Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette spoke to the media following today’s morning skate and ahead of Thursday’s clash with the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center (7 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington). He discussed goaltender Ilya Samsonov, defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and forward Daniel Sprong’s opportunity to remain in the lineup.
Samsonov will be in net for Washington tonight. Laviolette said Samsonov “played great in the building last time [3-1 victory over Flyers on March 7] ” and felt it was “his turn.” The head coach said they were “patient” with Samsonov to set him back up for success. “It’s been a good showing so far.”
Since returning from the league’s COVID-19 protocol, Samsonov has gone 2-0-0 and holds a .938 save percentage. Laviolette mentioned the 24-year-old goalie has looked “really good” and “really sharp,” adding, “The summer probably didn’t go the way he wanted. The fall probably didn’t go the way he wanted. The start of the season probably didn’t go the way he wanted…Just based on what he was dealing with from the injury and then the protocol that he had to go through.”
On Siegenthaler and van Riemsdyk, who have not played since February 4 and February 7 respectively, Laviolette said, “When they’ve been in there, I thought they have played well.” The team has had a consistent play with the current top six blueliners and it’s “been working”. “I know they want to play…I’m sure they’re frustrated…when I talk to them I ask them to just be patient and wait for their chance.”
Laviolette doesn’t see it as a “big thing about jumping back in” and praised both players for having the experience and that they “should be able to make that jump when we need them.” He noted that guys are still getting the work in and having the taxi squad “creates more numbers inside of practices for some better drills.”
On Sprong, who has two goals in his last five games, Laviolette said he has “played really well”. “He’s been out of the lineup because of numbers and fitting into a certain role,” the head coach said, adding, “He went on a line that could create and score goals and make plays…right now, he’s got a really good opportunity. He brings speed, he certainly brings offense, he brings the ability to score goals… every time you get an opportunity, you got to keep making a case on why you should stay in the lineup.”
Laviolette explained why the defensive core has contributed offensively much of the season “from breakouts through neutral zone movements, [and] certainly, offensive zone play.” “Regardless of who you are or the production that you’ve had over your career, everybody has to play the same game,” he said. Laviolette said “it’s been a good start” for the defenseman to have offensive success and they are “happy with that.”
By Della Young