Plenty of people were excited when the Washington Capitals traded for veteran center Jason Arnott, but I must admit that it didn’t impress me a whole lot. Sure, he’s still pretty talented at his advanced age and the Caps needed a second-line center. It’s just that it didn’t seem like he had the chops to really bring anything but redundant skills to the table.
Yet much like Bill Guerin with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Arnott brings his veteran savvy, considerable size and a lethal right-handed shot to the table for the Capitals. He has two goals and three assists for five points in seven games, including a bomb of a shot for a power-play goal during the NBC Game of the Week on Sunday. Some might say the most promising number is his +5 rating in that seven-game stay.
So it seems like Arnott’s presence has been valuable and his transition is looking very smooth, but there’s one problem: now he’s injured. Mike Vogel reports that Arnott is week-to-week (the uneasy cousin of the more comforting “day-to-day”) with an undisclosed injury.
One of the things that has been special about the Capitals’ outstanding eight-game winning streak is that they’ve managed to succeed with some pretty serious injuries. They’ve had to deal without defenseman Mike Green and Semyon Varlamov for the entire swing and the team has also been without Nicklas Backstrom and Michal Neuvirth for chunks of time too.
Vogel discusses how the team must adapt without Arnott, whether Backstrom comes back or not.
Backstrom is on the trip and has had the cast removed from his ailing thumb. If he is able to play for the first time since March 7, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau can shuffle the deck a bit and put Backstrom back between Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble. He can also keep his effective fourth unit of Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon and Matt Bradley together. Boudreau would only need to decide where to place Laich and Johansson.
If Backstrom needs more time, Jay Beagle is ready to go and itching for a sweater. Johansson could remain with Ovechkin and Knuble where he has been effective. Laich can stay with Marco Sturm and Alexander Semin, and the fourth line can stay together. Beagle could be fitted with Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr on the third line. Beagle has had some practices centering for those two wingers.
With Arnott in the lineup, the Caps were a handful down low in the offensive zone. Each line boasted a heady blend of speed and size, and Washington became very effective at wearing down opposing defenses with grinding shifts and a renewed cycling game.
The Caps will miss Arnott, but having Backstrom and Beagle along for the trip should help take the sting out of his absence. It’s more important for Arnott to be fully mended in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs, which are now just four weeks away.