The Washington Capitals are taking today off in the middle of a three-day interlude between games. The rest comes at an ideal time because not only is the team weathering a six-game road trip, but it’s also keeping track of injuries to several players, most notably second-line center Jason Arnott and defenseman Mike Green.
Neither practiced yesterday morning after a 3-0 victory over New Jersey on Friday night that was Washington’s 10th win in 11 games and seventh of eight on the road. Arnott’s return is perhaps a week to 10 days away, Coach Bruce Boudreau said, while Green is eligible to come back on Tuesday when the Capitals play at Philadelphia.
Apart from another day to recover, the day off also provides a chance for players to clear their heads and catch their breath in advance of a game with major playoff impliciations. The Flyers are tied with Washington for first place in the Eastern Conference, but they have three games in hand.
“It’s nice to come home and have a few days here,” forward Matt Hendricks said, “but obviously we go back on Monday and get back to the grind.”
The Capitals have nine games left in the regular season, including five on the road. Only three of Washington’s remaining games are against opponents currently in the playoffs, although Carolina is well within reach of the eighth and final spot in the East. The Capitals play the Hurricanes on March 29.
These final games also will determine which goalie between Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov will get the No. 1 job for the playoffs. Neuvirth has started the past two games, but Varlamov is scheduled to start this week after being out for a month with a knee injury. Boudreau, however, would not specify which game he intends to play Varlamov.
Other ailing players the Capitals are monitoring include forward Eric Fehr and defenseman Tom Poti. Both skated with the team on Saturday, but there’s no definite timetable for when either will be back in the lineup.
“Some guys need maintenance days,” Boudreau said. “Some guys play a lot, and their bodies are sore, and they need to heal, and that’s the one advantage of having three days off before the next game.”