On Wednesday, Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette spoke to the media following an optional skate at Medstar Capitals Iceplex. He provided an update on captain Alex Ovechkin and defenseman Justin Schultz and discussed forward Daniel Sprong’s continued success when in the lineup and facing the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
Laviolette confirmed Ovechkin (lower body) remains day-to-day. He has missed the last two games. Schultz (lower body) is also listed as day-to-day. He missed the previous three games but did skate this morning.
Sprong scored the lone goal in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over the New York Islanders at Capital One Arena. “I think it’s important that he continues to push,” Laviolette said about the 24-year-old staying in the lineup, adding, “He’s a guy who’s trying to make the most of his opportunities…he’s been there for a couple [of] games and he’s looked really good.”
He said Sprong in the top six “suits him best” because it’s the “position that’s open right now” versus a more defensive role in the bottom six. “He’s played with a lot of different people through the course of the year…sometimes the opportunity needs to fit the player as well.”
The head coach continued to praise Sprong for his productivity when he has drawn into the lineup, saying, “He’s done a good job. When he’s come in, he’s contributed and that’s important.”
Laviolette doesn’t believe there is a “competition” between goaltenders Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. “I do think it’s important for players to push to be good at what they do…we have used two goaltenders the entire year, and [as] I’ve said, they have delivered really well…when we’ve had to make a move or make a rotation, the other guy has come in and picked up the slack and he’s done really well.”
The Capitals host the Penguins in a two-game set starting on Thursday (7 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington and ESPN+). “We haven’t played Pittsburgh in a little bit, here…What I clearly remember is these were the games that I thought were the most competitive for the puck, for the battles, the net fronts, the corners, and the face-offs,” he said on clashing with the Penguins.
“They’re the right games we need to play at the right time of the year,” Laviolette said as it will help prepare them for the playoffs. He added that “there’s a certain way and style we’re going to have to play as well.”
By Della Young