Caps open season against defending champs
CHICAGO -- Adam Oates has made his share of bold decisions since becoming coach of the Capitals last year and he made another today when he told rookies Tom Wilson, Michael Latta and Connor Carrick they’ll be playing in the season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center [Caps Central, 6 p.m., NBCSN, 8 p.m.].
Wilson, 19, has three games of NHL experience, all in last year’s playoffs. Latta, 22, and Carrick, 19, will be playing in their first NHL game.
“I’m really excited to get my feet wet,” said Latta, who will replace Jay Beagle on a fourth line with Wilson on the right and veteran Marty Erat on the left.. “I figured they’d go with Beags because he’s a veteran player and a very good player. They like what I bring, I guess.”
Latta came to Washington in the trade deadline deal that brought Erat from Nashville for Filip Forsberg, who is expected to be in the Predators’ lineup on their opening night.
Latta notified his family that he’ll be playing tonight and they made plans to make the 9-hour drive to Chicago.
The commute will be a much shorter one for the Carrick family.
Carrick grew up in Orland Park, Ill., about 25 miles southwest of Chicago, and played midget hockey with the Chicago Fury and Chicago Chill before joining the U.S. Development team in Ann Arbor when he was 16.
“I came up with 10 tickets,” he said, “but I don’t think that’s enough.”
Carrick will be paired with veteran Jack Hillen on the Caps’ third defense unit, replacing Steve Oleksy.
“We just felt that he deserved a chance,” Oates said. “Not that Stevie had a bad camp, it’s just we thought we’d give him a look. The game does mean a little more and the intensity will be different and we think he can handle it.”
Hillen said he won’t waste time lecturing Carrick about the emotions of playing in his first NH game.
“He’s got a lot of poise and he makes a lot of confident plays out there, which is impressive for a 19-year-old. He’s just got to relax and play his game and he’ll be fine He’s here for a reason.”
Here’s what the Caps expect to have as their lineup tonight:
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Brooks Laich – Mikhail Grabovski – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Marty Erat – Michael Latta – Tom Wilson
Extras: Jay Beagle, Aaron Volpatti
Karl Alzner – Mike Green
John Erskine – John Carlson
Jack Hillen – Connor Carrick
Extra: Steve Oleksy
Braden Holtby [starter] – Michal Neuvirth