Ovi gets penalty on big hit
With left wing Marty Erat unlikely to play in Game 5 with an apparent arm or wrist injury suffered in a three-way collision with Alex Ovechkin and Derek Stepan, Capitals coach Adam Oates has a difficult decision to make.
Should he give 19-year-old rookie Tom Wilson, 30-year-old veteran Joey Crabb, or 27-year-old veteran Aaron Volpatti his first Stanley Cup playoff game?
Or should he turn to Wojtek Wolski, who has 29 games of NHL playoff experience?
“We’re just trying to think of all the possible combinations,” Oates said.
At Thursday’s practice, Wilson took regular shifts on a fourth line with Matt Hendricks and Jay Beagle. But Crabb, Volpatti and Wolski also took turns on that line.
Crabb and Volpatti were recalled by the Caps Wednesday night, following the Hershey Bears’ elimination from the Calder Cup playoffs in Providence.
The two players were on the bus ride home from Providence when Bears general manager Doug Yingst told them to report to Kettler on Thursday.
Crabb said the two arrived in Hershey at 6 a.m. Thursday, slept for less than two hours, then drove to Arlington for Thursday’s 11:15 practice.
“We’ve been playing intense hockey, so it’s nice to be in game shape and game ready,” Crabb said. “I was obviously disappointed to go down [to the Bears on NHL waivers] and it’s nice to be back.”
Crabb had six goals and six assists in 12 playoff games for the Bears, while Wilson picked up one goal and six penalty minutes in three AHL playoff games.
Crabb is probably the safest choice for Oates, simply because of his pro experience and game readiness. But Wilson is an intriguing option as well, considering his size [6-foot-4, 210 pounds] against a Rangers team that has stepped up its physicality.
“Everyone’s got to be ready, right?” Wilson said. “I mean, that’s the game of hockey. There’s always going to be changes in and out. I’m coming in here with not too many expectations. I’m just going to work hard and see what happens.”
Under the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement Wilson would be able to play five games for the Capitals before burning a year off his entry-level contract. The Rangers had a similar scenario last year, when Chris Kreider played in 18 playoff games before playing in his first regular season game.
“It’s so much faster,” Wilson said of the NHL level. “The guys make great plays here and control the puck very well. I’m just trying to fill in my role, bring some energy to the room and watch and learn.”
Laich making progress: Left wing Brooks Laich skated hard again on Thursday and said he took another step forward in his recovery from what he termed a minor groin-related procedure last month. There is no timetable for his return to the lineup.
“More power, more explosion, more range of motion, functionality, all of that,” Laich said. “I’m excited about that.”
Laich said he needs more conditioning and game skills before he can be cleared to play.
“Sometimes I think I’m Superman a little bit, but I need a little bit of work still,” he said. “Then it’s up to the coaching staff.”
Erat update: Oates said Erat was undergoing an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of his injury.