The Capitals will have a slightly different look tonight when they return to Verizon Center for a crucial game against the equally desperate Dallas Stars [7 p.m., CSN]:
With defenseman Patrick Wey sidelined with an apparent head injury after taking a punch to the jaw Sunday night in Nashville, veteran defenseman Jack Hillen is expected to return to the lineup after missing a pair of games with his own head injury.
Capitals coach Adam Oates said Hillen will be a “game-time decision” tonight against the Stars. If Hillen plays, he could be paired with Mike Green on a second unit, or with Julien Brouillette on an all left-handed third unit.
“Sometimes we have no choice, right?” said Oates, who prefers a left-right balance on his defense pairings.
Oates said Wey is “still not feeling great” from getting punched in the jaw in a fight with Nashville’s Rich Clune Sunday night but said he has not been tested for a concussion.
“He’s still not feeling great,” Oates said.
Meanwhile, Mikhail Grabovski, who returned Sunday from a left ankle sprain and played 15:49, is expected to play on a top line with center Jay Beagle and right wing Alex Ovechkin.
“I thought he did better than I expected,” Oates said. “He gave us a little spark. He said he was tired [Monday] but felt good today.”
After missing 22 of 23 games, Grabovski said he’s not 100 percent ready to play center but likes playing on a line with Ovechkin and Beagle.
Left wing Marcus Johansson drops to a second line with center Nicklas Backstrom and right wing Troy Brouwer, while Evgeny Kuznetsov is expected to play on a fourth line with center Chris Brown and right wing Tom Wilson.
Dustin Penner, who has one goal in 13 games with the Caps, left practice early on Tuesday and is also a game-time decision with an undisclosed injury.
Jaroslav Halak is expected to get his second straight start for the Caps.
Based on Tuesday’s practice, here is the Caps’ projected lineup for tonight against the Stars, who are also one point out of a playoff spot in the West:
Mikhail Grabovski – Jay Beagle – Alex Ovechkin
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Eric Fehr – Joel Ward
Evgeny Kuznetsov – Chris Brown – Tom Wilson
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Jack Hillen – Mike Green
John Erskine - Julien Brouillette
Jaroslav Halak [starter] – Braden Holtby