When could Ilya Samsonov get his next start with the Capitals?

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J.J. Regan
·2 min read
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When could Ilya Samsonov get his next start with the Capitals? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Now 14 games into the season, goaltending remains a question mark for the Capitals. The team entered the season with a young unproven tandem and has been without one half of that tandem since Ilya Samsonov tested positive for coronavirus on Jan. 19. After two games with the Hershey Bears on a conditioning stint, now the question is when could Samsonov next suit up for Washington?

Samsonov got his second start for the Bears on Wednesday and made 22 saves on 23 shots in a 2-1 win over Binghamton. With Washington's next game coming on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres, it seems doubtful the team would want Samsonov's return to be for the game on the following night. With a back-to-back looming over the weekend, however, barring any unforeseen issues, it seems like a lock that Samsonov will play one of those two games for the Capitals.

Washington hosts the New York Rangers on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and the New Jersey Devils on Sunday at 7 p.m. It is critical that the team have Samsonov back by then.

Vitek Vanecek has exceeded expectations in Samsonov's absence, but there have also been a few rough performances. That's to be expected from a rookie netminder, but Washington finds itself in a position where he can't get a break. He has started in 11 straight games not including Thursday's upcoming game against Buffalo. Having him start both ends of the back-to-back over the weekend is not setting him up for success, even with start times at 12:30 and 7 p.m. meaning it would not be the typical 24-hour back-to-back.

Backing up Vanecek has been Craig Anderson, but at this point we have to conclude that he is not seen as a viable option by the team. He has made one relief performance this season, but has no starts even with Samsonov out for almost a full month. When the team is more comfortable playing a rookie for 11 straight games than giving Anderson one single start, that says all you need to know.

On Wednesday, Anderson was no longer on the Capitals' official roster and was replaced by goalie Zach Fucale. According to Cap Friendly, Anderson was placed on the taxi squad. There has not yet been an announcement by the team.

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Fucale has been primarily an ECHL goalie for the past three seasons so it seems very unlikely he is being recalled to play.

At this point, the Caps have two options for the weekend: Start Vanecek in both games or start Samsonov in one.

Hershey's next game is not until Saturday and to avoid any quarantine issues, I would expect Samsonov back in Washington sooner rather than later as the team looks towards the weekend.