Alex Ovechkin – Dylan Strome – Matthew Phillips
Connor McMichael – Evgeny Kuznetsov – T.J. Oshie
Sonny Milano – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson
Beck Malenstyn – Aliaksei Protas – Anthony Mantha
Rasmus Sandin – John Carlson
Martin Fehervary – Nick Jensen
Hardy Häman Aktell – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Nic Dowd took another maintenance day on Friday, but he did take part in Saturday’s morning skate prior to the game according to Bailey Johnson of The Washington Post. However, he will not play.
25-year-old defenseman Hardy Häman Aktell will make his NHL debut, skating on the third pair with Trevor van Riemsdyk. The Swedish blueliner was one of the last cuts before the season began, after he had a very strong preseason and training camp.
“We just felt like diving into the numbers. Our bottom pairs had a real tough time in the first three games and we need some consistency. We needed something in that bottom pair that can give us reliable minutes, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Caps head coach Spencer Carbery said on Friday. “Hardy had a great camp. We liked his exhibition games so we thought it would be a good opportunity for him to potentially get in the lineup.”
Häman Aktell, who was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators back in 2016, played two games with the Hershey Bears and had one goal. He played in five preseason games with Washington and had eight shots and two penalty minutes. He has adjusted nicely to the North American game with the smaller rink sizes.
“I think it was good. I played a lot of PK and had two good games. It’s quick down there too. So it’s good for me to get a little bit more adjusted to the smaller rink and it’s a good experience,” Häman Aktell said. “I got to play early before camp late to get used to the smaller rink and I think it has gone really well… It goes a lot quicker to the net. When you have the puck you don’t have as much time as [you would overseas] but it’s still the same sport. So you just have to adjust to the small things and it goes pretty good.”
Matthew Phillips was promoted to the top line during Friday’s practice. During the preseason, he had good chemistry with Dylan Strome and will get the chance to find that success again on Saturday. He has two points (one goal, one assist) so far this season.
Washington only has three goals in its first three games. It has struggled to get to the high-danger scoring areas and getting sustained offensive zone time. Meanwhile, the Caps have yet to have a lead and have struggled to put together a full 60 minutes. They have had strong starts to games but have not carried the momentum from the first 20 minutes for the rest of the game.
“I think it’s too early to draw a real correlation of slow starts or slow finishes or slow second periods, I just think it’s an overall consistency thing for our group of shift to shift, puck touch to puck touch, breakout to breakout, all the instances,” Carbery said after Saturday’s morning skate. “We just need to do a better job of being consistent with how we need to play and hopefully we start that tonight with 60 minutes. It starts with the first period, move on, reset, okay, now it’s up to our second period.”
The most alarming storyline from Wednesday’s loss was Alex Ovechkin not having a shot on goal for the second game in a row.
That has never happened in his 19-year NHL career.
“If I would say how I’m playing, I’m unhappy with my game and I think you can see we’re playing as a team. Sometimes we play good, but most of the time it’s kind of battling out there,” Ovechkin said on Friday. “We feel good, but you know, when the season starts, you can see something missing and that’s why as a leader, I have to lead the way.”
The Canadiens are coming off a 5-2 loss against the Minnesota Wild and are currently seventh in the Atlantic Division.
The Habs will be without forward Kirby Dach for the rest of the season after having ACL and MCL surgery.
Jake Allen will be in between the pipes for Montreal. This will be his second start of the year and is rocking a 4.62 goals-against average and a .881 save percentage. He gave up five goals in the Habs’ 6-5 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Player To Watch
Cole Caufield leads the Habs with three goals and is tied for the team lead in points with Alex Newhook.
Caufield had 36 points (26 goals, 10 assists) in 46 games last year. The 2021 Hobey Baker winner continues to get better with each game.
The Capitals take on the Canadiens at 7 p.m. at Bell Centre in Montreal.
By Jacob Cheris