The Capitals’ defense will have a different configuration Tuesday night when they host the Dallas Stars at Verizon Center, but exactly what the pairings will look like remains uncertain.
But Jack Hillen, who missed the past two games after a violent collision with Alex Ovechkin on March 25, took part in the morning skate Tuesday and is a game time decision to face Dallas. If Hillen can’t go, expect John Erskine to draw back into the lineup after sitting out as a healthy scratch against the Predators.
Regardless of Hillen’s status, the Capitals likely will do something they’ve rarely done this season: Play a blueliner on their off-hand side.
Oates is loathe to play any skater, but particularly the defensemen, on their weak side but with Wey’s injury, the only extra righty on the roster is Connor Carrick and the rookie took part in a lengthy scratches skate Tuesday morning. Hillen, Erskine, Dmitry Orlov and Julien Brouillette are all left-handed shots but a combination of the three is expected to round out the bottom half of the defense.
“Sometimes we have no choice, right?” Oates said when asked if he would go with a pairing that featured two left-handed shots.
>> Oates put Mikhail Grabovski at left wing on a unit with Alex Ovechkin and Jay Beagle late in the game in Nashville and apparently that will be where he starts Tuesday night as well.
“I thought he did better than I expected,” Oates said. “I thought he did good, gave us a little spark and it had been two months.”
Grabovski is a natural center but said he didn’t mind playing wing because of the time he’s missed. Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Predators was Grabovski’s first full game back in the lineup since late January.
“I play before long time ago on the wing, just simple play. I not 100 percent ready to play at center I think,” Grabovski said of his conditioning. “It’s good for me to find my game play wing right now, just feel more comfortable, have a puck and go. Beagle is great forward who can play defensively very good, so I like it.”
>> Dustin Penner went off the ice early Tuesday morning and is ill. The Capitals recalled Chris Brown from AHL Hershey in case Penner can’t play against Dallas.
>> Jaroslav Halak will make his 10th start as a Capital Tuesday night and face another Western Conference squad he’s familiar with. That familiarity hasn’t brought consistent results though, as Halak is 4-4-0 with a 2.52 goals-against average and .899 save percentage against the Stars in his career.
Dallas will start Kari Lehtonen, who is 12-6-2 against the Capitals with a 2.67 and .922 save percentage in his career.
Projected lineups for both teams:
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ryan Garbutt
Shawn Horcoff – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Ray Whitney – Dustin Jeffrey – Alex Chiasson
Alex Goligoski – Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn – Brenden Dillon
Patrik Nemeth – Sergei Gonchar
Kari Lehtonen is expected to start, Tim Thomas will back up.