News and notes as the Capitals prepare to face the Vancouver Canucks Friday night at Verizon Center:
Laich day-to-day: Apparently, Brooks Laich’s visit to see a groin specialist in St. Louis on Tuesday did not rule out his availability for game action down the stretch.
“Right now, we’re just going to monitor it day-by-day and play it by ear and see how he feels and make decisions daily,” Caps coach Adam Oates said, adding it’s possible that Laich plays Friday night.
If Laich is available to play, he likely will skate as a left wing on a top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, which is where he played Monday night against the Penguins. Laich sat out the next night in Pittsburgh, opting to see a specialist in St. Louis.
He has missed 17 of the Caps’ 67 games with the same injury that kept him out of 39 of 48 games last season.
“It’s very difficult,” Oates said. “To me, [this is like] if this was the playoffs and a guy couldn’t practice between games and could only play at night. You’ve seen a lot of those situations over time, and we’re in the playoffs.”
If Laich cannot play against the Canucks, don’t be surprised if left wing Evgeny Kuznetsov jumps from the fourth line to the first.
Oates said he thought Kuznetsov, who had two shots in 10:22 of ice time in his NHL debut and three shots in 14:52 in his second NHL game, looked more comfortable on Tuesday than he did on Monday.
Oates noted that prior to the Penguins’ second goal Tuesday night, Backstrom left a pass for Kuznetsov and ran interference on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.
“I’m sure he was surprised at how fast Orpik gained on him and recovered, and how strong he is,” Oates said. “I think that’s still part of the learning curve.”
Grabovski skates: Center Mikhail Grabovski [left ankle] skated on his own before practice but Oates said he thinks he’s “a ways away” from practicing with the Caps. Grabovski has missed 15 of the last 16 games.
Switching D pairings: Dmitry Orlov and Mike Green have made up the Caps’ second defense pairing for much of the past four months, but the pair was split up midway through the Caps’ 2-0 loss to the Penguins Tuesday night.
Oates said he’s likely to keep that pairing apart on Friday night, when Jack Hillen is expected to skate with Green and Orlov is expected to play alongside rookie Connor Carrick on the third unit.
“I don’t think Orly had a good game in Pittsburgh,” Oates said. “We put him back a peg. I thought Jack upgraded a little bit with his skating and timing and when to join the rush.”
Faceoff troubles: The Caps have been well below .500 on faceoffs during their current 1-4-1 stretch, winning 44.7 percent in the offensive zone, 41.6 percent in the defensive zone and 33.3 percent in the neutral zone for a total of 39.9 percent.
Generally speaking, coaches like to have right-handed players taking faceoffs on the right side of the ice and left-handed shooters on the left.
“If [Backstrom] is on his wrong side, I’m still putting him on the ice because I need him,” Oates said. “I think we lose draws at the wrong times and absolutely, it does matter.”