News and notes as the Capitals practiced for the final time of the 2013-14 season Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:
New arrival: Center Peter LeBlanc was recalled from the Hershey Bears and will become the ninth player to make his NHL regular season debut for the Capitals this season, joining forwards Tom Wilson, Michael Latta, Nicholas Deschamps and Evgeny Kuznetsov, and defensemen Connor Carrick, Nate Schmidt, Patrick Wey and Julien Brouillette.
LeBlanc, 26, will replace center/left wing Marcus Johansson, who was struck in the wrist by a Nicklas Backstrom shot on Friday night’s 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks.
In 65 games with the Bears this season LeBlanc has 12 goals and 16 assists. He spent four years at the University of New Hampshire, where he was roommates with Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk.
LeBlanc said his father and brother will drive down from Hamilton, Ontario to see him make his NHL debut. His mother will remain home with his sister, who is due to have a baby within the next week.
“I was super excited to hear the news,” LeBlanc said. “It’s been my dream to play in the NHL and I’m enjoying the moment.”
New signing: Last September, Chandler Stephenson was one of the most impressive rookies to participate in exhibition games against the Philadelphia Flyers.
On Saturday the 19-year-old center signed a three-year, entry-level contract that begins next season. He has been assigned to the Hershey Bears on a tryout agreement.
Stephenson was drafted by the Capitals in the third round [77th overall] of the 2012 draft and spent the last four seasons with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, where he registered a career-high 89 points [30 goals, 59 assists] in 69 games with the Pats this season. Eight of Stephenson’s 30 goals were shorthanded tallies.
Stephenson is the third member of the Capitals’ 2012 NHL Draft class to sign with the team, joining Carrick and Wilson.
No Halak: Goaltender Jaroslav Halak’s 4-0 shutout of the Blackhawks likely was his final game for the Capitals. He did not attend Saturday’s optional practice, which was attended by nine players and four assistant coaches.
Earlier in the week Halak found himself embroiled in a controversy over whether he wanted to face his former team, the St. Louis Blues, and many thought he would be asked to back up Braden Holtby the final three games of the season.
Halak, who will become a free agent on July 1, said he was happy Oates gave him the opportunity to salvage his reputation.
“There was no problem,” he said. “I’m happy I played and whoever is going to get the start on Sunday he has to enjoy it because it’s going to be a long summer.”
Halak said the biggest problem he saw with the Capitals this season was their inability to play a full 60 minutes on a consistent basis.
”We proved we can play good [Friday night], but it’s too late,” Halak said.
Save the puck: Caps center Jay Beagle kept the puck from the first two-goal game of his NHL career Friday night and laughed about how his teammates tried to get him the puck in an effort to get him a hat trick.
“They were all looking for me,” Beagle said. “Even with 20 seconds left I was gassed and I was trying to come off and they were all yelling to stay on. I crawled over the bench. I couldn’t even move my legs anymore.”
Caps teammate Eric Fehr said he kept telling Beagle to stay on the ice until he realized Beagle didn’t have anything left.
“I could see how tired he was, I could see it in his eyes,” Fehr said. “He gave it everything he had. I don’t think he lost a battle all game. We gave him a standing ovation when he got in the room.”