The Washington Capitals head into Friday night’s road game against the Philadelphia Flyers with the real possibility of an absent Alex Ovechkin. The superstar is suffering from what the team has described as an “upper-body” injury. That said, the team will be looking to kick-start their floundering season.
The Caps (5-7-0) are back in town after a fairly forgettable trip to Canada. A choppy 4-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers was the highlight of the excursion, and a dismal 5-2 thrashing at the hands of the Calgary Flames was the low point.
Also included on their trip was one of the ugliest wins the Caps have ever recorded, a 5-4 shootout debacle over the Winnipeg Jets that should have been a loss for Washington. The Caps’ last game in Western Canada was a 3-2 loss to a solid Vancouver Canucks outfit. Ultimately, the boys in red were outshot 152-106 on the road trip. That’s pretty bad.
So what can the players do to start another winning streak and cheer themselves up a bit? “Get pucks out, get pucks in. It’s pretty easy … it’s not rocket science,” forward Jason Chimera told The Washington Post on Wednesday.
Eliminating turnovers is also on the Caps’ to-do list, along with discovering their once insurmountable power play. They arrived in Canada on October 24 with the best power play unit in the NHL. They left Canada after going 1-for-15 on the man-advantage. The team needs to get that sorted out — and quickly.
With the possibility of Ovechkin not starting, Oates will likely go with Martin Erat, Nicklas Backstrom and Eric Fehr as his top line. Marcus Johansson will drop to the second line alongside Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer. The bottom two lines will remain unchanged, except that Michael Latta (recalled from Hershey) will fill-in for Fehr.
Adding to the Caps’ growing list of concerns is John Erskine’s injury status. The veteran defenseman was placed on long-term reserve this week, meaning that 22-year-old Dmitry Orlov will likely start on Friday after his call-up from the Hershey Bears. If he plays, the team will have an astonishing five D-men who have not recorded a full NHL season to date.
With the new line combinations, a young and inexperienced defensive outfit and an absent Ovechkin, getting anything out of their quick trip to Philly will be a bonus for the Caps.