In the second period of Washington’s game Friday night, Niskanen was slashed on the stick by Devils forward Jimmy Hayes. Niskanen returned to the bench in pain, taking the glove off his left hand to examine it.
He went to the locker room before the second intermission and was then ruled out for the third period. Niskanen was seen with a wrap around his hand after the game. Niskanen is Washington’s top blue-liner, so his loss is a blow to the Capitals, already thin on defense after the offseason departures of Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk. The earliest Niskanen will be eligible to return to the lineup is Nov. 7 against Buffalo.
Because Washington is experiencing issues with its defensive depth to start the season, the Capitals’ top-four blue-liners have been taxed. Niskanen had averaged a career-high 23 minutes 22 seconds of ice time through the first four games, playing on both the power play and the penalty kill while also facing top competition at even strength. Carlson has averaged north of 26 minutes in the first five games, and while Coach Barry Trotz has acknowledged that’s not sustainable, this injury to Niskanen won’t help.
Though Bowey is the Capitals’ next best right shot, he has never played in an NHL game. It’s unclear if he’ll be in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, potentially his NHL debut. Washington drafted Bowey in the second round of the 2013 draft, and he has spent the past two years in the American Hockey League.
The Capitals have rotated blue-liners Taylor Chorney, Christian Djoos and Aaron Ness in their third pairing, and all three have had their ups and downs to start the season. Djoos is a rookie who played in just his second NHL game Friday night; while Chorney is the most experienced of the bottom-pairing group, Trotz yanked him from the lineup because he was struggling to play his off side on the right.
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