The Washington Capitals (28-21-4, 60 points) host another Southeast Division foe in the Winnipeg Jets (25-24-6, 56 points) tonight at Verizon Center. The Jets trail the Caps by four points, and with only 29 games remaining, the Caps can really put some distance between them. The Florida Panthers are one point behind the Caps in Southeast Division and host the LA Kings tonight.
Mike Knuble (three goals, eight assists in 53 games) will be a healthy scratch tonight for the first time this season and the first time as a Capital when they aren’t giving him rest. Knuble hasn’t scored in 27 games.
“Its always hard to do, but we put Beagle in more speed and Mike hasn’t scored in a while,” Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said. “We figured get him up top and watch the game.”
Alex Ovechkin, Brooks Laich and Dennis Wideman all took yesterday off for “maintenance days” but participated in the morning skate today and are in the line up tonight.
The Caps forward lines looked like: Ovechkin-Johansson-Brouwer, Chimera-Perreault-Semin, Hendricks-Halpern-Ward, Aucoin-Laich-Beagle.
John Erskine is the other healthy scratch. Tomas Vokoun (22-13-1, 2.47 GAA, .920 Save pct.) is in net tonight for the Caps.
Jay Beagle (no goals, one assist) will be in the line up for the first time since January 24th.
Mike Green skated once again today in full pads for the third day in a row. Green has skated seven times, six in pads, since is abdominal surgery January 17th.
Hunter said Green is on schedule and added, “He feels better, he feels more comfortable out there then he was before.”
Capitals leading scorer, Nicklas Backstrom has only skated five minutes in the past month after suffering a concussion on January 3rd against the Calgary Flames. Capitals forward Jay Beagle, who also suffered a concussion this season, said he has talked to him.
“I just told him to be patient, obviously, it’s your head and things will come around,” Beagle said. “He’s been real upbeat.”
There is still no timetable for Backstrom to even start skating, let alone return.
“He’s getting better, but it takes time,” Hunter said on Backstrom. “Just [to] have him around [and] that you can see improvement, it does give you hope.”
Hunter also added that Backstrom has been doing off ice work.
For the Winnipeg Jets, Evander Kane is playing in his second game since missing seven games due to a concussion, Kane has a team leading 18 goals this season and has seven career goals against the Capitals. Former Cap, Eric Fehr, who has one goal and one assist in 30 games this season is expected to play tonight.
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer, Brooks Laich & Jay Beagle had to say following the morning skate today.
Dale Hunter Morning Skate Audio
Alex Ovechkin Morning Skate Audio
Troy Brouwer Morning Skate Audio
Brooks Laich Morning Skate Audio
Jay Beagle Morning Skate Audio