Why the Capitals may have to play 11 forwards and 7 defensemen on Thursday

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J.J. Regan
·2 min read
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Why the Caps may have to play 11 forwards, 7 defensemen Thursday originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Another injury may force a dramatic shift in the lineup for the Capitals' game on Thursday against the New York Rangers.

Conor Sheary left Monday's game in the third period and did not return. He did not participate in either practice on Tuesday or Wednesday and, though head coach Peter Laviolette has called him day-to-day, it seems doubtful a player who has not skated since an injury will be ready to play in Thursday's game.

Losing a player from the lineup is nothing new for Washington this season, but the Sheary injury could complicate things for Thursday because the team has very few options to add another forward.

As of Wednesday, the Caps have 13 forwards on the active roster. Sheary is one of them as is Lars Eller who has not played since Jan. 26 and remains in a non-contact jersey at practice. That brings the number of healthy forwards down to 11, and a full lineup is 12 (four lines of three players).

Washington cannot simply add an additional forward because the team does not have the cap room. Teams can be granted emergency exceptions, but this is only for players who are officially designated as unable to play. For example, the team was able to add Mike Sgarbossa to the active roster as an emergency exception because Evgeny Kuznetsov remains on the NHL's COVID-19 protocol-related absence list.

Unless someone -- Sheary, Eller or Justin Schultz, who has not skated since taking a puck to the face in the game on Jan. 28 -- is placed on long-term injured reserve, then Washington may be looking at having only 11 forwards.

It is not unheard of for a team to play with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. When asked about that possibility for Thursday, Laviolette did not dismiss it.

"We talked about it," Laviolette said. "That's always a possibility that we might have to do that. I think we're waiting to see how things pan out today, but I think that if that's what we need to do then work with that."

At practice Wednesday, Daniel Carr skated at left wing on the fourth line. Carr is currently on the team's taxi squad and would not be eligible to play Thursday unless the team can find a way to get him on the active roster.

Should the team decide to place a player on LTIR, that player will have to miss a minimum of 10 games and 24 days but it can be designated retroactively. Eller, for example, would have missed three games already if placed on LTIR retroactive to when he was injured.

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