With injuries hitting the Caps for the first time this season, more responsibility is falling into the laps of the depth players in the line-up. Daniel Winnik, who has been a healthy scratch for plenty of games this year so far, has been in every game so far since T.J. Oshie was listed as week-to-week with an undisclosed upper body injury.
In last night’s game against Buffalo, Winnik recorded 20 shifts for the first time this season, totaling over 15 minutes of ice-time. It was also the first time that Winnik got a goal since his multi-goal game in the second match-up of the season against the Islanders.
Daniel Winnik is the last remnant of the Peter Bondra trade for Brooks Laich over a decade ago. Laich, along with Carrick and a second round pick, were dealt to Toronto last season for Daniel Winnik and a fifth round pick. The move alleviated cap space for the Capitals, and brought in a depth journeyman who could fill in the vacant fourth line space.
So far this season, Winnik has found himself on the penalty-killing unit, especially when other usual penalty-killers have been penalized. He is second to John Carlson in shots blocked per minute of short-handed ice time, and brings a much-needed aggressive element to the Caps PK. Since Lars Eller has been penalized often so far this season, Winnik has stepped up to the plate and has filled the void.
Winnik’s age is starting to catch up to him, and his game has slowed down a bit since his earlier years in the NHL, but he’s not afraid to get involved in the corner battles in the offensive zone, and can be an effective play-maker from behind the opponent’s net. Despite only having one assist all season, the majority of Winnik’s assists in his career are primary assists, and his primary assists per 60 minutes are above average in the league. Having capable play-makers like Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik in the line-up are crucial, especially when it comes to the post-season.
T.J. Oshie only recently started skating with the team in practice again, and he is still listed as week-to-week, so until he returns fans can expect to see both Winnik and Connolly in the line-up for the coming games. Both players recorded points in the final game of the home-stand against the Buffalo Sabres, and the bottom two lines are producing as consistently as ever.
Based on practice lines this morning, Winnik is expected to start again tonight against Toronto. Taylor Chorney will likely be the healthy scratch, and Braden Holtby will start in net.
By Justin Green