WASHINGTON (AP) The sight of Evgeny Kuznetsov clutching his left arm and leaving the ice after a success from Brayden McNabb isn’t as massive a risk to the Washington Capitals‘ title hopes because it might sound.
Not after the Capitals withstood three video games with out Nicklas Backstrom. Not after they missed Kuznetsov for most of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final and nonetheless beat the Vegas Golden Knights to tie the collection.
They’d like to have their main scorer within the lineup Saturday evening in Washington, however with famous person captain Alex Ovechkin and several other prime gamers producing and filling the void, the Capitals are constructed to deal with life with out Kuznetsov if it involves that.
”We’ve had some guys been out right here and there these playoffs,” Backstrom stated. ”It’s onerous to exchange Kuznetsov the best way he’s been enjoying, but when that’s the case it’s what it’s and we simply must produce other guys step up.”
Coach Barry Trotz supplied no replace on Kuznetsov on Thursday aside from to say the Russian middle is daily. The staff practices once more Friday.
It didn’t look excellent for Kuznetsov when he went down the tunnel within the first interval Wednesday evening and didn’t return. But Ovechkin scored his first profession Stanley Cup Final objective on the facility play, and Lars Eller, bumped up the lineup to fill in for Kuznetsov, had a objective and two assists.
No one participant could make up for the potential loss of Kuznetsov, who has 11 targets and 14 assists in 21 playoff video games, although Washington’s depth down the center appears stable with Backstrom, Eller, Jay Beagle and, if want be, Chandler Stephenson. Eller performed a key position in two massive victories towards Tampa Bay within the Eastern Conference closing with out Backstrom, and can as soon as once more be one of an important gamers on the ice if Kuznetsov isn’t wholesome.
”Nick has gone out or Kuzy has been out, Lars has elevated his recreation and comes up in a extra outstanding position,” Trotz stated. ”I believe he embraces the problem. He takes the moments very significantly that he has to step up and attempt to discover a solution to produce, and he has. He’s a veteran participant who has good hockey sense, and he’s robust on the puck, and I believe his recreation interprets nicely within the playoffs.”
It doesn’t damage that the Capitals can lean on Ovechkin in occasions of want, they usually have obtained robust performances from top-six wingers Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie and Jakub Vrana and defenseman John Carlson.
It’s the sort of manufacturing Vegas is trying for from its prime line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. Going on the street means coach Gerard Gallant can’t choose matchups, so he’s relying on his finest gamers to play prefer it.
”I don’t care who they play towards,” Gallant stated. ”We’re going to play nicely and work onerous and compete onerous. (Wednesday) evening they didn’t have the offensive outburst they often have. You’re not going to be at your finest each evening. I anticipate them to be actually good for us like they’ve all season lengthy.”
Gallant tipped his hat to the Capitals, saying they deserved to win Game 2 primarily based on how they carried out after shedding Kuznetsov. It can be tougher to maintain that effort and adrenaline for a whole recreation with out him, although it’s a check they handed with out Backstrom earlier within the playoffs.
”It’ll be a giant loss, however as you noticed within the Pittsburgh collection when Nick went down, generally that sort of energizes another guys to get in there and be capable to make some performs,” Oshie stated. ”So we’ll roll with the punches.”
Rolling with the punches has turn into considerably of the Capitals’ id this season and into the playoffs. They received some extra within the kind of a floor cease on the airport after they landed on Thursday as lightning stored them from getting off the airplane.
Trotz considers it simply one other roadblock for his staff to recover from.
”Our guys are advantageous,” he stated. ”It’s one other layer of adversity that we’ve to undergo on a regular basis.”
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