The most notable adjustment in the Capitals’ lineup for the second of back-to-back games against the Devils is that forward Brooks Laich will be playing defense.
Laich has always served a utility role for Coach Bruce Boudreau, playing any and all three of the forward positions at a moment’s notice and occasionally stepping in for a few shifts on defense when the situation called for it. Given Washington’s depleted defensive core, it appears that time has come.
Mike Green is unable to play because of an undisclosed lower-body injury he suffered Friday that Boudreau said is not the same twisted right ankle that held him out for three weeks previously. John Erskine, who has played four games since returning from offseason surgery on his left shoulder, is also banged up and “sore” according to Boudreau leaving the Capitals with five healthy blueliners.
Moving Laich to defense is likely a short-term solution. It’s unclear at this point how long Green will miss with this second injury, though Boudreau said Friday night it is “day-to-day”. If Green is out for any extended period, or if there’s any doubt of any blueliner’s availability heading into this week’s three-game road trip, the Capitals may need to make another move.
There are a few other factors to consider when looking at this decision. In Hershey, Sean Collins, who was the first choice as a call up earlier this year while Green was out with the ankle injury, didn’t finish the Bears’ Friday night game against Wilkes-Barre after blocking a shot. There are other defensemen available like Patrick McNeill and top-prospect Dmitry Orlov, though.
Then there is the consideration that the Capitals are up against the NHL’s salary cap of $64.3 million. According to Capgeek, Washington has a $1,175,327 allowance left with the cushion created by Tom Poti being on long term injured reserve.
There’s a catch, though, as Washington likely has a bonus overage from last season because of how close it was to the previous salary cap in 2010-11. That number has not been reported or released, however, so it’s impossible to determine exactly how much room the Capitals have currently under the current cap.
Via Capgeek, bonus overages occur when a team operates close to or at the cap limit and then the final payroll is pushed over the salary cap by performance bonuses earned by players. The excess bonuses are then carried forward as a penalty to the team’s salary cap for the next season.
For tonight, though, Boudreau is using Laich, his Swiss Army knife player, as a defenseman. When he spoke with reporters at 5 p.m., Boudreau talked about why Laich and former Capital Sergei Fedorov were able to play the different position.
“They pay attention to detail when you talk to them, they’re quick learners they’d be good students in school,” Boudreau said. “So, I mean when you ask them to do something they’re what coaches like because they grasp it they pay attention to it and they do it right.
“I do I trust [Laich] a lot,” Boudreau added. “If he’s going to make a mistake and we all make mistakes at least it’s going to be a mistake of effort.”