Oates deflects pressure off Kuznetsov: 'He's a kid'

Oates deflects pressure off Kuznetsov: 'He's a kid'
March 7, 2014, 4:00 pm
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News and notes from the Capitals’ optional practice Friday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:

Waiting for Kuznetsov: Amid reports that Capitals prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov is on his way to Washington, Capitals coach Adam Oates was asked if he’s considered where the yet-to-be-signed, 21-year-old forward will fit into the Caps’ lineup.

“Not until it happens, no,” Oates said. “I would say he’s a top-six guy, but we have to wait to see him get a couple practices. Like I said last week, I don’t really want to build it up and put too much pressure on him. Let the kid ease in, he’s a kid.”

Participating skaters: In the midst of three games in four nights, seven Capitals hit the ice on Friday: forwards Tom Wilson, Chris Brown, Ryan Stoa, Aaron Volpatti [shoulder], defensemen John Erskine [upper body], Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

Injury update: Erskine’s return to the ice was a good sign, but with Orlov coming off his two-game suspension it seems likely Orlov will take Erskine’s spot in the lineup, either on a second pairing with Mike Green or on a third unit with Connor Carrick.

Oates said Brooks Laich [groin] is day-to-day and is not ruling him out for Saturday’s game against the Coyotes.

“For me, it’s frustrating because we want him, but clearly I feel more sorry for him,” Oates said. “It’s tough when guys have an injury big, it hurts everybody.”

Mikhail Grabovski [ankle] also is being listed as day-to-day but Oates acknowledged he would need a practice or two before he is cleared and he has not skated in nine days.

Facing Boston: After getting outshot 43-16 in their 3-0 loss to the Bruins, Oates said the Caps needed to do a better job getting pucks cleanly out of their own zone and make smarter dumps with pucks when they have them.

“You can’t panic with the puck,” he said, “You’ve got to wait your turn. We can’t get into a game where we gamble.”

Faceoff troubles: The Caps won just 45 percent of their faceoffs Thursday night, including an 0-for-7 night by Stoa. Overall this season the Caps rank 21st in the NHL in faceoff winning percentage at 49.3. Not having Grabovski [54 percent] hasn’t helped.

“It is something that frustrates me, “ Oates said, “but I bite my tongue. If you put a guy on his wrong side, he’s not going to be as successful and I factor that in. Boston is a very good faceoff team.”

Philly flashback: Asked if he thought Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds deserved a third-man-in penalty in Wednesday night’s altercation between Erskine and Vinny Lecavalier, Oates replied, “Of course.”

Separated at birth: Looking for a spark against the Bruins, Oates moved left winger Jason Chimera onto a top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, saying he wanted Chimera’s speed on the forecheck to make Zdeno Chara’s life “a little miserable.”

Apparently, the plan didn’t go as well as Oates hoped, saying Chimera missed right wing Joel Ward

“Chimmer looked like a lost dog without his buddy,” Oates said. “It was unbelievable. So I put him back [with Ward]. He got his brother back, the twins.”