Mikhail Grabovski, the most heralded acquisition in Washington’s otherwise quiet off-season, will make his Capitals debut Monday night in Boston. He’ll center a second line that seems all but set in stone, flanked by Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich, who will also be making his preseason debut after battling health issues early.
Because of Grabovski’s well-documented visa issues and Brooks Laich’s tweaked hip flexor, the line hasn’t accumulated much on-ice time together. Laich says tonight’s in-game action will help them get a feel for each other in a way limited practice time and locker room conversations can’t.
“We’ve only done a few 3 on 2 drills, 2 on 1 drills, that sort of stuff,” Laich said. “You really have to get in game action against a lot of checkers in situations like that where you can really start to learn your players.”
Laich said Grabovski has been noticeably enthusiastic about familiarizing himself with his linemates tendencies and incorporating himself into the Capitals’ offensive plans.
“He asked a lot of questions about our system. He wanted to know a lot about how we play, what we do,” Laich said. “For us as guys having a newcomer come in and be like that, be on board right away, is pretty impressive.”
Grabovski said he was grateful for Laich, who has helped him understand the Capitals’ system and “helped me to know my role on the ice.”
Laich and Brouwer “are both very good players. Fast, smart, it’s very easy to adjust,” said Grabovski, whose first career preseason appearance and first NHL goal both came against the Bruins. “They know what they do, and I know what I need to do to play with them.”
Caps sign defenseman Connor Carrick to entry-level deal:
The Capitals announced Monday they’ve signed 19-year-old defenseman Connor Carrick to a three-year, entry-level deal. Carrick’s contract is worth $550,000 at the NHL level each of the first two years and $575,000 the final year. The deal is worth $70,000 annually at the AHL level.
Carrick played his way into the front of the Capitals’ management’s minds with an impressive development camp earlier this summer. He then skated his way into a professional deal at training camp, where he continued to show composure beyond his years, game sense beyond his experience level, and physicality beyond his 5-10, 197-pound frame.
“I know he had a great summer in terms of everywhere he went, there was great feedback that he’s playing well and improving,” Coach Adam Oates said. “He’s had a great camp, he’s playing well, and I think we thought it was better for him to be with us then go back to juniors.”
Oates said the Capitals will “wait and see” about where Carrick starts the season, but Hershey seems all but certain to be the defenseman’s new home.
“He’s similar to Tom Wilson. You’re evaluating, and he looks like he’s moved beyond [juniors],” Oates said. “Not that he wouildn’t have a great year in junior — of course he would — but we think he’s ready for the next level.”
Washington selected Carrick in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, and he impressed with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers last season, leading the team’s defensemen in goals (12) and ranking second among Whalers blue liners in assists (32) and points (44). He also helped the United States U18 team to a gold medal at the 2012 World Championships.
Projected lines for Monday night:
Martin Erat – Mathieu Perreault – Garrett Mitchell
Brooks Laich – Mikhail Grabovski -Troy Brouwer
Dane Byers – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson
Aaron Volpatti – Jay Beagle – Joel Rechlicz
Jack Hillen – Connor Carrick
Nate Schmidt – Tyler Strachan
Michal Cajkovsky – Patrick Wey
Oates said he plans to have Braden Holtby play the full game tonight.