The Caps returned home after Game 3 Sunday night, taking advantage of the extra day of rest before Wednesday’s Game 4.
Only four players who skated in Game 3 – Jason Chimera, Matt Hendricks, Matt Bradley and John Erskine – participated in the team’s optional practice Monday morning with the scratches and backup goaltender Semyon Varlamov, and the team is trying to maximize its chance to stay fresh.
The Caps have essentially split the middle games of the series into two separate one-game trips, and hope spending a couple of days at home will lessen the physical and emotional grind of a long playoff series.
“I think the two days off is probably good right now,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “[We’ll] get a little bit of rest, and I’m sure they’re flying pretty high right now after that win, so to get a little time between games will probably be good.”
It’s certainly as good a time as any for a layoff, especially after the Caps took eight minor penalties in Game 3 Sunday and seemed to get worn down late in the game.
Tired legs may have contributed to the Caps’ hooking, tripping and holding penalties, and in turn the Caps’ top penalty killers had to play significantly more minutes than usual.
Brooks Laich played 21:49 and Boyd Gordon played 14:37.
“You end up taking penalties usually when you’re getting outworked,” Laich said. “I think there were some points in the game where that was happening.”
The Caps will practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex again on Tuesday before heading back to New York in advance of Game 4.
They’ve created extra travel for themselves, but hope the time back at home will do some good.
“We’re in our own backyard now,” Matt Hendricks said. “We’re comfortable here, we’re where we want to be. Go up there, take care of business. I think that’s the way we’re looking at it.”
*The full list of players on the ice this morning is as follows: Tom Poti, John Erskine, Matt Bradley, Eric Fehr, D.J. King, Jason Chimera, Matt Hendricks, Sean Collins, Jay Beagle, Tyler Sloan, Semyon Varlamov.