Last season, the Washington Capitals saw their organization get hit with the injury bug relatively early in the season. With key players such as Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson already out while recovering from offseason procedures, an injury to first-year Capital Connor Brown and a one-game suspension to Evgeny Kuznetsov has left the team in a position that is less-than-ideal.
With much of their key special teams players sidelined, Head Coach Peter Laviolette inserted Joe Snively into the second power play unit during Wednesday’s practice and Lars Eller was elevated to the first-line; in addition, Conor Sheary was placed on the right wing of the first-line in place of Brown.
“I think both units have worked well, he’s [Sheary] playing extremely well”, Laviolette said after Wednesday’s practice, “But both units have worked extremely well, no change to the first unit that remains the same, but once somebody goes out, we have to replace it.
“Well there’s no Kuznetsov, there’s no Backstrom”, the Caps’ bench boss responded, addressing the addition of Eller to the top-line, “So Lars is a veteran player that I think he’s going to do fine in a situation like. I really like [Dylan] Strome with [T.J.} Oshie and so there was a connection there. So just trying to keep a little bit of what we had…together. But again, with guys going out of the lineup…you’ve got to try some new things…”
The addition of Snively (who made his debut with the Capitals’ last season to become the first Virginia native to suit up for the team) and Connor McMichael, both of whom have yet to see regular season game action, figures to give each an opportunity to contribute.
“For us, well his whole life, he’s been a good offensive player so it translated to the American Hockey League”, Laviolette said of Snively, a Herndon, Virginia native who recorded seven points (four goals) in 12 Games Played last season before suffering a wrist injury that kept him out for the rest of the season outside a conditioning stint to the AHL. “It translated here for us as well, so he scored goals, made plays, had a good exhibition camp, exhibition games, now he’s gonna get an opportunity, so it’s a chance for him to step in and show what he can do.”
Both McMichael and Snively will be expected to step right in to form when the Caps take on the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Laviolette also expects them to make the most of their insertion into the lineup.
“You’ve got young players, now they’re in the lineup, we’re excited to get them going. They both had good training camps, just based on numbers, they start by sitting out the lineup, now it’s their time to shine.”
“I don’t think there’s any easing in, that’s now how we do it here. These guys have both played on our team, it’s not like we’ve got an 18-year old playing his first game, we’re unsure what to expect, Mikey’s been here the whole year, and he’s a real good player. Snively had a tough injury last year, it’s a chance for him to come back and pick up where he left off last year, so there’ll be no, we won’t be hiding them or sticking them somewhere. These guys are good players, they’re excited to play, we’re excited to have them in the lineup, it’s a great opportunity for them.”
The Caps travel to Ottawa to take on the Sens at 7:00 ET; the game can be heard on the Capitals Radio Network and watched on NBC Sports Washington.
By Michael Fleetwood