Lars Eller Leaves Morning Skate, Erik Gustafsson Returns: Notes From Capitals Morning Skate In Chicago

The Washington Capitals made their way to the “Windy City” following their 5-2 victory over the Jets in Winnipeg on Sunday night. They wrap-up their brief two-game road trip Tuesday night against the Blackhawks. Puck drop is set for just after 9:00PM ET on ESPN. The team will have the day off on Wednesday.

The Capitals held an optional skate on Monday and their gameday morning skate at the United Center in Chicago at 11:30AM CT on Tuesday.


The Capitals forward lines and defensive pairs at morning skate in Chicago, courtesy of Samantha Pell/The Washington Post:

Alex Ovechkin — Dylan Strome — Conor Sheary
Sonny Milano — Evgeny Kuznetsov — T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson — Aliaksei Protas — Anthony Mantha
Joe Snively — Nic Dowd — Garnet Hathaway

Erik Gustafsson — John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov — Nick Jensen
Matt Irwin – Trevor van Riemsdyk

Charlie Lindgren
Hunter Shepard

Lars Eller was out for warmups but headed to the locker room and did not return for the skate. Per Samantha Pell, Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette didn’t really have an update on Eller. They’ll see how he is later and see if he can play. Laviolette didn’t rule him out for tonight.

Erik Gustafsson was on the ice for the Capitals morning skate in Chicago. He missed the game in Winnipeg with an upper-body injury.

Charlie Lindgren and Hunter Shepard were the only two goalies on the ice for Capitals morning skate. No Darcy Kuemper. He has been practicing since his injury.


The Capitals visit the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at United Center for the first of two meetings between the teams this season.

The Capitals have won four-straight games entering tonight’s contest and are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Petr Mrazek will get the start in goal for the Blackhawks.


Someone (forgive me, I forgot who) in the comments recently requested we take a look at the Capitals stats with and without T.J. Oshie in the lineup. The first statistic overlay we will present is the Capitals special teams index (STI), which is simply PP% + PK%, with and without T.J. Oshie in the lineup: [Click to enlarge]

While Oshie is not an integral component to the Capitals penalty kill, their is a fairly clear alignment between the Capitals dip and rise in the team’s overall STI with Oshie in and out of the lineup. Next we will look at possession metrics as they relate to Oshie.


Connor McMichael scored a pair of goals Sunday night for the Hershey Bears. He was also the only one to convert in the shootout in the Bears 6-5 shootout loss. His first goal was a prototypical Connor McMichael goal:

McMichael’s second goal came on the power play to give the Bears a seemingly insurmountable 5-1 lead:

Unfortunately, the Bears lead completely evaporated in the second period and would eventually require overtime and then a shootout. McMichael was the only Bears skater to convert in the extra frame.

McMichael is now tied with Hendrix Lapierre in points per game average (0.64) so far this season:

Ryan Hofer scored his 17th goal of the season on Sunday night. He now has 17g, 11a in 27 games played so far this season.

Hofer was selected by the Capitals with the 181st overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. He is playing in his third season in the WHL as an “overager” for the Everett Silvertips, and will be looking to make the jump to Hershey next fall.

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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20 Responses to Lars Eller Leaves Morning Skate, Erik Gustafsson Returns: Notes From Capitals Morning Skate In Chicago

  1. Anonymous says:

    :: checks player list:: yep, that’s right, it’s Ellen’s turn. 🙄

  2. Anonymous says:

    Not surprised by Oshie mapping.

  3. hockeydruid says:

    Hate to say this but at this point in their careers this lineup is stronger and faster without Eller! Which, IMHO, is why he should be traded asap for a drat pick or younger player. Besides he is one of the 15 UFA/RFA’s on this team and maybe management should start thinking about getting something for these players rather than just letting them walk. I know you cant trade all 15 of them but there has to be someone who needs a C for a playoff run! Is Hunter going to at least get into one game rather than just gathering splinters? As he is also one of the 15 RFA/UFA’s it would be nice to see what he can do and if he is worth keeping.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      I agree, Druid, trading Eller at the deadline is a very real possibility. He leaves without a return at the end of the season, so unless this team looks like a solid cup contender, dealing Eller for something in return makes the most sense.

      • Jonathan says:

        I don’t agree. Just like Oshie is not replaceable by anyone in our system because of his unique assets, Eller isn’t replaceable because of his assets by anyone in our system. As a 3rd line center, he has size and physicality. He is a great defensive forward, both 5v5 and pk. He is our best FO guy, and above average at it. He has offensive production both scoring and passing, especially when he’s given a long look with good players (unlike last year). He’s proving the offensive side now that he’s been with Johanson and Mantha for an extended period, and the numbers are proving it. Last year he was the most ill treated forward of all of them. He had the most changes on his line, and had the youngest players constantly. Recently, he’s been given more respect than that, and it’s been great to see him flourish. His combination of defensive ability and above average FO make him ideal for taking FO’s in the defensive zone and a great asset and vital asset to have for the team. Trade him, and we lose games. Period.

        • hockeydruid says:

          At 33 and declining yet his salary would increase if he stays there is no reason to keep Eller until the end of the season. Sorry Jonathan but now you sould like the HC only wanting older players. With 14 UFA/PFA after this season this team cannot resign them all and needs to get something for as many as they can. Sorry to burst your bubble but this team no matter how well the do is NOT a Cup contender this year or next or even the year after and probably not for at least 5-7 years. So the best thing that could happen would be for the HC and GM to be replaced and to trade as many of the UFA and RFA players between not and the trade deadline to gain assets in the way of younger players or picks. They younger players would get some much needed playing time as they are going to need it in prep for next season. It also would be nice since there in no chance that this team gets to the CUP that the HC and most of his staff be replaces soon, thus giving the new HC a chance to evaluate players and start implementing his system for next year.

          • Jonathan says:

            “You sound like the head coach only wanting older players….”

            I don’t care how old the player is if he is plays a vital unreplaceable role on the team. 33 is young if that is the case. It’s old only if he’s replaceable. That’s the question to me. Could LaPierre in terms of rookie standards as a 3rd line center? It looks like it. He certainly didn’t make a mark in camp when he had a shot to show his stuff. AHL isn’t an NHL camp. But more importantly, can someone replace his skill set?

            I understand your UFA/PFA point, and certainly we don’t want to lose something for nothing. Perhaps we could get good value out of Eller. I don’t know the options that GMBM has, so I can’t fully address that aspect. However, from a strategy point of view, I’m looking to keep the guys I can’t replace unless I’m trading Eller for a prospect with the same skill set who’s not ready to come up in the next year or two. for a team who wants that now for their playoff push. Now, that would be okay, because your getting a solid replacement.

            However, if I can’t get that, than I’d look for one of my others centers (possibly) or wings to replace. Kuzy or Strome aren’t off the table to me. Kuzy especially, again, would be about what I got in return. If I got a similar talent that wasn’t ready to come up. If I got a high draft pick with potential to get a solid similar level replacement plus a solid prospect in the system, than I’d consider that. Kuzy is not just an offensive wizard, but has become valuable on the pk as well as pp, so he’d have to get really good return. Why consider Strome and Kuzy? That type of talent, in my opinion, may be easier to replace than Eller. In fact, we have two centers who might replace them easier than replacing Eller in LaPierre and McM. LaPierre? Is he ready now after having an under performing camp? Would you give McM a chance to replace Strome? If you like these questions, than sure, I’ve no issue with trading Strome or Kuzy as well. If you don’t like those questions, than your wanting to trade Eller makes no sense to me, because your ‘youth’ replacement isn’t good enough.

            • Jonathan says:

              Clarifying my first paragraph…

              Can LaPierre replace Ellers’ skill set? I don’t think he can. FO%? Defensive forward 5v5/PK capability? Size and Physicality? Don’t you remember us getting him from Montreal and how long that took in the first place? Ellers recent offensive production is what you can expect from him if he’s playing with the same guys like Johanson and Mantha over the course of several games.

              How good will this team be and how far can it go? I’ve no idea, but have learned not to judge based off of early season struggles. It’s not a good predictor.

          • Jonathan says:


            I’ve made this point before about ‘youth over vets’ comment. The Caps have had 7 first round draft picks who in their entire careers never played more than 30 NHL games…not just with the Caps, but with ANY NHL team. Youth doesn’t guarantee NHL success!!!!!!! Ever!!!!! Just because they’re young, doesn’t mean their NHL quality. Just because they’ve had AHL success, doesn’t mean they’re NHL quality. Right now, McM has proven that this year. McM had a luxury other developing forwards don’t get. Due to COVID, he had a years experience in the NHL to show what he could do, and yet, he couldn’t beat out Strome or Eller.

            I’m thrilled McM is getting time in the AHL to further develop his skill set, so that when eh’s called up next time, he’ll be more ready to stick, and more importantly that he’s gaining center experience in the pros. I like the type of goal scoring finishing he’s showing right now. I hope he further shows other aspects of his game….what type of teammate he is, a physicality and defensive presence, an improved FO%. Stronger upper body. Than, when he comes he won’t need people feeling sorry for him because he’s ‘not given a chance’ when he actually was.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t disagree but then the shepherd comment…chucky just got 1st star of the week and you are worried about Hunter getting time?? Sure, it would be nice, but I prefer wins and the coach playing with that as the goal.

      So many fans want to play young players in the hope of winning years down the road instead of winning today.

      Center depth is incredibly important. I don’t see them trading Eller unless they are 100% that 19 is good to go. Not getting a 2 for Eller…sheesh, y’all don’t want him, but you think a Gm will give us a 2.

      • hockeydruid says:

        LMAO, dream on….the object is to win a CUP and this team is not a CUP team and after the last several years of going out in the 1st round that is about all they are going to do until a rebuild. If you are satisfied with making the playoffs but losing in the first round then more power to you. However many of us would rather start playing players who will be here for several more years through the rebuild. Somehow this team needs to get younger, faster and have less salary and the only way to do that is to unload the older players especially those who are either a UFA or a RFA between now and the trade deadline to gain assets in wither the form of picks or younger players. Winning today but losing in the first round is like kissing your sister, gets you nothing! Often a player that one team doesnt want another team, especially one heading to and looking to go deep into the playoffs will take and pay and pay high for that player.

        • novafyre says:

          PALM BEACH, Fla. — Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said his team won’t rebuild with Alex Ovechkin on the roster, having promised his star captain that the club will remain competitive while he chases Wayne Gretzky’s all-time NHL goals record.

          Unless the Caps end up in hell (don’t make the playoffs) I do not expect Ted to make major changes to Caps staff or players save those required by the salary cap. This is purgatory, where the team is competitive enough to squeak into the playoffs but not go any farther.

    • dwgie26 says:

      You may be surprised. Eller is sneaky good. Not flashy good. So you can’t say we are faster without him. Maybe faster, but probably not more effective. The best thing for Caps right now is that CMM balls out in Hershey. Comes back with chip on his shoulder and EARNS his time. That will give us flexibility to move Eller at deadline but that will be a last 3 day trade.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round.

  5. novafyre says:

    Ted to ESPN: “I’m sure there’ll be an influx of some young players, but we’re not gonna rebuild the team,”

  6. Jonathan says:

    The good, the bad, and the ugly truth.

    The good: McM scoring!!!! And what a beauty he had on that back hand! Very NIce. He also scored nicely in the shootout. Good for him!

    The bad. Hershey lost after being up by several goals. What happened?

    The ugly. The ugly truth is that despite offensive production by McM the team isn’t as dominant as it once was earlier in the season. Not just losses, but the wins haven’t been as dominant, and some come back scoring by the opponents. Can the Caps defense injuries explain it? It doesn’t seem to from some of the timing of these Hershey struggles. It did seem to start with McM’s arrival. Coincidence? Perhaps. What do the analytics say? What does the expert analysts say? I know it may sound silly, but even the stick twirl in front of the opponents bench, and no one else scoring after that. So, what am I saying? Let me give you a reverse example…..What does Oshie deserve any of the credit of the whole team playing better since he came back? If your answer is ‘yes’ than the reverse can be true. Not saying it is with McM, but it is something I’d look for. I know we have players that inspire others to play better, and those are the players we most want on our team for sure.

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