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Capital Ups and Downs: Injuries and Call-Ups Abound

Our weekly look at individual Caps’ ups and downs

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals are a little short-staffed right now, between injuries to Nicklas Backstrom, Nic Dowd, and Carl Hagelin and the three-game suspension for Garnet Hathaway. However, this meant that some fresh faces were called up from Hershey to see what they could do. How did that turn out for everyone? Let’s find out...

Nicklas Backstrom only played in one of Washington’s games last week, sitting the final two out with an undisclosed upper-body injury. He tallied one assist in his single game, but the Capitals probably missed more than his offensive abilities on the ice. Hopefully the long break between games will give him more time to rest up and be ready for Wednesday’s tilt against the Panthers...

Verdict: Get well soon!

With four regular forwards out of the lineup, Travis Boyd got some consistent playing time in the big leagues last week, slotting into the lineup for all three games. His sole point of the week came on a beautiful primary assist on Richard Panik’s first goal as a Cap. While he was held off the score sheet the rest of the week, Boyd still made his presence known on the ice. He is clearly taking advantage of this opportunity, and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens when everyone is healthy.

Verdict: Steady

Nic Dowd was placed on IR, but he is eligible to return at any time. Hopefully that time is drawing near.

Verdict: Get well soon! (Huh, that sounds familiar...)

Lars Eller had a pretty solid week, especially considering his increased responsibility after being bumped up to the second line. He notched two assists, and he won 57.14% of his faceoffs. Eller also almost became the Caps’ shootout hero against Vancouver on Saturday - it looked like he scored against Markstrom but the video review gods had other plans.

Verdict: Steady

Carl Hagelin was (finally) placed on LTIR on Wednesday, and will not be eligible to play until December 2. He hasn’t been in the lineup since November 7th’s victory in Sunrise.

Verdict: Get well soon! (Okay this is just getting ridiculous)

Garnet Hathaway had, uh, quite the week, but not in the way the Caps hoped. He was part of a big brawl against the Ducks that ended in him spitting at Anaheim’s Eric Gudbranson, and Hathaway was handed a three-game suspension on Wednesday. He is not appealing the decision, so he won’t be in the lineup again until this Friday’s game against Tampa. Big yikes.

Verdict: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Evgeny Kuznetsov had a two-point week through three games. He scored Washington’s lone goal against the Rangers on Wednesday, and he set Ovechkin up for a power play tally with a killer no-look pass. Kuzy also only took one penalty and went 56.41% at the faceoff dot. All in all, another solid week for the Bird Man.

Verdict: Steady

The most memorable part of Brendan Leipsic’s week was the Boom™ of a hit he laid to kick off the melee at the end of the second period against the Ducks. Leipsic absolutely wrecked Derek Grant after flying into him, it was honestly pretty impressive to watch. However, other than that hit, there isn’t much to talk about in regards to Leipsic last week. He was still zooming around on the ice, but he only registered one shot on goal and didn’t seem to have as much offensive spark.

Verdict: Steady

Beck Malenstyn made quite the impression in his NHL debut against the Rangers (and come on, what better place to play your first game than Madison Square Garden, that’s pretty cool). He used his stellar speed to generate a great breakaway chance in the first period, but was unfortunately stopped by Lundqvist. He was noticeable through both of his games last week and appeared to fit in well on the fourth line as Hathaway’s replacement. Not bad, kid, not bad.

Verdict: Welcome! Take your coat off, stay a while!

T.J. Oshie didn’t have a great week. He only had five shots on goal, and was one of seven Capitals to go without a point through all three games. He also took a horrible high-sticking double minor against the Ducks, which led to their first goal of the night. One bright spot: he was on the ice for four Caps’ goals and zero goals against. Otherwise? Oof.

Verdict: Dropping

Alex Ovechkin’s offense took a bit of a dip last week, but he did score his 15th goal of the season on the power play against Anaheim. The Ducks left him all alone and Ovi - to absolutely no one’s surprise - made them pay. Other than that goal, however, the Great 8 was quiet. He did lay nine hits and lead the team with 11 shots on goal, though, which should shock nobody. A bad week? Definitely not. A great week? Definitely not, especially by Ovi’s standards.

Verdict: Steady

Richard Panik goal alert, Richard Panik goal alert! That’s right, y’all, Panik finally has his first point as a Capital. Yes, you read that correctly, not only was it his first goal in a Caps’ sweater, but it was also his first point all season. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come, especially when he gets to skate with his regular linemates again.

Verdict: On the rise

Michael Sgarbossa made his Capitals debut on Wednesday at MSG, and he looked pretty solid. Hershey’s leading scorer slotted in as the Caps’ third line center, and, although his offensive effort consisted of one shot on goal, he made an impressive effort through two games. The Caps reassigned Sgarbossa to Hershey on Sunday, which is good news on the injury front and also means Sgarbossa can return to racking up points in the AHL.

Verdict: That was fun, let’s do it again sometime!

Chandler Stephenson got his second goal of the season on a shot that went right past John Gibson, all while his linemates Leipsic and Hathaway were busy wreaking havoc behind the net. He clearly decided to take advantage of the distraction. Stephenson did have one pretty rough moment, though: he took a silly interference penalty against Vancouver on Saturday, and the Canucks were able to convert on their man-advantage.

Verdict: Steady

Jakub Vrana just continues to shine, doesn’t he? He was the only Capital with more than one goal last week, tallying one against Anaheim and one against Vancouver for his 11th and 12th goals of the season. He keeps on impressing as one of Washington’s best forwards, and only he knows how far he can take things.

Verdict: Steady

Tom Wilson’s one goal last week was an empty netter that sealed the deal against Anaheim, but it is some of his other numbers that point to his good week. He led the Caps in hits with 20 (20!) and drew three penalties. He also spent a considerable amount of time on the penalty kill, especially because both Hagelin and Dowd were still sidelined with injuries, and was tied for second-most shots on goal with eight. Finally, Wilson got slapped with his first fighting major of the season after a heavyweight bout against Brendan Lemieux. Another pretty solid week from Wilson...

Verdict: Steady

Another four-point week for John Carlson? No big deal. He tallied three assists against the Ducks, and then tacked on an extra against the Rangers just for good measure He is looking as confident as ever on the ice, so let’s see what the end of November has in store for him. Oh, and a Carly fun fact: he became the first Caps’ defenseman to take a faceoff this season, but (spoiler alert) he did not win.

Verdict: Steady

Radko Gudas had a relatively quiet week, but it wasn’t bad. He did not tally any points, although he should have been awarded an assist on Vrana’s goal against Anaheim. Gudas’ ten hits were good for second-most on the team and are evidence that his presence on the ice is still a physically imposing one. His play took a bit of a dive two weeks ago, but he seems to have righted the ship somewhat.

Verdict: Steady

At this point, it’s hard to know what to say about Nick Jensen. Skating with Siegenthaler seemed to be working for him, but then Reirden switched things up last week and swapped Jensen for Gudas on the second pair with Orlov. Will that work? Only time will tell. The February trade deadline acquisition is also still hunting for his first goal as a Capital, so it looks like this is turning into another case of, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Verdict: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Michael Kempny had a bit of a down week. He was held off the scoresheet through all three games, and he only registered two shots on goal. A good thing that came out of Kempny’s week? He managed to stay out of the penalty box through all three games, which is certainly an improvement from his campaign to visit every penalty box in the league each season!

Verdict: Dropping

Dmitry Orlov is a man on a mission when he has the puck, and his mission is clearly “Highlight Reel Goals or Nothing”. Orlov was tied for second-most shots on goal on the team last week with eight, but there were still plenty more opportunities for him to take a shot. Orlov needs to be less choosy and just go for it - throwing the puck on net is already half the battle.

Verdict: Steadily frustrating

Jonas Siegenthaler had a quiet week, but it wasn’t bad. He logged plenty of penalty kill minutes, especially with two of the Caps’ regular penalty killers. The more consistently he plays the more confident he looks out on the ice, which is a good sign for the Caps.

Verdict: Steady

Braden Holtby had a pretty great week in net. He posted a .927 SV% and a 2.30 GAA through three games, saving 89 of 96 shots faced. He also brought up his high-danger SV% compared to two weeks ago, jumping from .750% to .893%. The Holtbeast put on a particularly great performance against the Canucks on Saturday, stopping 32 of 33 shots including all 23 shots at even strength. He continues to look confident between the pipes, which is always a good sign for Washington.

Verdict: Steady

Ilya Samsonov got the week off and spent the Caps’ three games hanging out on the bench. Washington does have a double header this week, however, so chances are good he will see some ice time in one of those games.

Verdict: Out to lunch, be back next week