Head coach Peter Laviolette announced that goaltender Phoenix Copley will start the Washington Capitals’ first game back from the NHL All-Star break against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday (7 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington in-market, ESPN+ out-of-market).
Copley replaced Ilya Samsonov 5:07 into Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers after Samsonov allowed three goals on four shots. The 30-year-old stopped 21 of 22 that came his way.
In 22 games with the AHL’s Hershey Bears this season, Copley has posted a record of 13-7-2 with two shutouts, a 2.43 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage, leading the Bears in each respective category.
Tuesday will mark Copley’s first NHL start since April 6, 2019 against the New York Islanders.
Since an 11-1-1 start to the season where he ranked 25th in save percentage (.916), was tied for 17th in goals-against average (2.42), and was tied for second in shutouts (three), Samsonov is 3-4-2 with an .882 save percentage and a 3.58 goals-against average and yielded the No. 1 job. Overall, the 24-year-old has a .902 save percentage and a 2.88 goals-against average this season.
Vitek Vanecek was placed on injured reserve after leaving the Capitals’ 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 1 with a lower-body injury. He is eligible to be activated off of it at any time.
Laviolette on starting Copley tonight: “One, I though he came in and did a really good job for us (vs. EDM). Played really well. And two, we’ve got a goaltender (Samsonov) that hasn’t been on the ice in seven days. Sammy got caught yesterday (in Covid testing limbo).” #Caps
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) February 8, 2022
Copley will become the fourth goaltender to start a game this season. Vanecek began the season as the starter before Samsonov took it. Once he got cold, Vanecek went 3-2-0 with a .926 save percentage, a 2.16 goals-against average, and a shutout to grab the job back. Even Zach Fucale had a chance to grab the reigns after posting a .980 save percentage and a 0.42 goals-against average in his first three NHL games. However, Fucale was pulled just 27:53 into a 7-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on January 10 after allowing four goals on just 16 shots and has not played at the NHL level since.
The Capitals are expected to pursue adding a goalie prior to the NHL Trade Deadline on March 21 and have reportedly inquired on Marc-Andre Fleury of the Chicago Blackhawks.
By Harrison Brown
Cops playing fairly well right now. Had a good game for Hershey on Saturday. Good strategy to go with netminder who had played in last few days.
Can’t play out of a slump sitting on the bench. Go with sammy, if you make the playoffs at all, which I don’t think you will, play both young guys, see what you got for next year. In the off season trade one, and go with the other. This year don’t matter because the head coach doesn’t see a issue with special teams.