Caps' Aube-Kubel makes case for roster spot with goals in consecutive games

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Aube-Kubel makes case to stay with goals in consecutive games originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

WASHINGTON — For the first time this season, the Capitals are approaching a situation in which they will have too many healthy players. The injury-plagued Caps have endured several stretches without key stars and at least one in John Carlson is still out indefinitely.

However, both Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson are closing in on their season debuts after missing the first three months rehabbing from offseason surgeries. Even with Carlson unavailable, the Capitals have some tough decisions to make in order to clear roster space for their returning top-six forwards.

In a telling move, the Capitals made Aliaksei Protas a healthy scratch for Friday’s game against the Nashville Predators for the first time this season. Protas, 22, is the youngest player on their 23-man roster and the only one who can be sent down to the AHL without being subject to waivers. Optioning him to Hershey would allow the Capitals to activate one of Backstrom or Wilson without the risk of losing a player.

But to bring them both back, someone is going to have to go through waivers. The two forwards the Capitals have scratched the most the season are Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Joe Snively. Washington acquired Aube-Kubel off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs in November while Snively made the team out of training camp.

While neither has seen consistent playing time in Washington this season, Aube-Kubel drew two consecutive starts this week with Nic Dowd taking a game off for the birth of his second child and Protas being scratched. He took advantage of the opportunities with his first two goals of the season, including a game-tying tally in Friday’s eventual 3-2 loss to Nashville.

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“He got going again tonight,” head coach Peter Laviolette said in his postgame press conference. “Just his speed and he’s got a skill level to him. He brings a physical presence, and it was a big goal at the time.”

Those goals came on the heels of a few mistakes, but Aube-Kubel logged over 26 minutes of ice time between the two games and got a look on the Capitals’ third line with Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson.

“I feel like I’m a player that creates more off forechecks and off in-zone possession,” Aube-Kubel said, “but I feel like with those two good, high-skilled players, getting chances off the rush is always something that I have to be ready for and hopefully we can get more chance that way.”

Friday’s game marked the 14th contest of the season for Aube-Kubel. Snively, meanwhile, has appeared in only six with just one appearance in the Capitals’ last 24 games. The Capitals could be attempting to showcase Aube-Kubel for a trade with plans of keeping the homegrown Snively around, but there are lots of ways GM Brian MacLellan and his front office could go with two of their best players getting healthy.