Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette told the media after the team’s optional practice on Thursday that center Lars Eller, who missed Game 3 of the team’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Boston Bruins due to a lower-body injury, is progressing “good” but is “unsure” of Eller’s status for Game 4 at TD Garden on Friday night (6:30 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington locally, NBCSN nationally). He added that “there’s always stuff going on” within the team in terms of getting healthy.
Laviolette said the decision to play forward Daniel Carr over Daniel Sprong in the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3 on Wednesday was just about role. He told the media that he was looking more for someone who could handle defensive-zone starts and defensive assignments. He thought Carr and his line were effective in the offensive zone and made some good defensive plays on Wednesday.
On goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who turned the puck over in double overtime that led to the Bruins’ game-winning goal, Laviolette thought the 25-year-old “played a heck of a game” as he made 40 saves. Laviolette said that “communication’s got to be better [between the goaltender and skaters]. … Seemed like a pretty harmless play and it ended up poorly.” He thought communication between the goalie and skaters was “excellent” up until that point.
Laviolette said that “I thought [center Evgeny Kuznetsov] was good” in his return to the lineup after missing seven games with COVID-19. He called playing 26 minutes after 15 days, which Kuznetsov did in Game 3, off “a daunting task. Overall, I thought he did a really good job.” Laviolette expressed the need for more production from the top-six forwards, who have just three goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs so far.
“Everything is so tight. … It’s a tight series. It’s close. The difference is small. We’ve got to find a way to bring that difference to our side tomorrow,” Laviolette said.
After goaltender Craig Anderson took a maintenance day on Wednesday, Laviolette believed that he skated on Thursday.
On why forwards Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie flipped spots in the lineup, Laviolette responded “We’re looking for more production from Games 1 and 2 so we made a switch,” and acknowledged that the lineup combinations were affected by Kuznetsov’s return.
When asked about forward Anthony Mantha, who has just five assists in 12 games since a five-game goal-scoring streak ended, Laviolette told the media that he thinks that “He’s been in tight with some chances. … He’s bringing the puck to the net. … You would think it’s going to pop for him. … He’s had some quality looks.”
While discussing Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, the captain of the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006, he told the media that his time with Brind’Amour “was a really good experience. [He] was a great leader, captain. … I think he understands systems. Smart guy. … I can tell you his teams have played really good hockey. They’ve been fast, on the attack, and you hear a lot of good things about him as a coach.” Laviolette added that it was good to see Brind’Amour have success in coaching.
On the difficulties in coaching against Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy, Laviolette responded “He’s a big part of their defensive and offensive games, [especially]. … Defensively, you got to realize when he’s on the ice, how you’re going to play him, how you’re going to defend against him. He adds a gear, [especially offensively].”
By Harrison Brown