Red Wings-Capitals game-day articles: On Svechnikov and Frk, “building” as the season winds down, and the Caps’ goaltending situation

Updated 2x at 1:59 PM: The Detroit Red Wings host the Washington Capitals this evening (7:30 PM EDT on NBCSN/97.1 FM), and the teams’ respective morning skates revealed that Jimmy Howard will start opposite Philipp Grubauer in goal, and that Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper-body injury) will miss tonight’s game for the Caps.

As the Caps wrap up their post-skate media availability, the Free Press’s Helene St. James has already posted a video of Martin Frk and Evgeny Svechnikov discussing their chemistry…

NBCSN’s Joey Alfieri penned a Wings-Capitals preview

The Capitals have an opportunity to put a little distance between themselves and the second place Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. Washington is two points ahead of the Pens with a game in a hand, so a win tonight would put them four points clear of second.

The Caps got some good news, as Evgeny Kuznetsov (upper body) made the trip to Detroit. Kuznetsov suffered an upper-body injury against the Isles last week. Even though he’s traveling, it’s unclear if he’ll actually suit up tonight.

Since losing back-to-back games in Anaheim and Los Angeles, the Capitals have rattled off five victories in their last six contests. That includes a win in San Jose, a win over the Jets, a pair of wins over the Islanders and a victory over Dallas.

As for the Red Wings, they’ll look to play spoiler again. They’re 5-4 overtime win over the Flyers on Tuesday night allowed to snap their 10-game losing skid. Before Tuesday’s game, you had to go all the way back to Feb. 25 to find Detroit’s last victory. Yeah, it took them long enough.

Even though they aren’t in the playoff picture, there’s no denying the win felt good for the struggling Wings.

“We talked about it as a team after the last game, certainly frustration was starting to boil over,” coach Jeff Blashill said after the win over Philly, per the Detroit News. “Our guys came out and played great. The third period wasn’t good enough, but we played great for two periods (and) to finish was critical.

“You don’t want to come in here and talk about another loss. It was critical (to win).”

Blashill’s team currently find themselves in 26th place with 65 points. A few more losses down the stretch and they’ll be able to improve their NHL Entry Draft lottery odds.

And, according to MLive’s Ansar Khan, the Red Wings are “focusing on development” as the season winds down:

“We all strive at the start of the season to make the playoffs and to try to win a Stanley Cup,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “To fail, it’s really disappointing, but we got to look at the big picture. There’s a lot of development that can still go on and still happen within these last nine games. Obviously, we’re prideful each time we can put on the winged wheel. It means a lot to every single person inside this room – the coaches, obviously, the fans. Each day there’s new challenges, but we’re going to work as hard as we can and try to win as many games as we can.”

The Red Wings (27-35-11) haven’t won consecutive games since March 24-25.

Detroit is 26th overall but can still drop a few spots and improve its draft lottery odds. The Red Wings are one point ahead of Montreal, have two more points than Ottawa and are three up on Arizona.

But coach Jeff Blashill isn’t concerned about draft position.

“Every single day play as great as humanly possible,” Blashill said. “Make sure we’re paying attention to detail, make sure that our work ethic is the same as it was Day 1. That can’t slip one ounce. We want to win every game possible.

“I don’t care if you’ve been in this league a long time or if you’re just getting in this league, every single game in this league is special. There will be a time when you’re not in this league anymore and you’ll wish you were, so let’s make sure we take the most advantage of every day we got here left.”

Khan posted a video of Blashill’s post-morning skate remarks (regarding Frk, Glendening and Svechnikov), too:

After the Capitals’ morning skate, per the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan…

Earlier during the Caps’ morning skate, Khurshudyan posted Washington’s lines…

And NBCS Washington’s Tarik El-Bashir noted that Philipp Grubauer has been very good in relief of Holtby:


Elsewhere, if you missed it, from the New York Post’s Larry Brooks:

Brendan Smith’s miserable season has ended in almost predictably miserable fashion, The Post has learned.

The defenseman, who was assigned to the Wolf Pack after clearing waivers Feb. 9 in the midst of the first season of his four-year, $17.4 million deal, suffered a broken hand in a fight at practice this past Sunday with Vinni Lettieri.

According to, a buyout of Smith would come at the cost of $1,091,667 in dead-cap space each of the next two seasons, $3,266,667 in 2020-21 and $1,266,667 for each of the three seasons following that. If he is unable to make the Rangers and winds up in Hartford again, his cap charge would amount to $3.325 million next season and $3.275 million the two years after that.



Update: Here’s Khurshudyan’s game-day article:

Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov will miss a third straight game with an undisclosed “upper-body” injury he suffered last week. He was on the ice with his teammates again on Thursday morning ahead of Washington’s game against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena, but Kuznetsov didn’t participate in line rushes.

“He’s real close, as you can see,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “He was jumping around and all that. At this time of the year, we’re just going to be cautious. I expect him to jump in real soon here.”

The team has a scheduled off day on Friday, and it’s unclear if Kuznetsov will be ready to play against the Montreal Canadiens Saturday night. Washington has a two-point cushion over the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division, and this trip against the Red Wings, Canadiens and New York Rangers — teams well out of the playoff race — is an opportunity for the Capitals to secure the division’s top postseason position.

Getting Kuznetsov back in the lineup would certainly help. He is the team’s second-leading scorer with 21 goals and 50 assists; he also plays on Washington’s first power play unit and is often the one making the zone entries go smoothly. Before Kuznetsov appeared to hurt his left arm against the New York Islanders on Friday, he was centering the top line with captain Alex Ovechkin and winger Tom Wilson. Without him, center Nicklas Backstrom moved into that spot, and the ripple effect has rookie Travis Boyd as the third-line center with wingers Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly. Since the start of the calendar year, Kuznetsov has nine goals and 23 assists in 31 games.

Goaltender Braden Holtby wasn’t on the ice for Wednesday’s optional practice, and the team said he was taking “a maintenance day.” He was back on the ice Thursday morning, but the Capitals had a third goaltender — video coach Brett Leonhardt — suited up, too. Trotz indicated later something is nagging Holtby.

“Yeah, he just tweaked something,” Trotz said. Philipp Grubauer will get the start in Detroit, but that was the plan going into the week.


Update #2: Here’s’s Dave Hogg’s game preview:

The Game: The Washington Capitals will try to increase their lead in the Metropolitan Division when they visit the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Thursday.

The Capitals, 5-1-0 in their past six games and 7-3-0 in their past 10, are two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan with a game in hand.

The Red Wings, 1-9-1 in their past 11 games, trail the New Jersey Devils by 17 points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Detroit will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss of any kind.

Players to watch: Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has nine points (four goals, five assists) in a five-game point streak.

Red Wings center Dylan Larkin has four points (two goals, two assists) in his past three games.

They said it: “I don’t see why he wouldn’t be a Norris candidate with the way he plays on both ends. Scoring in this league is tough, especially from the back end, but he’s able to do it. He’s learned to recognize the windows that open up during a game and how to take advantage of them.” — Capitals coach Barry Trotz on defenseman John Carlson, who will play in his 600th NHL game Thursday

“He had 15 shots against us a couple years ago, and he didn’t score, so maybe we just need to tire him out. The better idea, though, is to do everything you can to take away his time and space. You can’t let him get set up.” — Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill on Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.