Grabovski absence opens door for Beagle, Wilson

Grabovski absence opens door for Beagle, Wilson
January 27, 2014, 2:15 pm
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With Mikhail Grabovski expected to miss his second straight game on Tuesday with an injury that is preventing him from getting his left foot into his skate, the Capitals shuffled their forward lines again as the prepare for Tuesday night’s visit to Buffalo.

“It’s one of those injuries that can change fast,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said Monday. “It’s a tough timetable to put your foot in a boot.”

The Caps also practiced without center Brooks Laich, but Oates said he expects the 30-year-old veteran to be in the lineup against the Sabres. Laich skated with defenseman Jack Hillen before Monday’s practice.

“It was a maintenance day to loosen up,” Oates said. “He played pretty hard in those two games, got hit a lot and a lot of contact and he asked for a maintenance day. I don’t worry about his conditioning.”

RELATED: [Grabovski, Laich sit out Caps practice]

Oates acknowledged that the loss of Grabovski, who is third on the club with 12 goals, thins out the Capitals’ forward depth. But it also gives players like Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson a chance for a more expansive role on a third line with Jason Chimera. All three forwards stand 6-foot-3 or better and weigh in at more than 210 pounds.

“We put them with Chimmer all of a sudden you have three fast guys that are big and strong that if they can continue to protect the puck and put it in the right spots they can be a pretty dominant line,” Oates said.

Wilson leads all NHL rookies with 105 penalty minutes and ranks third among rookies in hits with 116. Wilson has taken a rash of minor penalties lately, but some of them, like the charge he took Friday night on Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas, might have been unjustified, in the opinion of Oates.

“I think that was a little bit of his reputation, maybe, which I’m OK with,” Oates said. “You now what? The guy’s got to play his game. I think the referees will also see over time that he’s a clean player and he won’t get those again.”

Oates liked the way Wilson played hard against Montreal defensemen P.K. Subban and Steve Eminger on Saturday night and wants the 19-year-old right wing to recognize when it’s OK to slam a body against the boards, and when it’s better to get his stick on a puck to break up a play.

“I explained to Tom, ‘When do you stay in control? When do you finish a guy hard,” Oates said. “In Jersey we got a goal [by Chimera] because he went stick on puck.”