NEWARK – The newly crowned Metropolitan Division champions, the Washington Capitals, play the New Jersey Devils on Friday night at the Prudential Center. The game will be a glimpse into what a healthy Washington defensive corps looks like, as defenseman John Carlson returns to the lineup.
Carlson suffered a lower-body injury against Montreal on Dec. 26, and though he returned to the lineup after missing 12 games, he wasn’t completely healthy and never returned to his old form. The Capitals are optimistic that having a procedure on Feb. 27 and missing an additional 13 games allowed the injury to completely heal, and he has a 10-game adjustment period before the playoffs start.
At practice on Thursday, Carlson skated with Nate Schmidt as the team’s third pairing, and though Carlson will see time on the second power play (with Alex Ovechkin spending a little less time there), Trotz indicated before the game his minutes would be slightly monitored.
“He’s such a good skater,” Trotz said of Carlson. “I think he worked hard on conditioning the last little bit here. We’ll just play it by ear. The game will present itself in a certain way, I believe. If he’s having problems keeping the minutes or whatever, we’ll reduce him. If he’s doing him, we’ll increase him.”
Though Washington gets Carlson back, the team won’t be completely healthy on Saturday. Right wing T.J. Oshie didn’t travel with the team to Newark because he has the flu, and he won’t be in the lineup. Stanislav Galiev will crack the lineup for the first time since Dec. 1, and Marcus Johansson will move back to the wing to fill Oshie’s vacancy in the top-six.
Goaltender Braden Holtby will get the start for Washington, which means you can expect Philipp Grubauer to start against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday. Holtby is five wins away from setting the single-season wins record. Martin Brodeur currently has the record, as he had 48 wins with the 2006-07 New Jersey Devils. After making 39 saves on Thursday night, Scott Wedgewood will backstop the Devils.
The lineup is below, and the discussion thread is now open.
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Andre Burakovsky
Jason Chimera-Jay Beagle-Tom Wilson
Stanislav Galiev-Mike Richards-Daniel Winnik
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Dmitry Orlov
Nate Schmidt-John Carlson
Braden Holtby (starter)
T.J. Oshie (illness)