Caps return from Canada with several questions
PHILADELPHIA – When the Capitals recalled center Michael Latta and defenseman Dmitry Orlov from the AHL Hershey Bears on Wednesday it seemed reasonable to assume both would get into the lineup tonight against the Flyers.
That would be only half correct.
Latta will see his first NHL action since Oct. 10 when he centers a fourth line with Tom Wilson and Aaron Volpatti tonight at the Wells Fargo Center [7 p.m., CSN-Plus, Channel guide here]. Orlov will watch from the press box in favor of rookie Alex Urbom, who will play alongside Steve Oleksy on the Caps’ third defense pairing.
Oates said he chose Latta over Beagle for two reasons: latta plays a grittier game and Beagle is recovering from the flu.
“It’s a tough environment here,” Oates said. “He’s a bit of a tough kid willing to grind, willing to play that type of hockey.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates was asked if he’s concerned Orlov might get the wrong message by getting recalled without getting into the lineup.
“I’m not really concerned about that because he’s been in the minors; he hasn’t been here,” Oates said. “Just because you get called up doesn’t mean you play. You’ve got to earn your spot. He’s going to get his chance, no question, and when he does hopefully he plays good.”
Oates said he thinks Urbom has improved in some areas and that plays a role in him playing his second straight game in place of John Erskine, who has been placed on long-term injury reserve following offseason knee surgery.
“Obviously, you want more plays, but you’ve got to be patient; he’s a young kid,” Oates said.
As for Orlov, Oates said the 22-year-old Russian will get a chance to see his first NHL action during Erskine’s rehab.
“If our D was playing fantastic and he didn’t get a game for a while, then you would consider sending him back down to get some games,” Oates said. “But right now he’s here because Erskine is on LTIR, we have cap room and now we have an extra D, which is good.”
Holtby gets the call: Caps goaltender Braden Holtby will make his 11th start in 13 games. Oates hinted that Michal Neuvirth will get the call Saturday night at home against the Panthers. It’s the Caps’ first back-to-back set of the season.
No Grabo on PP: Why is Mikhail Grabovski no longer on the Caps’ power play units? Here was Oates’ explanation today:
“Because he’s playing with [Jason Chimera] and [Joe Ward] and after a power play you want a line that’s ready to go, so that’s part of it. That line’s brought tremendous energy for us. He might [be on the power play] tonight. I also think he’s still learning our power play a little bit. He wants power play time, I understand that. I want him to understand it a little bit more so when he gets out there he’s successful. Everybody gets their turn everybody.”
Ovechkin update: Alex Ovechkin will miss his first game of the season with an upper body injury but Oates said there is a chance Ovechkin will play Saturday night at home against Florida. “Maybe tomorrow,” Oates said. Either way, it appears Ovechkin’s injury is a minor one, which means if he misses Saturday night’s game, a return Tuesday night against the Islanders appears likely.
Facing Downie: The Caps got their first look at Steve Downie in an Avalanche jersey on Oct. 12. They’ll see him five more times in orange and black this season.
Downie was traded from Colorado to Philadelphia on Thursday and is expected to play on a top line with center Claude Giroux [no goals, six assists, minus-6} and Vinny Lecavalier [5-2-7, minus-3].
Oates coached Downie when both were in Tampa.
“I really liked him,” he said. “I went to the Christening of his baby. We got along great. He’s a really good guy, a special guy. He’s a very good hockey player. He brings a lot to the table and hopefully he plays well for him.”