shavings detroit

Motor City – The Caps are in Detroit for a massively important Tuesday night tilt against the Red Wings. With just five games remaining in the 2023-24 NHL regular season, Washington and Detroit are both vying for the two remaining playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

When the Caps were last here on Feb. 27, they found themselves on the wrong end of an 8-3 beatdown. Just under a month later in the District, the Caps earned a 4-3 overtime win over the Wings, but they haven’t won since, going 0-4-2, and losing their tenuous hold on a playoff position.

There will be some lineup alterations for tonight. From the morning skate tea leaves, we can expect Nicolas Aubé-Kubel to return to the lineup, and there is a decent chance that T.J. Oshie also returns tonight. The Caps will hedge that bet by having Mike Sgarbossa take warm-ups in the event that Oshie is unable to go.

In the other lineup change, rookie Ivan Miroshnichenko will sit out tonight, and right wing Nicolas Aubé-Kubel draws back in after sitting out the previous three games and four of the last five.

The 20-year-old Miroshnichenko is getting his first taste of North American pro hockey this season, and after logging 47 games with AHL Hershey and 21 more with Washington this season, he has played more games (68) than he had played in his native Russia in the last two seasons combined (55).

“It’s to be expected,” says Caps’ coach Spencer Carbery, agreeing that Miroshnichenko has hit a wall recently. “He’s been put in a real tough spot as a young player. He doesn’t have a long career in Hershey, coming right over to the American League and being thrown right into the fire. I thought he did a good job early on, but that’s to be expected, especially as the level of play gets ratcheted up here right towards the end.

“It’s just felt like it’s been a little bit overwhelming for him at times of late, so we’ll let him reset, and who knows? He might be back in there [Thursday] against Buffalo. We’ll talk to him and work on the things that he needs to continue to work on, and hopefully he can get back to that level. But it’s challenging for young players at his age – being as young as he is – it’s a challenge.”

Lay It On The Line – Two months ago today, the Caps woke up with their first six-game losing streak of the season (0-5-1), a slide that left them seven points behind Detroit for the second wild card. When they left the Motor City after that lopsided Feb. 27 loss, the Caps were nine points south of the Wings in the Eastern Conference standings. As they take the ice tonight, the Caps trail Detroit by a single point. With any kind of victory tonight in Motown, the Caps can climb back into eighth place in the East.

“It’s real exciting,” says Caps’ center Connor McMichael. “I feel like this is why you play the game of hockey, for games like this. It’s going to be really easy for us to get up for this one tonight. The last time we were here, they took it to us a little bit, and we want to get that back, get the two points, and get back in a playoff spot. We have guys in here that are really hungry, young guys that want to make the playoffs, and older guys that want to get back and have a chance to lift the Cup again. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Two months ago, few would have given the Caps any chance to be pushing for a playoff spot with five games remaining. And even fewer would have seen it coming at the end of February. But here the Caps are, with five games left, still with an opportunity to play playoff hockey this spring. But starting tonight in Detroit, the Caps will need to swiftly steer themselves out of this six-game tailspin.

“It’s interesting when you put it in that perspective,” says Carbery. “We’ve just had a group all year long that has just continued to fight and grind, even though it hasn’t always gone as planned, and sometimes the circumstances have been really daunting. And I don’t think it’s any different at the point where we are.

“I feel like we’re leaving a little bit on the table with playing at a higher level; I think there’s a little bit more. And that’s what the challenge for our group is. If we’re going to lose games – which is fine; we’ve lost our fair share – we want to be going out where we’re showing our best stuff. And that might not be good enough, but we’re going to try to get back to that level. I feel like of late, it’s just been okay. There’s been some off nights for sure – in Buffalo, and Ottawa and [Pittsburgh] at home, just okay.

“We’ve got another gear, and we’ve got to find that. And I know that’s hard, especially for young players at this time of the year. But we’ve got to find one more gear, to lay it on the line, and leave that on the table, and see where we fall.”

Hockey is a fickle game. Bounces don’t always go your way, and momentum can be fleeting. Rough patches pop up from time to time, and even the best teams are susceptible to them. If it were easy to steer out of them, they wouldn’t even happen. The effort is there, it always is with this group; the combination of that effort coupled with stumbles by other clubs is how the Caps reached this point of playoff viability, even after they moved out three regular players at the trade deadline without bringing any actual bodies back in any of those three swaps.  

“Mentally, everyone is here; everyone wants to push for that playoff spot really bad, I know that,” says Caps’ defenseman Nick Jensen. “It just feels like there is something that we don’t have, that we had before – during our good stretches – that we don’t have right now. And we’ve got to find that.

“We have a team identity, but I don’t think we’ve met the standard of it in the last six games. Like in our [defensive] zone, everyone defending together so that when one guy gets beat, guys are helping. Those are identities. We’ve got guys to make plays, but no one to put the puck in and go forecheck. That’s part of our identity. And then, in the [offensive] zone, getting pucks and bodies to the net is part of our identity, but I don’t think it has been as good as it’s been during our winning stretches.

“Those are the things that I think we’ve really got to focus on, and then playing with super high intensity and super high speed, never taking a shift off and never coasting. If we play with that mentality, we’re really hard to play against.”

Oshie echoes some of his fellow Minnesotan’s thoughts.

“The situation has changed, obviously,” says Oshie. “A couple of weeks ago, we were just looking to get our get and get our standard to a certain level, and everything else would take care of itself. Now, we’ve got to get to that standard, and we have to win games. You can use whatever metaphor you want – backs against the wall. do or die, all this other stuff. But we need wins, and we need wins especially against Detroit. I imagine it’s going to be an intense game from both sides, probably a little emotion there; we played them not too long ago. So, it has to be of playoff-type importance to every player, every shift.”

In The Nets – Tonight’s goaltending matchup pits a pair of undrafted Minnesota natives, both of whom are in the midst of career seasons in their early thirties, and both of whom have been second half workhorses for their teams this season.

For the Caps, 30-year-old Lakeville, Minn. native Charlie Lindgren gets the nod in net tonight. Over the last month – since March 7 – Lindgren has made 15 appearances, leading the NHL in appearances and starts (14) over that span, and posting an 8-5-2 record with two shutouts, a 2.73 GAA and a .910 save pct. Included in that stretch is a 4-3 overtime victory over the Wings in Washington on March 26; Lindgren stopped 30 of 33 shots in that game.

Tonight, he seeks the 50th victory of his NHL career against the Wings. Lifetime against Detroit, Lindgren is 4-2-0 with a 3.61 GAA and an .871 save pct. in six appearances, all starts.

Thirty-one-year-old Baudette, Minn. native Alex Lyon gets the net for the Wings tonight. Since Dec. 29, Lyon has logged 1,063 minutes in the Detroit crease, accounting for 77 percent of the netminding workload for the Wings over that span and starting 33 of the team’s last 42 games.

Lyon has notched 20 of his 34 career NHL victories this season, with 15 of them coming since the turn of the calendar. Lyon is Detroit’s nominee for the Masterton Trophy this season. Lifetime against the Capitals, Lyon is 2-1-2 with a 3.09 GAA and a .900  save pct. in six appearances (five starts).

Two years ago, in the 2022 Calder Cup Final series, Lyon’s Chicago Wolves bested Lindgren’s Springfield Thunderbirds in five games to claim the 2022 Calder Cup championship.

All Lined Up – Here’s how the Caps and Red Wings might look when they take the ice on Tuesday night in Detroit:



8-Ovechkin, 17-Strome, 43-Wilson

21-Protas, 24-McMichael, 77-Oshie

67-Pacioretty, 29-Lapierre, 15-Milano

47-Malenstyn, 26-Dowd, 96-Aubé-Kubel


42-Fehervary, 74-Carlson

57-van Riemsdyk, 3-Jensen

27-Alexeyev, 2-Iorio





19-Backstrom (lower body)

25-Bear (NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program)

38-Sandin (upper body)







57-Perron, 71-Larkin, 23-Raymond

93-DeBrincat, 21-Czarnik, 88-Kane

18-Copp, 37-Compher, 36-Fischer

14-Fabbri, 90-Veleno, 17-Sprong


8-Chiarot, 53-Seider

77-Edvinsson, 46-Petry

2-Maatta, 41-Gostisbehere





27-Rasmussen (upper body)

35-Husso (lower body)