Good morning from Arlington. With the team officially taking Sunday off and yesterday's optional skate lightly attended, the Caps are back on the ice for their first full team practice following their Game 5 series-ending victory over the Rangers on Saturday. Still awaiting the determination of their next round opponent, Coach Bruce Boudreau is skating his team hard to maintain sharp focus during the break while looking to get the team healthy for the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Caps appear to be running at nearly full strength, with only Alex Semin not participating in the full contact drills this morning.
This morning's line combinations are as follows:
Ovechkin - Backstrom - Laich
Sturm - Arnott - Beagle
Chimera - Johansson - Fehr
Hendricks/Knuble - Gordon - Bradley/King
-Jason Arnott is on the ice today after having missed a portion of Game 5, a contest in which he only skated 18 shifts for a total of 12:32 minutes of ice time.
-Mike Knuble is also skating with the team, sporting an unfamiliar white jersey as part of the fourth line as he attempts to work his was back from an undisclosed injury believed to be affecting his hand or wrist.
-With the top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Laich clicking as of late, it will be interesting to see how Mike Knuble's eventual return will impact the line combinations for Boudreau. Depending on when Knuble will be available, it could be a tough decision for the coaching staff to either roll with what has been working as of late or to reintroduce Knuble to the top line where he has enjoyed so much success over the last two years. Knuble had been on a hot streak to end the regular season, scoring 13 points in 14 games (9 goals, 4 assists).
There are no changes to the personnel on the ice sporting the dark jerseys today. All nine blueliners that have practiced with the team since the playoffs began are once again on the ice, including Mike Green who is skating with the team following another scary shot to the head late in the first period of Game 5 against the Rangers. Having missed 26 of the last 28 games of the season with concussion symptoms, Green has been a welcome addition back to the lineup since the playoffs started, tallying 5 points on 1 goal and four assists, with a +3 rating in the opening series. The right-handed Green adds balance to the blue line and remains one of the most effective defensemen in the league at managing the breakout and contributing on the power play. His involvement also helps to relieve some of the pressure on John Carlson, who has been called upon to step up in Green's absence many times over the course of the year. Luckily, after leading NHL rookies in ice time during the regular season, Carlson has shown no signs of fatigue in the playoffs, skating 24:49 per game.
Per the standard procedure, both Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov are in the crease today at their respective ends of the ice. As Katie Carrera reported yesterday, Neuvy decided to participate in yesterday's optional practice to stay sharp coming off of his first NHL playoff series victory. The Czech netminder has posted impressive numbers in his first playoff campaign, stopping 140 of the 148 shots he faced over the five game series for a .946 save percentage and a 1.38 GAA, both currently ranked second among NHL playoff goalies.