Cap Host Blues | NHL.com
March 22 vs. St. Louis Blues at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
St. Louis Blues (34-18-9)
Washington Capitals (35-19-10)
The Caps wrap up a brief two-game home stint on Tuesday night when they host the St. Louis Blues at Capital One Arena. The game closes the season series between the two teams; the Caps suffered a 5-1 loss to the Blues in St. Louis on Jan. 7.
Daniel Sprong scored the game’s opener in the previous meeting between the two Gateway City sides two and a half months ago, and the Blues went five unanswered goals the rest of the way. On Monday, the Caps sent Sprong and two future draft picks to Seattle in exchange for forward Marcus Johansson, a first-round pick (24th overall) in Washington’s 2009 draft who spent the first seven seasons of his career in the NHL with the Capitals.
In addition to buying out Johansson, the Caps sent a third-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft to Arizona in exchange for veteran forward Johan Larsson. An effective and dependable forward in the last six during his 10-year NHL career, the 29-year-old Larsson has missed the Coyotes’ last 21 games after undergoing sports hernia surgery in late January. He’s almost ready to return to action, and Caps general manager Brian MacLellan estimates Larsson’s return is about a week away now.
Both Johansson and Larsson offer roster flexibility in the form of their ability to play multiple positions and move up and down the lineup a bit. Johansson is more of a two-way player who can play on the power play unit, while Larsson is more of a stop-type defensive player who can also kill penalties. Both players are left-handed throwers capable of playing in the middle of the ice.
“The problem with our roster is that there are elements that can move,” said Caps coach Peter Laviolette, who spoke to the media ahead of the announcement of the Larsson deal. “Conor Sheary moves and TJ Oshie moves and [Tom Wilson] goes up and down in range, and it’s probably the same for [Johansson].
“And I think once we settle down and get the guys back healthy, we’ll know where the line combinations go. It could go anywhere, to play with [Evgeny Kuznetsov] play with [Nicklas Backstrom] play with Lars [Eller], or play in the middle if necessary. I think that was important too, just having another center man in the lineup.
“He’s got a lot of things he brings to the table – the power play, a good offensive player, a good defensive player, a lot of history with the Caps. He also had good years offensively.
When it comes to the ‘get guys back and healthy’ part of the equation, the Caps are lacking in center Nic Dowd (upper body), forwards TJ Oshie (lower body), Carl Hagelin (eye) and Joe Snively (hand) and defender Trevor Van Riemsdyk (upper body) of their mix of the moment, and blueliner John Carlson left Sunday’s game in the last minute after a careless kick from Stars forward Jamie Benn sent him into the back wall.
Johansson is in transit and is set to play against the Blues on Tuesday, sporting his familiar number 90. Hagelin and Snively have both undergone surgery and are out longer-term, while Dowd, Oshie and van Riemsdyk are all day-to-day. Of the group of sick players, only Dowd and Oshie took part in Monday’s optional practice session at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
Washington made another roster change on Monday, sending a winger Brett Leason return to AHL Hershey. The Caps recalled Leason to play in Sunday’s game against Dallas, and he skated 10 shifts totaling 6:24.
For the first time this month, the Caps will enter a game following a regulation loss. Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars is Washington’s first regulation loss of March (7-1-1), and the Caps will be looking to get back on the winning beam against the Blues. The Caps were the only NHL team without a regulatory setback in March.
St. Louis is making its first visit to the district in more than three years, since the Blues won a 4-1 win over Washington here on Jan. 14, 2019. Tuesday’s game is the second of two straight road games for the Blues, who come to town after a 5-4 loss to the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Saturday.
Saturday’s loss at Columbus was the Blues’ third straight loss, but they had points in both previous losses. St. Louis is 2-4-3 in March, averaging 3.44 goals against per game in those nine games.
Heading into Monday night’s NHL slate, the Blues sit in second place in the Central Division, 16 points behind Colorado and just one point ahead of Minnesota and Nashville, who are tied at the third rank.