The revolving door of Capitals defensemen will turn yet again tonight when Julien Brouillette becomes the 13th defenseman to play for the team this season.
Brouillette [pronounced brew-YET], 27, will play on a third pairing with rookie defenseman Patrick Wey, 22, when the Winnipeg Jets visit Verizon Center [7 p.m., CSN]. Both players were recalled by from the Hershey Bears earlier today. Brouillette will be making his NHL debut, while Wey will be playing in his second NHL game.
“The challenge is this is the NHL,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “We’re playing a hot team [Winnipeg is 9-2-0 under Paul Maurice] with good power forwards. But they’ve been playing good down in Hershey and they can skate good, so their feet, hopefully, can bail them out.”
Brouillette and Wey will replace John Erskine and Mike Green. Oates said Erskine is still feeling the effects of his offseason knee surgery. Green [concussion] practiced on Thursday and said he felt good, but he won’t play tonight and is questionable for Saturday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils, the Caps’ final game before the Olympic break.
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth [4-6-2, 2.82 GAA, .914 save percentage] will get his fourth straight start between the pipes.
Forwards Aaron Volpatti [left arm/shoulder] and Mikhail Grabovski [left ankle] also will miss tonight’s game and are unlikely to play until after the Olympic break.
Brouillette has nine goals and five assists in 29 games with the Bears this season. The 5-foot-11, 196-pound native of Saint-Esprit, Quebec signed with the Caps as a free agent on April 5, 2013 after spending the previous five seasons in the minors.
Brouillete, who described himself as a player with good speed who can play at both ends of the ice, has played 238 career games in the AHL. He said he’ll find a way to get his parents from their family farm in Quebec to the game tonight.
“This is special,” he said. “There have been a lot of games. I just did my thing my whole life. People said you won’t make it and I just kept working hard. I took the longer route but it’s definitely satisfying when you get rewarded.”
Bouillte said he can’t thank his parents enough for their support over the years.
“I spent a lot of time working [the farm] with my Dad. It isn’t easy work, so this is really special for him.”
Oates said it won’t be easy for Brouillette and Wey to face hard-charging forwards like 6-foot-5, 265-pounder Dustin Byfuglien, which led to this quick conversation between Oates and Brouillette.
“First thing today he said was, ‘So, if we’re in trouble still off the glasss?’” Oates said. “I said, ‘Oh, yeah. The window is your friend.’”
Here's what the Capitals' lineup is expected to look like tonight:
Marty Erat - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Marcus Johansson - Casey Wellman - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Brooks Laich - Jay Beagle - Tom WIlson
Karl Alzner - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Connor Carrick
Julien Brouillette - Patrick Wey
Michal Neuvirth [starter] - Braden Holtby