Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan spoke to the media before the team’s tilt against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday. He discussed the state of the team currently as well as the numerous injuries.
“I think we have to be concerned,” MacLellan said regarding the team’s standing. With a record of 10-12-4, the Capitals sit sixth in the Metropolitan Division with 24 points and twelfth in the Eastern Conference. Washington is 3-5-2 in their last ten games.”I think we dug ourselves a hole here…the margin for error is pretty slim right now.”
MacLellan explained that he “liked the way we played” in the past five games, especially with the return of right-wing T.J. Oshie. “We have to put a string of good games here together—wins—to stay in it.” He said that “hopefully” the Capitals will “be more competitive” by the time injured guys come back.
The Capitals have a laundry list of players injured: right-wing Tom Wilson (ACL), center Nicklas Backstrom (hip), center Carl Hagelin (hip), right-wing Connor Brown (ACL), right-wing Beck Malenstyn (finger), and defenseman Dmitry Orlov (lower-body). During Saturday’s game, they lost defenseman Martin Fehervary and goaltender Darcy Kuemper to upper-body injuries.
Regarding Backstrom, MacLellan noted that he is “progressing well.” “There’s been no setbacks, so it’s positive. I don’t know where it ends up, but everything’s been positive so far.”
“Tom’s good too,” he added about Wilson but said there is no exact timetable for return. “We’ll get a better picture here in the next few weeks…mid-December, I think we’ll have a pretty good idea of where both those guys are at.”
On Malenstyn, MacLellan mentioned the 24-year-old is skating, but “it’s a matter of healing his finger” in regards to gripping the stick, shooting, and handling the puck. He is projected to return in the next 2-3 weeks.
“It’s been a little struggle identifying and helping him get through his injury,” he remarked about Orlov, who missed his thirteenth consecutive game on Saturday. “It’s kinda lingered on a lot more than I think anybody’s anticipated…seems to be heading in the positive direction. That’s why he’s come out here for the trip, and we’ll see how it goes over the next couple days.”
Besides injuries plaguing Washington, consistency and sixty-minute efforts have painted a bleak picture of the 2022-23 season. MacLellan said, “I’m not as down on the Seattle game as a lot of people. I thought we played decent. I didn’t think we had legs for part of it.”
He explained that the Capitals have “struggled getting that third goal,” whether through breakaway and power-play opportunities. MacLellan admitted “at the end of the game” is where the inconsistency happens by not finishing strong when the opposition scores that game-tying goal. “Made a couple mistakes by a couple players, and it’s in the back of our net, and we’re playing a different game then.”
“You can’t have a stretch where your power-play is 0-for-21 or something like that. It’s gonna hurt you, and it’s been hurting us—lately, it’s been better, but it hurts us…for us to get through this, our top players have to be our best players, and they have to carry us through this stretch here.”
One of those top players who has had a slow start to the 2022-23 campaign is center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who MacLellan said they “need more offense from.” MacLellan said Kuznetsov, captain Alex Ovechkin, and defenseman John Carlson “got to carry our team” and “that’s just the reality of it.”
You can listen to MacLellan’s full interview here.
The Capitals clash next with the Edmonton Oilers on Monday at Rogers Place. NBC Sports Washington will have the coverage beginning at 10:30 PM ET.
By Della Young