Capitals forward T.J. Oshie has been fined $5,000 by the NHL for cross-checking Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang on Friday night. The fine, which was announced Saturday morning by the NHL department of player safety, is the maximum allowed by the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
It was the first time the 31-year-old received supplementary discipline in his 10-year NHL career. The infraction came with 20 seconds remaining in the second period Friday, when a fight between Oshie and Letang broke out after a hit by Oshie on the Pittsburgh player. Letang began the fracas by throwing a punch, and during the ensuing exchange, Oshie cross-checked Letang in the shoulder area. Both players were given two-minute penalties.
After Capitals practice Saturday morning at the Kettler Iceplex, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said that while he has his own thoughts on the penalty, he can see Oshie’s frustration and believes his player has a right to be “upset a little bit.”
Oshie said he agreed it was a penalty, but he didn’t look down and target nor did he hit Letang in the head.
“I don’t know what replay or secret camera they had,” Oshie said. “I saw the replays they sent me and even for once the announcer got it right and I got him in the back of the trap, in the neck. But it’s just, it’s hard to figure out what you are going to get fined and suspended for and what you are not.”
Oshie also took issue with the fact that Letang did not receiving additional punishment for landing “two free shots” at his face and then a third when the referee was coming in.
“I dropped the gloves,” Oshie said. “Apparently he didn’t want to and then he got another one in once the ref came in. So I just, it’s just a little frustrating, but nothing I can do about it now.”
Oshie’s gripe continued with the consistency of fines and suspensions as he also referenced the concussion he suffered against the San Jose Sharks in early December, when San Jose’s Joe Thornton crunched Oshie’s head against the glass with his backside. Thornton didn’t receive a suspension for the play. It was Oshie’s fourth concussion in his career.
“I figured [head of NHL department of player safety] George [Parros] is old school, and Thornton fought [Capitals forward Tom Wilson], which is acceptable, so I figured that was the reason there was no suspension or fine,” Oshie said.
Vrana to return vs. Golden Knights; Grubauer to start
After being a healthy scratch for the past two games, Trotz said “there is a good chance” 21-year-old Capitals forward Jakub Vrana will be back in the lineup Sunday against the Vegas Golden Knights. Vrana was skating with the third line in initial rushes during Saturday’s practice.
“I think it’s been a pretty good learning moment for him,” Trotz said. “He’s gone a little bit dry and I think he forgot he has to compete for his ice time.”
Trotz said the initial plan was for Vrana to return to the lineup Friday against the Penguins but all the players he would have come in for played well. Praising Vrana’s speed on the ice and wanting to create more scoring opportunities with it, Trotz said he will be a good asset for the team going against a Vegas squad known for its speed this season.
“Young players, they tend to think things are great,” Trotz said. “ ‘I got so many goals’ and ‘I’m a young prospect’ or whatever and you get away from what gets you really good.”
Vrana has not scored since the Capitals’ win over the Boston Bruins on Dec. 14.
In goal, Trotz said Philipp Grubauer will get the start against Vegas on Sunday and that it was a planned start. The 26-year-old’s last start was Jan. 19 against Montreal.
In the Capitals’ 7-4 loss to the Penguins on Friday night, Trotz pulled Holtby out of the game because he thought “six was enough.” Grubauer gave up the Penguins’ seventh score, to Evgeni Malkin on the power play.
Here is how the Capitals’ lineup is expected to look against the Golden Knights:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Jacob Vrana-Lars Eller-Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly -Jay Beagle- Alex Chiasson
Chandler Stephenson (rotating with fourth line)
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos-John Carlson
Brooks Orpik-Madison Bowey
Philipp Grubauer (starter)