djoos who, as Trotz said, was being rewarded for good play.

With the Bears off for the AHL break, the time allowed the Caps to get a closer look at Djoos. He may not have gotten into a game, but he did get some valuable practice time at the NHL level.

Stephenson, meanwhile, played in his third NHL game this season on Wednesday in place of an injured Justin Williams. He was reassigned to Hershey on Thursday, but with the Caps playing in Montreal on Saturday, it is likely the team will make another call up for an extra body on Friday.

Scott Murray, the associate goaltending coach for Hershey, spoke to the Lebanon Daily News about the Bears’ goalie tandem this season including prospect Vitek Vanecek:

There’s always room for improvement, regardless of how young or old a goalie is, but if you look at last year Vitek exceeded expectations with South Carolina. We didn’t want to rush him so if he needed to go back there again that’s what would have happened but he earned himself a spot here. So far this year he has exceeded expectations again, is pushing the envelope, and that’s a good trend for him.

As a high pick it isn’t always easy to do that. The ultimate goal for anybody in that position is to prove himself as fast as possible, without rushing it, so he can be an option to give us great minutes but also be available to do the same thing for Washington quicker than was in the original plans.

Coach Troy Mann does an unbelievable job of setting up how we protect our goalies but when we needed them to come up with the big saves, Vitek has really done that to keep things going in our favor or holding the fort. He’s done a really good job of finding those saves to help us turn things around.

Vanecek made 37 saves on 39 shots on Friday in the team’s shootout loss to Providence.

RELATED: Trotz calls Backstrom one of the best passers ever

Other prospect notes:

Buzz is starting to grow as the NHL trade deadline nears. While everyone focuses on the big NHL names that could be on the move, there are always some prospects added to trade deals as teams shop around young players as trade bait. Ross Sellers provided an interesting trade scenario on the Mile High Sticking blog between the Capitals and the Colorado Avalanche.

The Avalanche are clear sellers at the deadline which means a player like Jarome Iginla will be on the market. Sellers posits Washington as a possible trade partner because the team could use a leader like Iginla given its recent history of playoff struggles. The most interesting part is what he thinks Colorado could get in return.

Unfortunately, the Capitals are also right up against the salary cap, and would probably need the Avs to take a player like Daniel Winnik or Lars Eller home with them.

If the Avs do end up taking on a contract like that, then they can ask for more in return from the Capitals.

The Avs could possibly ask for a 2nd round draft pick, and a middle level prospect like Jonas Siegenthaler, especially if they throw in a fourth round draft pick themselves.

First off, you can take Lars Eller off the table given Washington acquired him in the offseason specifically for depth scoring in a playoff run. No way the Caps break up the third line and trade away a player they targeted to help them in the postseason.

As for Siegenthaler, keep in mind that this is a player the team traded up to get in the 2015 draft. When I say the team, I don’t mean George McPhee, I mean Brian MacLellan, the current general manager. He saw something in Siegenthaler that made him trade into the second round to get him.

Could the team have soured on Siegenthaler since? Sure. He struggled in his first stint in Hershey last season and dealt with personal issues in training camp that made it hard to really evaluate where he was in his development. But Siegenthaler’s stock should be high again after a tremendous performance in the World Juniors tournament. To think MacLellan would be interested in shopping around a second-round pikc like Siegenthaler now at the deadline seems unlikely.

Tim McGauley’s second professional goal was a big one as he scored the overtime winner on Saturday to lift South Carolina over Florida.

Other big performers this week were Beck Malenstyn who scored three goals for the Calgary Hitmen (WHL) and Chase Priskie who scored twice in Quinnipiac's win over Arizona State on Friday. Connor Hobbs had one goal and two assists including a game-winning one-timer with just 24 seconds remaining to lead Regina over Moose Jaw on Wednesday.

Finally, forward Brian Pinho sat down for a video segment on “This Week in Friars Hockey” in which he talks about being a team leader as a junior and he gives his Super Bowl prediction.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps struggle to diagnose the problem with the PK

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

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

Making his return to Capital One Arena, Barry Trotz will lead his New York Islanders against the Washington Capitals. 

It will be the first time Trotz sees the Stanley Cup banner in person and the second time that he will go at odds with his former team. 

But as things stand for both teams, they are going in opposite directions. The Isles are one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of 12 of their last 16 contests.  Washington quite possibly has hit their post-Stanley Cup hangover, and is 4-4-2 in their last 10. 

These two teams met up earlier this season and they already gave Trotz his ring, but the Caps got the victory. With the way the two teams are trending right now in the Metro division, Trotz may get his revenge. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Friday night game, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders Game 47 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Islanders game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington

Live Stream:  You can live stream Islanders at Capitals on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS TV SCHEDULE

6:30 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
7:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:30 PM: Capitals vs. Islanders
10:00 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live
11:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: Christian Djoos (leg, Injured Reserve)

Islanders: Thomas Hickey (upper body, day-to-day), Andrew Ladd (lower body, Injured Reserve)

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Braden Holtby, G, Capitals (17-10-2, 2.80 GAA): Holtby missed the past two games for Caps due to an eye injury he suffered on Jan. 12 against Columbus. His status is still up in the air for this matchup, but in the past 150+ minutes (2.5 games) without Holtby the team has allowed 12 goals.

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (33 G, 19 A, 52 Pts): As much as the defense has struggled, so has the offense. Four goals in the past three games is all the Caps can muster, with one of the four coming off of the stick of Ovechkin. He has not been the reason for the lack of the offense, but Ovi needs to get them out of the funk. 

Robin Lehner, G, Islanders (13-7-3, 2.16 GAA): Dominating is all that Lehner has been doing for the Isles as of late and is a huge part of their comeback. When he's made it on the ice, the team has won nine of their last 10. His GAA is tops in the NHL and his save percentage (.928) is second. Not a good recipe for a Caps team that has trouble finding the net. 

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 252 (37 postseason)

All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead 124-115-13

Regular Season Record: Capitals lead 108-94-13

Playoff Record: Islanders lead 21-16

Last Meeting: Caps win 4-1 OT (11/26/18)

Last 10: Capitals lead 6-4

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Capitals prospect report: MacLellan evaluates Samsonov's season, talks on his future

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Capitals prospect report: MacLellan evaluates Samsonov's season, talks on his future

Considering just how good a goalie Ilya Samsonov looked in the KHL, you could be forgiven for thinking he would make an easy transition to the AHL. It has not worked out that way.

The transition to the North American game can be harder on some than others and the numbers have been pretty ugly this season. In 19 appearances for Hershey, Samsonov has a 3.40 GAA and .871 save percentage.

Yikes.

But the Capitals are not concerned.

General manager Brian MacLellan acknowledged it has been a difficult year, but he still sees the talent behind the ugly numbers.

“I think he’s being challenged, I think that league is a hard league for goalies to adapt to,” MacLellan said. “I think his numbers aren’t great, but I think the way he is, the athletic ability is still evident in the way he plays. So, we’re still optimistic that he’s going to figure it out, but I think it’s been a challenging year in a difficult league for him. I think that going through this process is going to make him better in the end. I think he’s learning a lot, I think he has a lot more respect for the American League than he did coming into it. I think he’s adapting off the ice which is probably just as important as on the ice for his long-term development.”

MacLellan also said Samsonov is about where the team expected him to be in his progression.

“I think we would have anticipated this year to be up and down, he'd have good spots and weak spots and it'd take him a year to figure out the league and then next year he would be a good goalie in that league. I don't think he's behind or ahead of any schedule that he had.”

MacLellan’s faith appears well founded. After speaking on Samsonov, the young netminder recorded back-to-back shutouts, the first Hershey goalie to do so since Pheonix Copley on Oct. 19 and 26 in 2014, per Penn Live.

For now, Samsonov appears to be Hershey’s No. 2 goalie behind Vitek Vanecek who earned his first AHL All-Star nomination with a 2.87 GAA and .901 save percentage. But according to MacLellan, this year was all about adjusting for Samsonov. He anticipates him remaining in Hershey next season where he will have a much more dominant season in his second year of North American competition.

Other prospect notes:

  • Speaking of Samsonov, he remains the Caps’ top prospect according to TSN’s Craig Button. Button ranked the top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects and Samsonov came in at No. 27. Alex Alexeyev was the second Caps’ prospect to make the list at No. 33.
  • MacLellan also spoke one on one with Mike Vogel and said this about the team’s prospects: "I think [Connor] Hobbs is coming, he's getting more consistent in his game. We like his progress. Lucas [Johansen] has taken a step back here with the injury. We'll wait and see how he does in the last part of the year. Really optimistic about the two guys we drafted last year, [Alex] Alexeyev and [Martin] Fehervary. Both had strong world junior camps, both had good training camps and good rookie camps. We're excited about those two, also."
  • Vanecek is very excited about going to the AHL All-Star game.
  • Beck Malenstyn received some high praise from Hershey coach Spencer Carbery who called Malenstyn “our Tom Wilson.” Check out this feature on Malenstyn who is certainly making an impact in his first professional season.
  • Riley Barber has 14 points in his past 10 games. He owns a team-high 10 multi-point games this season. If the Caps find themselves in need of a forward call up, Barber will be near or at the top of the list. At his age (24), however, and on the final year of his contract, you have to wonder what his future is with the organization. He is a great player for Hershey, but has his chance of becoming a full-time NHLer passed him by?
  • Brian Pinho’s goal on Sunday against Lehigh Valley was the first game-winning goal of his professional career.
  • Mike Sgarbossa played in his 400th professional game on Wednesday and recorded an assist. He currently ranks first on the Bears in goals (17), third in assists (14) and second in points (31).
  • Chase Priskie has been nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s most prestigious award. He is one of 83 (!!!) nominees. Yes, 83. I don’t know why the Hobey Baker Award Foundation chooses to water itself down with so many nominees and it’s a shame because Priskie should be considered among the top finalists. Priskie ranks second in the ECAC in points (27) and is tied for first in goals (13) and he’s doing it as a defenseman. A statement released by Quinnipiac said “Among defensemen, Priskie ranks even higher as he leads the nation in goals, goals per game, power-play goals, power-play points, game-winning goals (5), shots (88) and shots on goal per game (4.00). He is also second with 27 points and third with 1.23 points per game.” (One thing to note, the statement says there are 81 nominees. I counted, there are 83). The first phase of the award process is a fan vote which you can do here. The voting is open until March 10.

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