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Washington Capitals Weekly Updates: February 24-March 2

Washington Capitals update

It’s time for another Washington Capitals weekly update. The Capitals had their highest-scoring week of the season with 14 total goals scored. A significant amount of the offence came from players who were in the AHL at this time last season. Hendrix Lapierre had five points this week, including his first career two-goal game. Connor McMichael had two assists to follow up a strong week last week, and Aliaksei Protas, Michael Sgarbossa, and Beck Malenstyn all recorded at least one goal and one assist during the week.

With only two games left before the trade deadline, the team is six points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division, and seven points behind the top Wild Card spot currently held by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Capitals have played better in the past month than they had in the first four and a half months of the season. The Capitals are 6-2-2 in their last two games, and have won five of those by at least 2 goals. This has made the decisions facing General Manager Brian MacLellan more complex. There is a lot to cover in the Washington Capitals’ weekly update for February 24th to March 2nd.

Washington Capitals Weekly Update: February 24-March 2

On-Ice Results

Washington started the week with back-to-back games against Atlantic Conference opponents. They split the two games, winning 6-3 over the Ottawa Senators on Monday then losing 8-3 to the Red Wings in Detroit on Tuesday. The Ottawa game started fast, with six goals combined in the first 20 minutes. Washington had a 4-2 lead at first intermission, including two power-play goals from John Carlson and Max Pacioretty. Only three goals came in the rest of the game: one by Brady Tkachuk early in the second period, then Lapierre’s two. The Capitals held the score at 6-3 for the last 20 minutes and were optimistic heading to Detroit.

The Red Wings quickly counteracted that enthusiasm. In the first five minutes of play, the Capitals were out-shot 5-0. Shayne Gostisbehere scored on Detroit’s sixth shot of the game, and Lucas Raymond put the Red Wings ahead 2-0 after the first period. Lapierre brought the game to 2-1 early in the second period. After Gostisbehere’s second goal of the game, Sgarbossa scored his second goal of the season. J.T. Compher scored a shorthanded goal at the end of the second period, followed by a power play goal from Robby Fabbri. Pacioretty tallied a power-play goal for the second consecutive game but Washington was still down by three. Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Larkin added extra insurance for the Red Wings in the final 10 minutes.

The Capitals had two days off, then faced the Flyers, a team which is narrowly ahead of them in the standings. Philadelphia scored the first two goals of the game, seeming to set the Capitals up for another loss. Instead, the Capitals scored five consecutive goals to win 5-2. Alex Ovechkin, Sonny Milano, and Carlson all scored in the second period, followed by Anthony Mantha and Dylan Strome. Mantha’s goal came on the power play, only the second power-play goal for him this season. He is second on the Capitals in overall goals with 19. Four Capitals had multiple points, led by Strome with three points.

Injury Updates

There are several players to note on the Capitals’ injury and illness recap for the week. On Saturday, forward Beck Malenstyn missed practice with an illness and his status for Washington’s early afternoon game against the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday was uncertain on Saturday. Coach Spencer Carbery also said that Rasmus Sandin could potentially miss Sunday’s game due to being “nicked up” against Philadelphia. Sandin participated in the full practice. Evgeny Kuznetsov was cleared by the NHL & Players’ Association to return to practice following treatment with the Player Assistance Program but didn’t participate in the optional practice.

The Capitals have three days off after playing Arizona. Among players with longer-term ailments, Nic Dowd is the most likely to be available in the coming week. Dowd is day-to-day with an upper-body injury he sustained on the 20th of February. He has worn a non-contact jersey for the past few practices.  Defender Martin Fehervary remains week-to-week. While he did skate on his own a couple times during the week, he had a scheduled off-ice workout on Saturday. T.J. Oshie is still week-to-week as well.

Front Office Activities

The Capitals had a few front-office transactions during the week. Their trade deadline goals have also been further explored. During his press conference Saturday afternoon, MacLellan said he will look for trades that will help the organization and isn’t planning to “dump players at the deadline.”

The biggest move of the week was placing Evgeny Kuznetsov on waivers. If he clears waivers, Brian MacLellan intends to assign Kuznetsov to the Capitals’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears. Whether or not he clears waivers will impact how much salary cap space is available for MacLellan to make other moves.

Several players have been named as potentially leaving Washington before the 8th. According to Sammi Silber with The Hockey News, the Edmonton Oilers are interested in Nic Dowd and may have considered Anthony Mantha as well. Dowd is reportedly a target for multiple teams; Frank Servalli revealed on Friday that teams have been inquiring about Dowd since the summer. Dowd has another year on his current contract with an average annual value of $1.6 million. Silber reported the Capitals’ ask for him would likely be a 1st-round draft pick or a valuable prospect.

On the defensive side of the ice, the Capitals have been mentioned in rumours both for acquiring and moving players. Nick Jensen and Joel Edmundson, both veterans, were named in speculation from various sources in the past week. Edmundson is a pending UFA making $1.75 million. He hasn’t been linked to a specific team. According to Eliotte Friedman, the Toronto Maple Leafs had interest in Jensen before finding a deal with another team. Friedman also reported that the Capitals are among the teams interested in acquiring 27-year-old Noah Hanifin.

Free Agent Acquisition

The Capitals also continued to pursue the goal of getting younger. On Friday, the team signed free agent forward Zac Funk, currently with the Prince George Cougars, to an entry-level contract. The 20-year-old is the WHL’s scoring leader with 58 goals in 59 games played. His 102 total points are second in the WHL, and he has eight hat tricks and 25 power-play goals. Funk more than doubled his previous offensive career-highs, set in 2021-22 with the Calgary Hitmen, and he still could play in 9 more regular-season games.

Funk joins 11 other players aged 20 or younger signed by the Capitals. The group is highlighted by Ryan Leonard, who has 47 points in 32 games at Boston College as a freshman, and Andrew Cristall with 92 points in 53 games for the Kelowna Rockets. The Capitals currently have seven players 25 or younger skating regularly for the team, as well as about a dozen other prospects between the ages of 18 and 25 playing in the AHL, CHL, NCAA, or European or Russian leagues.

Main photo by: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports


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