Kasperi Kapanen could make debut in Capitals-Penguins rematch

NHL Hockey

The Pittsburgh Penguins got a taste of winning and liked it. The Washington Capitals got a taste of losing and, well, it wasn’t so pleasant.

The teams will meet Tuesday in a rematch at Pittsburgh after the Penguins won 4-3 in a shootout Sunday following two losses to open the season.

“It always feels good to win, especially when you lose two early (games),” Pittsburgh winger Jake Guentzel said.

The Capitals got a point for the shootout loss after winning their first two games, but go into Tuesday’s game feeling as though they haven’t played a full game up to their capabilities.

“Some periods are better than others,” Washington center Nicklas Backstrom said. “I think we’ve got to find that consistency a little better and make sure we’re playing 60 minutes.”

Washington had an optional practice with a dozen players on the ice Monday in Pittsburgh, continuing its streak of not holding a full practice since the season started.

“I’m managing the (condensed) schedule,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said.

Pittsburgh, conversely, switched its schedule to have a full practice Monday on what originally was a day off. That probably had a lot to do with winger Kasperi Kapanen.

Kapanen, acquired in a trade with Toronto during the offseason and penciled in to play alongside Sidney Crosby on the top line with Guentzel on the left side, skated with the team for the first time Monday after having work visa issues getting out of his native Finland and then going through a quarantine period under NHL COVID-19 protocol after he arrived in the United States.

He missed all of training camp and the Penguins’ first three games. He was cleared to join the team Sunday and skated individually before the afternoon game, but the team wanted him to get a chance to practice with his new teammates before they put him in the lineup.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan did not commit to whether Kapanen will play Tuesday, calling him “a game-time decision,” but added that Kapanen looked good in practice.

“It’s obviously not an easy situation, but I felt fine out there,” Kapanen said. “If I am going to play (Wednesday), then I’m up for it.”

The Pittsburgh practice also gave goaltender Tristan Jarry a chance to work on his game.

It seems likely designated backup Casey DeSmith will make his second start and third straight appearance Tuesday. Jarry, in his first season as the undisputed No. 1, has given up nine goals in less than four periods and got pulled in Pittsburgh’s second game.

Sullivan said that while he still has confidence in Jarry, he would like for Jarry “to reset his mindset, get a couple workouts with (goaltending coach Mike Buckley). … That will be good for Tristan.”

For Washington, if precedent holds, Vitek Vanacek could start in net Wednesday. He and Ilya Samsonov, who took the loss Sunday, have so far been alternating games in the absence of Henrik Lundqvist, who is out for the season after having heart surgery.

–Field Level Media

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