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Grabovski set to return to Capitals lineup

by John Manasso

NASHVILLE -- Washington Capitals forward Mikhail Grabovski will return to the lineup for the second time in more than two months Sunday when the Capitals play the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

Grabovski, who has 12 goals and 21 assists in 50 games this season, has dressed once since Jan. 24 because of a lingering left ankle injury. He had 2:20 of time on ice on Feb. 27 against the Florida Panthers, but reinjured himself and has not played since.

The Capitals entered Sunday two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings, who are seventh and eighth, respectively, for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They are 4-1-2 in their past seven games, but winless in their past two (0-1-1).

Offense, Grabovski's strength, has not been an issue for Washington of late. The Capitals have scored 20 goals in their past seven games.

Capitals coach Adam Oates said he would probably ease Grabovski back into the lineup and that he would take center Chris Brown's spot on the fourth line between left wing Dustin Penner and right wing Tom Wilson. However, Oates left open the possibility that he might give Grabovski more minutes.

"We'll see how he is and how everybody else is because we played [Saturday] and they didn't, and maybe because he's fresh and he's flying and he might get more minutes because of that," Oates said. "We'll make the decision as the game goes along. We'll ponder it."

Oates described the considerable skills that the Capitals missed with Grabovski out for so long.

"You miss some of his skating for sure at first," Oates said. "He's electric, he's dynamic. He adds that fear factor to their [defense] in terms of their gap. Offensive touches and production."

In terms of other lineup decisions, Oates said defenseman Jack Hillen (upper body) has been skating but did not travel. Hillen had played in 11 straight games, logging at least 20 minutes of ice time in six of them, but missed Washington's 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday.

Washington also recalled defenseman Julien Brouillette from the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. Oates said it would be a game-time decision as to whether Brouillette takes defenseman John Erskine's spot in the lineup. Erskine played Saturday after missing the past 11 games with a lower-body injury.

Goaltender Jaroslav Halak will start for the Capitals. Goalie Carter Hutton will start for the Predators.

Predators rookie defenseman Seth Jones, the No. 4 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, will miss his fourth straight game with a concussion. However, Jones participated in the Predators' morning skate and said he thought he would be able to play in Nashville's next game Friday against the Anaheim Ducks.

Because of an injury to center Nick Spaling, the Predators recalled forward Mark Van Guilder on an emergency basis from the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League. Van Guilder is set to make his NHL debut at age 30.

Here are the projected lineups for the Predators and Capitals:


Matt Cullen - Mike Fisher - Patric Hornqvist

Gabriel Bourque - Calle Jarnkrok - Craig Smith

Rich Clune - Colton SissonsEric Nystrom

Mark Van Guilder - Colin WilsonViktor Stalberg

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis

Michael Del Zotto - Victor Bartley

Carter Hutton

Pekka Rinne

Injured: Seth Jones (concussion-like symptoms), Paul Gaustad (upper body), Patrick Eaves (upper body)


Evgeny KuznetsovNicklas BackstromTroy Brouwer

Marcus JohanssonJay BeagleAlex Ovechkin

Jason ChimeraEric FehrJoel Ward

Dustin PennerMikhail GrabovskiTom Wilson

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson

Dmitry OrlovMike Green

John Erskine/Julien BrouillettePatrick Wey

Jaroslav Halak

Braden Holtby

Scratched: John Erskine/Julien Brouillette, Connor Carrick

Injured: Brooks Laich (groin), Jack Hillen (upper body)

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