The Washington Capitals begin the first game of their first back-to-back slate of the new campaign against the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night at Capital One Arena. Puck drop is set for 6PM.
Here are the projected lines for Tuesday’s tilt.
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
Martin Fehervary – John Carlson
Rasmus Sandin – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Alex Alexeyev – Nick Jensen
Hardy Häman Aktell – Lucas Johansen
Injured: Charlie Lindgren, Nic Dowd, Max Pacioretty, Joel Edmundson
Washington (1-2-1) announced on Tuesday that they have recalled Hunter Shepard from the Hershey Bears and loaned Clay Stevenson to Hershey. Stevenson has been serving as the backup for the last three games due to Charlie Lindgren going down with an upper-body injury.
Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery confirmed that Shepard will make his first career NHL start on Wednesday against the New Jersey Devils.
The Caps changed up their defense pairings on Monday. John Carlson is now paired with Martin Fehervary and Rasmus Sandin is paired with Trevor van Riemsdyk. Alex Alexeyev will slot back into the lineup after Hardy Häman Aktell made his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens. Carlson played with Fehervary for the majority of last season.
Through the first four games of the season, Washington’s offense has struggled mightily, scoring 1.25 goals per game, which is dead last in the NHL.
However, Carbery said that the offense has been the better part of his club’s game because of how much they have focused on it. The Caps looked better offensively against the Canadiens. They got good contributions from their star players and were getting better scoring chances compared to games prior.
“I think this was our best game all year,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said on Monday. “Obviously, we lost but the chances we generated for all those three periods; it was good.”
However, the lack of structure in the defensive zone is what has worried him the most.
“Defensively, we need to tighten up a lot. The Montreal game, and you’ve seen it through the first four games, we need to be a lot better,” Carbery said at Tuesday’s morning skate. “Puck management is a huge part of that. There’s some details inside of our structure that we’re missing on a lot of individual things, whether it’s a one-on-one battle, whether it’s getting beat off the rush like you see in Montreal a couple times where we turn a two-on-two into a full breakaway, where they beat us wide and it ends up in the back of our net [and] our tracker gets beat up ice. We just need to do a way better job with the little details.”
This will be the first time that Carbery will be coaching against Toronto. He spent the last two seasons with Toronto as an assistant coach, where he ran the NHL’s second-best power play last year.
“Excited to see some familiar faces and a lot of positive memories over the last couple of years,” Carbery said. “A lot of built relationships over there, but I’m sure once the puck drops it’s business and obviously they have a real talented team. We have our hands full, and it’s an important time in our season to try to get some momentum.”
Meanwhile, defenseman Rasmus Sandin will also be playing against Toronto for the first time in his career. The Swedish rearguard was traded to Washington at last year’s trade deadline. The Caps acquired Sandin in exchange for Erik Gustafsson and a 2023 first-round pick (originally Boston’s).
“It’s a lot of fun, I mean, there’s more friends than on the other side off the ice, but it’s gonna be a special one, but it’s gonna be a lot of fun too,” Sandin said. “Hopefully we can come up with the win too.”
The Maple Leafs (3-2-0) are coming off a 4-3 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Auston Matthews opened the regular season with back-to-back hat tricks. He currently has six goals on the campaign which is first on the team.
William Nylander leads Toronto with nine points (four goals, five assists) in five games. Captain John Tavares also has nine points and has seven assists.
Joseph Woll will be in between the pipes for Toronto after coming in relief for former Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov against Tampa Bay. Woll is currently 1-1-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage.
#LeafsForever projected lines @ Caps :
Jarnkrok- Matthews – Marner
Bertuzzi – Tavares – Nylander
Knies – Kampf – Domi
Gregor – Holmberg – Reaves
Rielly – Brodie
McCabe – Liljegren
Giordano – Klingberg
— Maple Leafs News (@budsallday34) October 24, 2023
Player To Watch
Rookie forward Matthew Knies made an instant impact with the Leafs. The 2021 second-round pick currently has three points (two goals, one assist) in five games. He scored twice against the Lightning.
The Capitals take on the Maple Leafs at 6 p.m. at Capital One Arena.
By Jacob Cheris