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Prospect report: The Bears are getting healthier

Prospect report: The Bears are getting healthier

Hershey update: 33-18-8-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 2-1-0-0

Nathan Walker returned in Friday’s game from a broken hand he suffered in January. He recorded one assist and an empty-netter goal in his first three games back. The Bears may also get another boost with the pending return of Madison Bowey. Head coach Troy Mann was on the Old Barn Hockey Show last week and talked about how Bowey should be ready to return this week.

Bowey suffered a laceration to his tendon in December and was expected to be out until April. A return in mid-March would be a rather speedy recovery. Don’t expect to see him in Washington anytime soon, however. After the trade deadline, teams are limited to only four non-emergency call-ups from the AHL and the Caps have already used two. As the team prepares for the playoffs, now would be a curious time to bring up a defenseman with no NHL experience. He will likely have to wait until next season to make his NHL debut.

Stanislav Galiev remained red-hot with four points in Hershey’s three games over the week, including two goals in the Bears’ win over Providence. You can watch the highlights of that game here:

Despite his recent hot streak, there’s nothing to suggest Galiev’s outlook with the Caps has changed. If the team needed an offensive player, I doubt he would be their first choice. Ironically enough, his good play of late probably lowers the chances he will be recalled considering he would have to go through waivers. Odds are someone would claim him.

As you probably noticed in those highlights, there were some fisticuffs at the end of the Providence game that nearly included goalies Pheonix Copley and Malcolm Subban. Subban challenged and Copley skated to center ice, but the referees stopped it from escalating.

It would not be the first time Copley fought another netminder. Given that he has become team’s No. 1 goalie since he was acquired at the trade deadline, however, the Bears really don’t need him to risk a broken hand in a fight during the playoff push.

Defenseman Christian Djoos also continued his hot streak with four assists including a three assist night on Saturday in Hershey’s 7-1 win over Binghamton.

In other news, Darren Deitz’s brief stint within the Capitals organization is most likely over. Signed by the Caps in the offseason as a free agent, Dietz was loaned to the Texas Stars of the AHL last week. Hershey received defenseman Mattias Backman on loan in exchange.

RELATED: Trotz makes Caps’ defensive depth chart very clear

Other prospect notes:

Shane Gersich scored his 20th and 21st goal of the season to help lead North Dakota to a two-game sweep over St. Cloud State in the NCHC Quarterfinals.

North Dakota will play Denver on Friday in the NCHC Frozen Faceoff Semifinal.

Chase Priskie will be moving on as well as Quinnipiac defeated St. Lawrence in three games in the ECAC Hockey Tournament Quarterfinals. He tallied one assist. Quinnipiac will play Harvard in the semifinals on Friday.

After a 5-0 loss to Notre Dame on Friday, Brian Pinho put up a valiant effort in Game 2, scoring Providence College’s two goals in a 5-2 loss as the Irish swept the Friars in the Hockey East Quarterfinals. Steven Spinner also saw his team eliminated in the NCHC Quarterfinals by Western Michigan in a three-game thriller that came down to overtime.

Connor Hobbs and the Regina Pats won the WHL East Division on Friday with a 5-0 win over Moose Jaw. In Regina’s four games over the week, Hobbs recorded two goals and four assists. He now has 30 goals on the season tying a franchise record for goals by a defenseman and leads all defenseman in the WHL in goals.

Beck Malenstyn had an impressive week for the Calgary hitmen, scoring a goal in each of the team’s four games over the week. He was named the first star of the game on Friday and third star on Saturday.

In the KHL, Ilya Samsonov’s team, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, completed a four-game sweep of Barys in the second round of the playoffs. Samsonov is serving as the backup goalie and has appeared in two games in the playoffs, both of which came in the first round.

MORE CAPITALS: Playoff opponent watch: An open Metro race changes Caps' scenarios

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Prediction recap: Caps pull out narrow Metropolitan Division win

Prediction recap: Caps pull out narrow Metropolitan Division win

The Caps earned two critical points to increase their lead in the Metropolitan Division race thanks to a 2-1 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.

Here’s a recap of the three bold predictions for the game.

1. Neither team will score on the power play - Correct

Columbus had no power play opportunities until the third period when the Caps took two penalties. The Blue Jackets, however, failed to cash in. Washington, meanwhile, had three opportunities for the game, but was held off the board.

RELATED: Shootout practice pays off for Caps

2. Washington will score at least three goals - Wrong

Sergei Bobrovsky looked every bit the Vezina contender as he turned aside a season-high 44 shots he faced limiting the Caps to only one goal. Good thing Washington has Braden Holtby. Holtby matched Bobrovsky by giving up only one goal for the game.

3. Brett Connolly, Lars Eller or Andre Burakovsky will score - Wrong

The third line had its worst game since Burakovsky’s return showing the J.J. curse is alive and well.

2017 Results: Like both Columbus and Pittsburgh, I earned a point on Thursday but failed to gain any ground.

Correct: 36
Wrong: 64.5
Push: 3

MORE CAPITALS: Caps put distance between them and divisional foes

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Shootout practice pays off for Caps on Thursday night

Shootout practice pays off for Caps on Thursday night

On Monday, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz dedicated a portion of practice to working on the shootout.

Why?

A couple of reasons: The Caps haven’t been good at them this season and that extra point might just come in handy given how tight the standings have become.

On Thursday night, that extra work paid off in a pivotal 2-1 shootout win over the visiting Blue Jackets.

RELATED: Caps put distance between them and divisional foes

With the win, the Caps improved to 2-5 in games decided by the skills competition. More important, though, it helped Washington grow its lead over Pittsburgh and Columbus to two and three standings points, respectively, with nine games left to play.

“Winning in a shootout, which we have not been good at all year, Holts was the guy,” Trotz said, referring to Braden Holtby, who had not won a shootout in five tries. “That was great. That extra point might be huuuge. It might be absolutely huge.”

Of the practice, Trotz said: “It’s paying dividends. We’re working on parts of our game that we need to make sure that we are good at.”

The Caps’ leading scorer and penalty shot specialist, T.J. Oshie, scored the only goal in the shootout. In the 2014 Sochi Games, Oshie beat Bobrovsky four times in penalty shots to lift the United States over Russia. Three times he went 5-hole.

“I thought about it for five seconds, maybe,” Oshie said Thursday night. “I was going to come in and do something different from what I remembered. I saw something different and decided to go 5-hole.”

Oshie added: “I felt pretty fortunate, and luckily that’s the only one we needed because Holts shut the door on the other end.”

Holtby, meantime, made saves on both of the Columbus attempts that were on goal. Another missed the net.

Afterward, the veteran goalie credited the extra work on Monday. In that practice session, Trotz asked Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, Kevin Shattenkirk, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Alex Ovechkin and Justin Williams to take two shots each on Holtby, who was watched closely by the coaching staff.

“We worked on it a little bit,” Holtby said. “It’s something that I try not to fiddle around with too much because I don’t want it creeping into my regular game because a breakaway is totally different than a shootout. But with the race getting pretty close, [in case we had] another one, we worked on it a couple of days ago in practice to try and get a little better at that for the stretch run.”

And they did get a little better at it. And just at the right time.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps win goalie duel in shootou