With Joel Ward returning to the Capitals lineup tonight for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Rangers, Aaron Volpatti will again be among Washington’s healthy scratches.
Volpatti played in the final 10 games of the regular season and skated primarily on Washington’s fourth line with Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks.
The 28-year-old said this week that he was looking forward to making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut in Game 1 against the Rangers, but Ward’s return means that Volpatti will instead watch from the press box.
“That’s the tough part,” said head coach Adam Oates. “Nobody wants to go through that. I said to him today ‘You know what, you’re going to get your chance. Teams get injuries, teams make changes, make adjustments. You’re going to get your chance. You’ve been important to us.’ That’s why he just signed [a two-year extension]. If we have a long run, you’re going to play. That’s a fact.”
Volpatti was claimed off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks Feb. 28, and appeared in 17 games with the Capitals over the final two months of the regular season.
His grit and physicality have provided a boost to the Capitals lineup and he was rewarded April 24 with a two-year contract extension.
Ward’s all-around game though will be a welcome addition to the Capitals lineup for the start of the playoffs. Ward has shown a knack for scoring in the postseason with 10 goals and 22 points in 32 career NHL playoff games.
Ward also saw regular minutes this year on both special teams units and finished the regular season with eight goals and 20 points in 39 games.
“They’re different players,” Hendricks said. “Aaron’s traits are more- he’s an energy guy, he uses his speed up and down the walls, gets pucks deep and plays very physical – very physical. Joel Ward’s got a little more finesse in his game. His ability to keep the cycles alive, keep control of the puck in the offensive zone he’s very good at that. Having Joel back on the right side is going to give us a little more offense through the lineup.”
Oates said that under ideal circumstances, Ward will be eased back in the lineup tonight and that his minutes will be monitored. That could come in the form of fewer minutes in Game 1 on the penalty kill or power play.
“We’ll see,” Oates said. “That’ll be something that we’ll go with how he feels. First game back in a while you don’t want to – we’ll monitor it a little bit and see how he’s doing through the course of the game.”