The Washington Capitals returned to practice with their full lineup on the ice for the first time this season, preparing for their Thursday night tilt against the New York Rangers. Head Coach Peter Laviolette spoke to the media following the practice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
“It might have been the first time we had everybody on the ice. There’s still a lot of question marks out there, but it was nice to get everybody in a practice. I can’t answer that [whether any of the players out injured would be available], I can’t answer that. I don’t know who may or may not be available, Mantha won’t be available“.
The Capitals last played on February 17, a 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers before going on an extended break. With an average team age of 29.1-years old, the extended break was a welcome opportunity for the team to refresh and come back well-rested after a tough stretch leading up to the break.
“I think it’s good especially with a veteran team. Coming back from it we still had the three days of practice, it’s not like we’re coming back, three or four days off and you only got one day. It was just a good time to get away and it was more the Olympic break, making games up during the Olympic break. Our guys have been through a lot of competition in that period of time where others may have had games pushed off, so the rest is important when it comes to our group. Practice today was fast, it was good, it was crisp. So after three days you like to see that and I thought it was a good, sharp practice”.
Over the course of the 2021-22 season, the Caps have been hit with multiple challenges in regards to putting their full lineup on the ice for an extended period of time. Over the course of the season, coronavirus protocol entries, injuries, and other bumps have seen the Capitals’ coaching staff undergo a balancing act with the lineup.
“I think guys are just happy to see their teammates out there. Some guys have had it tough, certainly Mantha being out for so long. When Backy [Nicklas Backstrom] came back, that was a real boost just to see a good player and your teammate out on the ice. You get a lot of guys, four or five guys that have been not around for a few days, some a lot longer than that, so that’s a boost”.
Last season, the Capitals employed the services of longtime NHL netminder Craig Anderson, who suited up in a total of four games (two starts), going 2-1-0, with a 2.13 Goals-Against Average and .915 Save Percentage, as well as appearing in two playoff games. The 40-year old backstop is approaching 300 wins in his career, having spent this season with the Buffalo Sabres.
“Well first of all, being on the other bench when I was against him, you see his skill. You see what an incredibly-skilled goaltender, what a career he had, he had an unbelievable career. There were years when he put up tremendous numbers, his goals-against and Save Percentage were fantastic. What we had here, you get to see a guy come in and experience the way a guy works, the way he competes on the ice. It was really great having him here, and when called upon, he worked hard the entire year, we had a couple of young goalies at the beginning of their careers, you have a veteran goalie and he just did the work every day, and at the end when called upon in the end, in the biggest situations I thought he did a great job for us and I really enjoyed working with”.
The Capitals take on the New York Rangers on Thursday at 7:00 PM EST.