Washington will close out a five-game homestand tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are finishing up a three-game road trip. The Caps are 1-3 on the homestand to date while the Jackets have lost each of the first two games on the trip and three straight overall.
After keeping his top nine forwards intact for the first seven games, Caps coach Adam Oates shook up the lines a bit at Friday’s practice. For tonight’s game against Columbus, here’s how the Capitals will line up:
Braden Holtby will start in net for Washington and defenseman John Erskine and center Jay Beagle will sit this one out.
Holtby has posted more than respectable numbers in his last four starts – a 2.31 GAA and a .927 save pct. – but is just 1-3 in those four outings.
Volpatti will be in the lineup for the first time this season. The 28-year-old left wing appeared in 17 games with Washington last season after he was claimed off waivers from Vancouver on Feb. 28.
“It’s never easy, personally,” says Volpatti of sitting out the first seven games. “You’ve got to stay positive; I think it’s a big part of it. And you wait patiently and take advantage of my opportunity tonight.”
Usually when he got back into the lineup after a short absence last season, Volpatti would at least be playing with familiar linemates. He won’t have that luxury this time around. The trio of Volpatti, Fehr and Wilson has had one practice and one morning skate to get used to playing with one another.
“It’ll be interesting,” says Volpatti. “I guess I can’t really say. Last year, we were pretty set on the same lines. I’m looking forward to it. I played with Willie a little bit in exhibitions, so I kind of know what he brings. And Fehrsie, I know what he brings. You know what they bring, you just don’t always know where they’re going to be. We’ll play within the structure and try and feed off each other and create chances.”
Long homestands haven’t exactly been beneficial to the Caps over the last few seasons. The current homestand is the fourth of at least five games in length since the start of the 2008-09 season. Washington is 9-8-2 in the games on those four homestands.
After Saturday’s Metropolitan Division match-up against Columbus, the Capitals will play their next five games on the road. Washington departs for Winnipeg on Monday afternoon.