SKATE SHAVINGS - News and Notes from Caps' Morning Skate 03/01
Caps adjust blueline pairings ahead of Sunday game with Wild, Hagelin hits 600 games, Holtby starts, moreby Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com
Marching On - Washington finishes up a two-game road trip and plays its last game outside of the Eastern Time Zone on Sunday night when it faces the Wild in St. Paul. Minnesota is the last team the Caps are seeing for the first time. The Caps will open their 16-game March schedule against the Wild here tonight, and they will open their two-game April schedule against Minnesota on April 2 when they host the Wild in Washington's final regular season home game.
As they get set to face the Wild tonight, the Caps made a few tweaks to their blueline. Radko Gudas will sit out tonight, and Jonas Siegenthaler will draw back into the lineup for the first time since Feb. 22; Siegenthaler has sat out each of the last three and four of the last five games. Siegenthaler will be paired with Nick Jensen, and Michal Kempny will skate with Dmitry Orlov, with Orlov playing the right side. Washington's other pairing of Brenden Dillon and John Carlson remains unchanged.
Video: Two-Man Advantage | March 1
"It's just trying to get three pairs that that we can depend on in all situations, especially on the road," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "When I don't have last change or matchups, we're trying to get groups of three - taking strengths and weaknesses of each - and finding pairs that will work. I liked Orlov and Jensen recently. And again, this is decision is all about trying to get us the strongest unit of players, whether that's our four lines or our six [defensemen] that can play in any situation, can play against anybody in the league, and are dependable in that spot.
"So we'll try that look tonight with the two lefties, have Orlov on the right side for the majority of the time, so it'll be a little bit of something different for him. We've seen him do that in the past, but again just trying to build and find something that is dependable and we can rely on."
Washington's 12 forwards will start Sunday's game in the same alignment they've been in for the team's last two games.
Video: Rinkside Update | Carl Hagelin
Six Hundo For Hagelin - Caps left wing Carl Hagelin skates in his 600th NHL game today in Minnesota, a bit more than eight years after he made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers in Washington on Nov. 25, 2011.
"It's a little different," says Hagelin on the occasion of his 600th game. "You think back to your first game, you just want to go out there and play a couple minutes and get that first NHL game out of the way, which was such a cool experience especially going up against Washington - they had Ovechkin -- I remember that was big for me, playing against him.
"Over the last eight or nine years, a lot has happened in my life. It's been a lot of success on the ice, and now I have a family, I have a daughter, so I'm definitely a different person than I was back then. But I think my mindset is still the same, I still feel young and it's a great league to be a part of, and I'm hoping for many more."
Born and raised in Sweden, Hagelin took a different route to the NHL than most of his countrymen. Rather than opting to play pro in Sweden or to play junior hockey there or in North America, he chose to go to U. of Michigan, where he excelled on and off the ice for four years. Once his career as a Wolverine was over, the sixth-round draft pick needed only 17 games worth of AHL seasoning, and he was ready for his first taste of the NHL. Unlike many, he has been here ever since.
"A lot of my friends and especially my brother," says Hagelin, "they turned pro back home pretty early, and then they got stuck in between playing on the elite league team and the junior team, and they didn't really develop a whole lot. When the college opportunity came up by, I jumped on it right away; my dad and my sister went to college in the U.S., so it wasn't completely new to me. School came pretty easy as well, so I thought it'd be a great opportunity to go over and play hockey and get a degree at the same time, because you can't do that back home in Sweden.
"I think those four years helped me a lot, to develop as a person being around the American culture and everything. So once I once I signed my first pro contract, it wasn't that big of a jump I guess, especially socially and when it comes to the culture. Being around a bunch of other drafted guys and good hockey players at Michigan for four years definitely helped me make that transition very, very seamless."
Since entering the league that season, Hagelin has appeared in 128 Stanley Cup Playoff games, more than any player in the league during that span. He has played on two Cup champion teams in Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017, and he advanced to the Cup Final Series with the Rangers in 2014. Hagelin's teams have made the playoffs every season he has been in the league, and the 2018-19 Caps were the first team he was on that did not advance past the first round of the postseason tournament.
"Yeah, I think that's great," says Hagelin. "I'm a guy who takes pride in what I do on the ice and always put the team first, and you love being on winning teams. That's what it comes down to and that's always been the case for me ever since I was a kid. I just had that competitiveness to me that I always wanted to win.
"In college, we finished second my senior year, and it was actually in this building [Xcel Energy Center], too. We lost in overtime and that was it for college, and I've had opportunity now to go on some deep playoff runs and win a couple of Stanley Cups. That's what I play for and you hope that's what everyone around you plays for as well. This is a great team that has a chance to do that, and that was one of the reasons I signed here during the summer."
In The Nets - Braden Holtby will be back in the net on Sunday night for Washington. Holtby will be seeking his third straight victory tonight when he goes against the Wild; he earned a 4-3 shootout win over Winnipeg in his most recent start on Tuesday night in Washington.
Lifetime against Minnesota, Holtby is 8-3-0 with a shutout, a 2.27 GAA and a .922 save pct. in 11 appearances.
Alex Stalock is expected to get the net for the Wild on Sunday against the Caps. He will be making his fourth straight start for Minnesota, doing so for the first time since Nov. 19-27. He comes into Sunday's game on the heels of a 24-save shutout over the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday night, his 18th win of the season - a single-season career high - and his fourth whitewash, also a career best.
Stalock has won four straight games and has been brilliant since the All-Star break, going 7-1-1 with two shutouts, a 1.76 GAA and a .932 save pct. in nine starts over that span. Lifetime against the Caps, he is 0-1-0 in a single appearance, with a 3.08 GAA and a .930 save pct.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals and the Wild to look on Sunday night in St. Paul when meet for the first time this season to conclude the Caps' two-game road trip:
Video: Reirden Pregame | March 1
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
62-Hagelin, 20-Eller, 17-Kovalchuk
14-Panik, 26-Dowd, 21-Hathaway
26-Mayhew, 12-Staal, 22-Fiala
11-Parise, 14-Eriksson Ek, 18-Greenway
17-Foligno, 27-Galchenyuk, 36-Zuccarello
6-Donato, 9-Koivu, 38-Hartman
19-Kunin (upper body)
21-Soucy (upper body)