Oshie to play center as Caps continue to deal with several players out originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Yet another injury has forced head coach Peter Laviolette to shuffle his lineup as the Capitals prepare to face the New York Islanders on Thursday (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Lars Eller left Tuesday's game after a hit from behind into the boards from Leo Komarov. He is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will not play in Thursday's game.
Instead, T.J. Oshie will slide from right wing to play center on the second line.
"I know it's not a natural position, but [Tom Wilson] is possibly available and a game-time decision tonight and so that's kind of the way we rolled through it with the lines today," Laviolette said. "So, we'll make that decision tonight. But T.J.'s a smart player. This is a short-term fix until we get some bodies back. He fits into the mix of a top-two-line player, and so we wanted to keep it with that type of an attack through the top two lines."
Oshie was playing center on Tuesday after both Eller and Nicklas Backstrom left the game. He also takes faceoffs regularly on the power play.
There is more to playing center than just faceoffs, however, and Laviolette acknowledged this was not an ideal scenario and very temporary.
"I do think he's one of those players that's smart enough," Laviolette said. "This is a short-term thing. We're not on tryout tonight for T.J. Oshie to see if he's going to be a centerman for our club. Our hands get tied sometimes. We're dealing with some stuff and what we're able to do. This to me seemed like a good option. I do think he'll be able to handle it. He does go into the faceoff circle an awful lot for our team. He's able to take faceoffs, he's a good penalty-killer, he's good offensively, so for him to fill this role, it's short term, it might not be perfect but I feel like it's a good option for us tonight."
Wilson, who has missed two straight games with a lower-body injury, will be a game-time decision. Laviolette also said that Backstrom should be good to go for Thursday despite leaving Tuesday's game early.
Connor McMichael is not expected to play despite the team's desperate need for centers. McMichael made his NHL debut in Sunday's game, but at wing.
Laviolette said not putting McMichael in was more about not wanting to shuffle the lineup too much after Tuesday's win, but that McMichael would be in the mix if there were any further injury updates prior to Thursday's game.
"I'm looking at the lines and the impact of the lines," Laviolette said. "If it does go the way it did this morning in the pregame skate, it kind of keeps the veteran skill players in those top two (line) roles where they've been. It just had the least amount of juggling to do. I know that Connor can play both positions. I thought that he had a good first game. In the same sense, I looked at kind of the options that we had filling these roles tonight and this was the lineup that we're going with. There still could be change based on news that I might get this afternoon or following the pregame skate. It's difficult because we are battling with some stuff inside the room right now, and so it's difficult to give you exact answers. I know he's a natural center. He plays both positions. I view that as an asset for our team."
Laviolette did not have an update on the four players on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol-related absence list. After Ilya Samsonov tested positive for coronavirus, the four players were expected to miss a minimum of four games. Thursday's game will be No. 4.
Be sure to tune in to NBC Sports Washington Thursday for game coverage starting at 6 p.m. with Caps Pregame Live. The game starts at 7 p.m. and will be followed by Caps Postgame Live.