Capitals Game Day: Nic Dowd Out, Hardy Haman Aktell Set To Make NHL Debut Against Montreal Canadiens

The Washington Capitals (1-2-0) will look to bounce back from their disastrous 6-1 loss against the Ottawa Senators against another foe north of the border in the Montreal Canadiens (1-1-1). 

 Projected lines:

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

 Darcy Kuemper
Clay Stevenson

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.”

Scouting Montreal

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

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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4 Responses to Capitals Game Day: Nic Dowd Out, Hardy Haman Aktell Set To Make NHL Debut Against Montreal Canadiens

  1. armchair quarterback says:

    Let’s go for another loss, boys! 15-win season is the best thing that can happen – then management can say to Ovi, “We kept the band together, and this is the result. This is the same team we’re going into ’25 with, unless we buyout / trade everyone from the cup run except you and Wilson.” And a top-3 draft pick never hurts…

    • Anonymous says:

      Toyally agree however I am looking for an even dozen wins. This team over the next several years needs top 5 picks every year and no mistakes. Also need to have several picks each years progress enough to at least make the NHL and not have the GM trade picks for older or any players. Rely on the GM and the scouting staff to restock this team!!
      The owner and GM missed the mark back in June when they could have bought out both Mantha and Backy. Would have been the best thing to happen to this team over the summer. With those 2 you shortchange 2 lines. Maybe it would be better if the HC has to play them that they both be on the same line that way you can limit the minutes of just one line.

  2. Dave says:

    Hmm, could we have a budding Yogi Berra here? (“I got to play early before camp late”). Instead of “Yogisms” they could be known as “HaHAs”

  3. novafyre says:

    Tonight in North Charleston the South Carolina Stingrays, proud ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals lost to the Orlando Solar Bears, proud ECHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3. Garin Bjorklund, on loan from the Capitals, was the losing goalie.

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