The Capitals (31-26-5, 67 points) host the New York Islanders (26-28-8, 60 points) in another pivotal home game as the Capitals keep their playoff hopes alive, and go for their third straight win.
The Caps are one point behind Winnipeg for last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Caps have three games in hand, while the Caps are three points behind the Florida Panthers for tops in the Southeast Division, but the Panthers have played in one less game. The Caps will start a stretch tonight of six of their next seven games at Verizon Center.
Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin took their option today and didn’t take part in the morning skate, everyone else were accounted for. John Erskine, Roman Hamrlik and Mike Knuble are the likely healthy scratches. For Hamrlik it’s his fourth game in a row and for Knuble it’s the sixth time in his last ten games that he is a healthy scratch.
Both players declined to talk to the media following the skate, but Capitals Head Coach Dale Hunter said he only told them they weren’t playing, but hasn’t had a conversation with them yet, but Hunter went in depth on what they have to do to get back into the line up.
“We all been sitting out in our careers and you have to work hard in practice and prepare yourself that when I get in I’m going to play well,” Hunter said. “If you play well you’re going to stay in the line up and especially down the stretch here, we need whose playing the best to be in the line up and to win games.”
Hunter also talked about what they could to stay in the line up once they get back in.
“If Hammer [Hamrlik] or Knubs [Knuble] get in and they play well, they’ll bump out a guy,” Hunter said. “That’s the way it is.”
Keith Aucoin, one goal and one assist in eight NHL games this season, was recalled earlier today and will be in the line up tonight.
“He played pretty well last game and so we’re giving him another chance to play again,” Hunter said on Aucoin.
Michal Neuvirth (8-9-3, 2.87 GAA, .903 Save pct.) is likely in goal tonight for the Caps, but the always coy Hunter would only say that it’s a “game-time decision”.
Yesterday the Caps made no moves at the trade deadline for the first time since the 2008-2009 season and are stuck with this group for the rest of the season, besides possibly calling people up from AHL Hershey.
“As a player I’m happy that everybody still remains in this room, I enjoy the guys I play with, I’m happy we still have everybody,” Caps forward Brooks Laich said. “This is the team, like I said I was really excited about in the summer and still believe that this is a very good hockey team and a team that can get it done.”
“This is your team, now we have to win with this group,” Hunter said.
Defenseman Mike Green has played in five straight games since his abdominal surgery on January 17th and is as healthy as he’s been in a while.
“I feel great, I didn’t think I’d be feeling this good this quick,” Green said. “So it’s good, I’m happy.”
Listen here to what Dale Hunter, Brooks Laich & Mike Green had to say following practice today.
Dale Hunter Practice Audio
Brooks Laich Practice Audio
Mike Green Practice Audio