So on Saturday night against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Arena, the Capitals (2-1-2) will make a minor change to their lineup, reuniting the fourth line that was firing on all cylinders early in the season with the insertion of center Nic Dowd over Chandler Stephenson.
“Just wanted to get Nic back in there after a couple games of being out of the lineup,” Reirden said. “I think Chandler has done some decent things, but just want to find the right combinations that work for our team.”
Dowd will center Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic, who got time on the second line against Nashville. Through the first three games, the trio was starting to build chemistry. So, when Reirden decided to break the group up when Washington played Dallas for the first time this season Tuesday, a 4-3 overtime loss, there were some lingering doubts.
After two games with Stephenson in the lineup over Dowd, that fourth-line combo is back. Through five games, Hathaway has one goal and one assist, while Leipsic has one assist. The trio looked like the best line on the ice in the later stages of the Capitals’ 2-1 win over the New York Islanders on Oct. 4 and had another solid showing in a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina in the Capitals’ home opener the next day.
The Capitals’ other forward lines against the Stars remained the same. Ilya Samsonov will get his second start in net; his first came in the win over the Islanders. Samsonov, 22, finished with 25 saves in his NHL debut, while Braden Holtby has a 1-1-2 record.
“Looking forward to seeing him in his second start. He was solid in the first one and hope we can do a better job of insulating him than we have Braden lately,” Reirden said of Samsonov. “So that will be important against a very offensive group with the Dallas Stars, especially here at home.”
On the blue line, the Capitals will still be without Kempny. Counting the contest against Dallas, Kempny will have missed six regular season games. Before the team’s trip to Nashville, Kempny said he was progressing well and felt good on the ice but needed more practice time. After Saturday night, the Capitals will return to Washington to practice Sunday ahead of Monday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. That practice should provide more information about Kempny’s availability against Colorado.
“Anxiously awaiting him to return,” Reirden said. “Just with the situation we have with the extra right-handed defensemen is not ideal, and it is the situation we are in right now and we will gladly have him back regardless of the situation, but especially this year.”