Caps look to bounce back after loss to Dallas
Capitals coach Adam Oates confirmed Wednesday that recently acquired defenseman Alex Urbom will make his Capitals debut Thursday night against the Carolina Hurricanes [6:30, CSN].
“Urbs has had some good practices,” Oates said. “It’s time to give him a look.”
Whether the 22-year-old Swede plays alongside 27-year-old Steve Oleksy or 19-year-old rookie Connor Carrick remains to be seen.
“We’re still deciding,” Oates said.
Claimed off NHL waivers last Thursday, Urbom is advertised as a 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-handed defenseman who skates well, defends well and moves the puck quickly out of the defensive zone. He has 14 games of NHL experience with the Devils, but pairing him with the more experienced Oleksy seems to be a better fit than matching him with Carrick, who is still finding his way as a first-year pro. Oleksy and Carrick are right-hand shots.
Carrick was the biggest surprise to come out of training camp. His decisiveness and slick puck-handling skills earned him a spot on the opening night roster.
In his first three NHL games Carrick has one goal and a minus-2 rating while averaging 13:37 of ice time.
He played 12:41 in the Caps’ season-opening 6-4 loss in Chicago, 17:26 in the Caps’ 5-4 home win over Calgary, and 10:45 in the Caps’ 2-1 loss in Dallas.
Oleksy was a healthy scratch in the first two games of the season and logged 15:25 and was a minus-1 in Dallas.
Oates said he thinks Carrick did a “terrific job” in his first three NHL games, but also noted he played a lot of hockey this summer. Following the Caps’ development camp in July, Carrick played at a U.S. evaluation camp for world junior candidates, the Caps’ rookie camp, and five preseason games.
“I think the one thing we’re conscious of is are we hurting his learning curve?” Oates said. “Has he stopped learning because he’s in survival mode?
“The league is very tough, no question, and I don’t think three games is at all a fair sample, I don’t. But if a guy isn’t getting minutes and that affects his learning, maybe that’s not a good decision on our part.”
Unlike rookie Tom Wilson, who can only play for the Capitals or the OHL Plymouth Whalers, the Capitals have the option of sending Carrick to the AHL Hershey Bears or back to Plymouth.
After three games, it appears the Caps are leaning toward assigning Carrick to Hershey, but Oates suggested there is still time to evaluate.
“We’re making sure we don’t overload him,” Oates said. “You only have so many games to make a decision. He won’t get as many minutes [in the NHL] as he would with juniors.”
A successful five-game homestand could afford the Caps the luxury of keeping both Carrick and Wilson, provided both are getting ample playing time.
“This team’s got to be winning games,” Oates said. “And the more you win the more luxury you have of evaluating an experimenting.”