There is usually a brief cushioned period at the beginning of the season in which the entire team is healthy. Eventually injuries start to set in and the roster sheet mixes up like a game of Boggle. That time has come. Injury season has set in for the Washington Capitals as they get ready to start a road trip that includes three games in four nights.
Up and down the roster players are dropping, but it is most prevalent on the blueline. Mike Green played for the first time after missing 3 games to a shoulder injury Saturday night, though he was limited to only power play situations and grimaced when he took slap shots. Tom Poti is also out for at least the beginning of the trip, and John Carlson didn’t practice on Monday due to a leg injury.
To help these woes on the backend, the Caps recalled Brian Fahey and Lawrence Nycholat from Hershey on Tuesday. While Fahey will get the opportunity to play, Nycholat will not. He is not signed to an NHL contract and was brought up for the day to participate in practice only. The Caps have been shorthanded in practice at defense because of the injuries and Karl Alzner, who just lost his grandfather, returned to British Columbia to be with his family.
The forward lineup gets more complicated. Matt Bradley appears to be finally ready to rejoin the team, but the Caps would have to place someone on IR to open up a space for him in addition to the slot that opened up with Jay Beagle being sent back to the Hershey Bears. That player could be Poti, leaving two open spaces for Mathieu Perreault, Marcus Johansson, and Boyd Gordon.
Mathieu Perreault will most likely continue playing, meaning either Johansson or Gordon will likely get the last slot. Johansson is not yet ready to go, so Gordon may finally make his return to the Caps lineup. However, Gordon has been a “healthy scratch” for the last few games and there are rumors he might be being shopped around for a trade, so DJ King might instead get some regular playing time.
As it always seems to be with Washington, there is also some drama between the pipes. Semyon Varlamov will not make the trip and Braden Holtby has been recalled from Hershey to back up Michal Neuvirth. With three games in four nights, Holtby might get to see the first NHL action of his career, possibly even a start.
No matter who appears on the ice for the Capitals, they must continue their team commitment to defense. They have played fairly tight this year, and that must be something they hold on to while their offense struggles to find a groove. The Caps kick off their first extended road trip of the year tonight against Carolina in the Hurricanes’ home opener.