Friday, March 31 2023

Laviolette says Caps’ additions have added ‘different feel’ to camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Capitals have navigated training camp without much drama.

They’ve had a few battles for forward positioning: Connor Brown has played on the first line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dylan Strome appears to have secured second-line center and Connor McMichael has had to fend off Aliaksei Protas for a spot on one of the wings. But for the most part, the Capitals have known what their roster is going to look like.

For the most part, this Capitals team will look very similar to the one that put up 100 points in the regular season before being knocked out in the first round by the Florida Panthers. The preseason injury to T.J. Oshie aside, 10 of their top 12 projected forwards and five of their six starting defensemen played on the team last year. Many players are cemented in the same spots they held in 2021-22.

Yet head coach Peter Laviolette feels something different about his roster this season and he points to their offseason acquisitions as the driving factors. The Capitals signed Strome to a one-year deal and traded for Brown to add much-needed depth to fill the holes left behind by Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery, no timeline for return) and Tom Wilson (ACL, mid-December).

Washington also overhauled its goalie tandem, cutting ties with the inconsistent pairing of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek before signing Darcy Kuemper to a five-year, $26.25 million deal fresh off his Stanley Cup run with the Colorado Avalanche. The Capitals then brought in Charlie Lindgren, who thrived in a small sample size last season, to be their backup and restore a typical goalie tandem in net for the first time in years.

“We’re still with that injury part of it again for the start of the year like we did last year, but the acquisitions that Brian [MacLellan] made this summer I thought were just really important to the group,” Laviolette said following practice Thursday. “You take two top-six, top-nine forwards and you put them in the lineup, and when you’re missing two top-six forwards right away, that really helped coming into training camp.

“Certainly, the change in goaltending, I thought Vitek and Sammy did a good job for us last year. They’re young goaltenders and just at the beginning of their career, but Darcy is a little bit different where he’s more experienced and has been one of the top goaltenders five or six years in a row now and Stanley Cup champion. Just gives a little bit of a different feel in camp.”

The Capitals are 3-1-1 this preseason heading into their final exhibition game Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. That record will be wiped away once they kick off the season Wednesday when they host the Boston Bruins, but Laviolette has been pleased with how camp has gone and hopes they can carry that momentum into the regular season.

“Last night, I thought we came out of the gate slow in the first period [against the Detroit Red Wings], but then in the second and third period picked up the physicality, the speed, the compete, the battle and did a really good job to win a hockey game so I’m happy with the way things have gone,” Laviolette said. “We got one game left to continue that, to try and make sure that we feel good about what we’ve done in camp to get ready for Game 1 against Boston.”

Source: Yahoo Sports


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