The Washington Capitals could have their full roster healthy and available for Sunday’s Game 2 of their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That includes fourth-line center Jay Beagle, who missed Thursday’s Game 1 with an undisclosed upper-body injury: He was a full participant in Saturday’s practice, and Coach Barry Trotz said it’s “possible” that he could play Sunday night.
“I’m definitely hopeful of playing,” Beagle said. “I’m preparing like I’m going to play. I’ll leave it up to the coaching staff and the doctors and the medical staff to make the final call.”
Beagle’s absence was felt in Washington’s 4-3 overtime loss in Game 1. He’s the team’s only right-handed center, and he finished the season with a 58.5 winning percentage on faceoffs, fourth-best in the NHL. Without him Thursday, the Capitals lost 10 of 11 defensive-zone draws in the third period, when Washington squandered a pair of one-goal leads. Beagle also plays the most shorthanded ice time of any Capitals forward, and the penalty kill allowed two goals Thursday. He had seven goals and 15 assists in 79 games during the regular season.
“When you take a lot of draws on the right-hand side like I do all year, it’s kind of a role,” Beagle said. “Obviously, that’s something that I’ve been given and take pride in. To ask guys to go out and take draws they haven’t taken all year is tough, especially against [the Blue Jackets]. They’ve got three really good lefties that are strong in the offensive zone and great drawmen. That makes it even tougher, obviously, when they have that good of centermen [and] a lot of wingers who also can take the draw that are also lefties.”
Said Trotz: “Jay is one of those guys that you don’t probably value him as much until you don’t have him. As a coach, I have a lot of value for him, but just the regular fan or regular people, Jay Beagle doesn’t put up high numbers. But he gives you everything he’s got, and the one place he can make a difference is that faceoff circle. It’s all about starting with the puck, and he gives us an advantage in that more than most guys in the league.”
Top-six forward T.J. Oshie didn’t practice Saturday, but Trotz said that was for maintenance and that he’ll be on the ice Sunday morning. Depth center Travis Boyd returned to practice; he had been away from the team for the past week with an undisclosed illness. Washington also caught a break with defenseman Michal Kempny avoiding serious injury when he was boarded by Columbus’s Josh Anderson in the first period Thursday. Kempny was ruled out for the rest of that game with an upper-body injury, but he was a full participant in practice Saturday and is expected to play in Game 2.
Kempny had several cuts on his face and stitches running across his right eyebrow. He said he wanted to return to Game 1, but the team doctors wouldn’t allow him to. Kempny, a trade-deadline addition, plays in the top four of Washington’s defense corps beside John Carlson.
“Kemper has been a real good add for us,” Trotz said. “Obviously, his skating and his poise and all that have been a real addition to us. We played last game with five defensemen, and that slowed us up a bit. It was pretty taxing on a lot of our guys. But at the same time, Kemper is now fresh, and we’re looking forward to having him right back.”
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