The morning after he recorded three assists against Vancouver, Evgeny Kuznetsov was skating on the Capitals’ second line in practice.
Kuznetsov skated on a unit with Troy Brouwer and Casey Wellman. It’s a departure from the first three games as the Capitals eased Kuznetsov in to their system and the North American style of play with limited time – he averaged 12:44 – on the fourth line with Tom Wilson and Jay Beagle.
While Kuznetsov has long been projected as a top-six forward in the NHL, Coach Adam Oates played down the move and wanted to temper any overreaction to the 21-year-old’s outing against the Canucks.
“I really want to caution on getting too far ahead. He made a couple good plays, he could make a couple boneheads tomorrow,” Oates said. “He’s a good hockey player. He’s played pro hockey, even though it’s over there it’s still different, but do I expect him to make that pass he made to Willy? Yep, awesome. I liked a couple other things he did where he just drove it deep and didn’t turn it over. The winning goal he makes a great cycle, but all the guys did. Is he learning? I hope so, but I also want to caution myself on wow factor.”
With Kuznetsov on the second line, Dustin Penner practiced on the fourth. He hasn’t started a game outside the top six since the Capitals acquired him on March 4 from Anaheim. Through six games with Washington, Penner has no goals on nine shots and is clearly still adjusting to his new team and the style of play in the Eastern Conference.
>> Brooks Laich, who was limited to two shifts in the final 15:32 against Vancouver after clearly laboring to skate, sat out practice once again because of his lingering groin injury.
Oates said Laich remains day-to-day and will be a game-time decision to face the Leafs on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center.
>> Mikhail Grabovski, who remains on long-term injured reserve with a sprained left ankle, has yet to skate with the team since re-injuring the ankle on Feb. 27 at Florida. There remains no timetable for his return.
>> Here’s what the lineup looked like in practice
Aaron Volpatti (LTIR with a shoulder injury) skated as an extra.