While Coach Dale Hunter rarely tips his hand about the Capitals’ lineup, he made it sound like he may reunite the fourth line unit of Jay Beagle, Jeff Halpern and Joel Ward against the Hurricanes Monday night.
The group was easily the Capitals’ most consistent in a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers Friday night, but when Mike Green returned against Tampa Bay the coaching staff wanted to manage his minutes. Jay Beagle sat as a healthy scratch so the team could use seven defensemen.
Asked if it would be useful to reunite the hard-working line, Hunter hinted that it was a strong possibility.
“You’re coachin’ now are ya? You’re in my brain aren’t ya?” Hunter said with a laugh. “Definitely the way they played there was very positive and one of our better lines and created a lot of scoring chances. So, you could be bang on.”
If Hunter does put that unit back together it will allow the Capitals to roll four lines consistently, which can be an important element on the road. Part of the choice comes down to how confident the coaching and training staff are that Mike Green can play a regular shift, though.
Green was in a chipper mood at RBC Center said he feels good and is looking forward to playing more. If he is indeed ready for that next step the Capitals could go with 12 forwards. If not, it most likely will be a similar scenario as the one they used against the Lightning with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
John Erskine took part in extra work this morning so he will likely be scratched regardless how many defensemen the Capitals dress. What’s unclear is who would be the other odd man out should Hunter opt to go with six.
“They’re all NHL guys, they all want to play makes it always a tough decision,” Hunter said. “They all want to play so it makes it always a tough decision, which is a good decision. You know if it was an easy decision, then we don’t have the depth. But we have great depth. All of them can play.”
--Tomas Vokoun gets the nod in net tonight and will oppose Justin Peters, who will be making his fifth appearance of the season because former Conn-Smythe winner Cam Ward is out with a lower-body injury.
Peters came into Saturday’s game at the Islanders in the third period after Ward suffered his injury and allowed one goal on 10 shots en route to Carolina’s 4-3 loss. Friday night, however, Peters stopped 35 of 37 shots as the Hurricanes defeated San Jose 3-2. Prior to that game Peters hadn’t played since Jan. 7.