shavings canes

Dressing Room Walls – Over the last few seasons, the phrase “working through some things in the room” has become part of the vernacular at MedStar Capitals Iceplex. Washington hasn’t had a full complement of players available for any of its games for the last four years now, and the list of unavailable bodies occasionally climbed higher than a handful over those four years.

For tonight’s game with Carolina, the Caps are working through some things in the room, but they’ve worked it out. There are no game time decisions to be made; neither T.J. Oshie (upper body) nor Aliaksei Protas (lower body) will play tonight against the Hurricanes.

It’s a virtual certainty that Tom Wilson won’t be in the lineup, either. The NHL offered Wilson an in-person hearing for a hi-sticking infraction against Toronto’s Noah Gregor late in the third period of Wednesday’s game against the Maple Leafs, an infraction for which Wilson was assessed a double-minor penalty, even after an officials’ review that night.

Wilson’s hearing was conducted early Friday afternoon and forthcoming adjudication should be announced later this afternoon.

Wilson stayed out late for extra work after Friday’s morning skate, and Washington announced the recall of right wing Matthew Phillips from AHL Hershey. Phillips spent the first half of the season with the Caps before being claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh early last month. Washington was able to reclaim Phillips off waivers a couple weeks ago, and he will step back in tonight.

“The way we felt as a staff,” begins Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery in explaining the team’s reasoning behind the recall of Phillips, “you could make an argument for a lot of different guys that have either A) played for us this year and are currently in Hershey, or B) some guys that have played real well that are looking for their first opportunity to play in the National Hockey League. And there’s really strong arguments on both sides.

“The reason we go with Phillips is at this junction of the year and the magnitude of these next few games, to be able to stay in this fight, we prioritize someone that had been a part of the group, knows the system inside and out, and can make it as seamless as possible to come in and play against the Carolina Hurricanes.”

Carolina comes to town for the second time this season; the Caps fell 6-2 to the Canes on Jan. 5 here in the District, yielding six unanswered goals after taking an early 2-0 lead that proved to be fool’s gold. In the first meeting of the season between the two teams in Carolina on Dec. 17, the Caps eked out a 2-1 shootout victory, this despite losing Oshie to injury a night earlier in Nashville, and despite playing for the second time in as many nights, as the Hurricanes will be doing tonight.

“I think they’re two separate entities,” says Carbery of the first two meetings between the Caps and Canes this season. “One was on a back-to-back, and I felt like us coming in there, we were under siege a little bit, but I feel like we weathered the storm; we had some key saves from [goaltender Darcy Kuemper] in that game. It was one of those ‘grind it out’ [victories]; we didn’t really carry play, but found a way to win a game early in the season.

“I felt like the game in our building, I didn’t think we were very good at all. Even though we had that 2-0 lead in that game, I never for one second felt like we were in control of that game or had our best stuff.”

The Canes come to town on a true heater. They’re one of eight teams separated by only four points in the chase for the Presidents’ Trophy, their plus-52 goal differential is tied for third best in the League, they’ve tied a franchise record with six straight road wins and they’ve pulled points in nine straight (8-0-1) and in 17 of their last 18 games (15-1-2) on the road.

“[Tonight] needs to look closer to the first time we saw them, in a different way,” says Carbery. “We need to do a better job of controlling play against them. We’ve got to be way better on the walls, and we’ve got to have our skating legs.

“This team will stress you and if you are not ready to work when you have the puck, and work without the puck, and play with some pace and be able to skate – whether that’s in transition or just to close, and shut down a 1-on-1, or you get a puck and Brady Skjei is on you, you have to be able to skate away from him. If you just submit to him closing, it’s going to be a long night. So that’s where we need to flip it, to where it looks closer to the first [meeting], but we also control play.”

“We have to play like we did that first game,” agrees Caps’ center Dylan Strome. “It was kind of a nothing game; there weren’t many chances back and forth. There were some chances in overtime, but not much besides that. Marty [Fehervary] scores, and they score, and it goes off the ref’s foot and right to the guy in the slot. There wasn’t many chances going on in that game, and I think that’s the type of game we need to play against these guys.

“They’re a team that obviously dumps the puck in a lot, they’re going to hem us in. We know we’ve got to be patient tonight and we can’t get frustrated. You know they’re going to take chances, but hopefully that benefits us and we get some odd man rushes the other way.

“But they’re a fast, good skating team. They’re built well, and they’re built to win, so it’s going to be ab tough game for us. But I think if we play like we did in the first game and we limit their chances and make them the ones who get frustrated and not us, I think that’s going to go a long way tonight.”

In The Nets – Kuemper gets the net tonight for Washington, starting for the first time since March 13 when he was in the crease for a 7-2 loss to the Oilers in Edmonton. Each of the Caps’ two goaltenders has yielded seven goals against in his previous start; Charlie Lindgren was in net for Wednesday’s 7-3 loss to Toronto.

“Just based on the fact that Chucky has played a lot of hockey over the last stretch, and didn’t have his best the other night,” says Carbery of his netminding decision for tonight. “Give him a breather and give Darce an opportunity in a huge hockey game, to help the group out.”

In Washington’s 2-1 shootout win over the Canes in Carolina on Dec. 17, Kuemper stopped 28 of 29 shots he faced. Lifetime against Carolina, he is 2-5-1 with a 3.34 GAA and an .897 save pct. in nine appearances (eight starts).

For the Hurricanes, we are expecting to see Pyotr Kochetkov in goal tonight, and he will be seeking his 20th victory of the season. In 13 starts since the All-Star break, Kochetkov is 8-5-0 with a pair of shutouts, a 1.99 GAA and a .932 save pct.

In two career starts and appearances against Washington, Kochetkov is 1-0-1 with a 1.44 GAA and a .921 save pct.

All Lined Up – Here’s how the Caps and the Hurricanes might look on Friday night in Washington:



8-Ovechkin, 24-McMichael, 23-Sgarbossa

63-Miroshnichenko, 17-Strome, 45-Phillips

67-Pacioretty, 29-Lapierre, 15-Milano

47-Malenstyn, 26-Dowd, 96-Aubé-Kubel


42-Fehervary, 74-Carlson

38-Sandin, 3-Jensen

27-Alexeyev, 57-van Riemsdyk





19-Backstrom (lower body)

21-Protas (lower body)

43-Wilson (likely NHL suspension)

77-Oshie (upper body)





59-Guentzel, 20-Aho, 24-Jarvis

37-Svechnikov, 92-Kuznetsov, 88-Necas

48-Martinook, 11-Staal, 71-Fast

28-Lemieux, 82-Kotkaniemi, 23-Noesen


74-Slavin, 8-Burns

76-Skjei, 22-Pesce

7-Orlov, 5-Chatfield





18-Drury (lower body)

32-Raanta (lower body)

86-Teravainen (upper body)