The Capitals were likely due for a special-teams practice, anyway, if only to help increase familiarity between players now that Alex Ovechkin and Jason Arnott are back in the mix. The unit looked a little disjointed at times last night, going 0-for-3 against the Hurricanes.
“Last night’s game was the first time we’ve played since [March 7 against Tampa Bay] that we had Arnott and [Nicklas] Backstrom in the lineup together,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “I think that’s why we were looking a little confused sometimes. That’s why we practiced it today. Hopefully we’ll be better at it tomorrow.”
Eric Fehr was on the point for a few drills with the second unit, as was Arnott. Ovechkin and John Carlson were on the points for the bulk of the time with the first group. (Tom Poti rotated in on the point with the second group but said he’s not ready to return yet.)
The impact of Wideman’s injury remains to be seen — of course depending upon how serious the ailment is and how many games he misses — but his presence on the power play will be something that’s difficult to replace.
The Capitals acquired Wideman from Florida on the NHL’s Feb. 28 trade deadline, only three days after No. 1 defenseman Mike Green suffered a concussion against the Rangers. Wideman stepped into a role with significant minutes — the 28-year-old has played at least 22 minutes, and as many as 28, in each game as a Capital — and he also helped fill the void left by Green on the power play.
“It puts a little more stress on the power play” to have Wideman out, winger Mike Knuble said. “We have to alleviate some of that just by practicing. We can’t throw everybody out there, but we kind of have a hole there at the top and we’ve got to figure out what’s going to happen there.
“You lose Mike, and it was a big hole in the team, and Dennis filled in that role really well. It kind of made it seamless, and we were relying on him a lot. When you mix some other people in there, you realize it’s not so easy to get pucks through [from the point] all the time.”
As he’s done all season, Boudreau downplayed the pressure created by the injury of any one individual, but it will be interesting to see how the Capitals react if Wideman misses a significant amount of time.
“He moves the puck well out of his zone, he’s calm under fire, he’s done a lot of great things for us,” Boudreau said. “Power play is one of the places because [what] coincided with him coming here is Mike Green going down. It was an easy slide into that situation. If he can’t play tomorrow, we’ll find somebody else. That’s why I was experimenting with a couple guys out there today.”
If Wideman is unable to play against Columbus tomorrow, it stands to reason that Tyler Sloan will get a sweater and appear in a game for the 31st time this season.