ARLINGTON, Va. — Washington Capitals center Jay Beagle practiced Saturday morning and could return to the lineup for Game 2 Sunday against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7:30 p.m., WFED 1500AM).
“I’m definitely hopeful of playing,” said Beagle, who missed the final three games of the regular season and Game 1 against Columbus with an upper-body injury.
“I’m preparing like I’m going to play. I’ll leave it up to the coaching staff and the doctors and the medical staff to make the final call,” he said.
Beagle ranked fourth in the NHL in faceoffs with a 58.5 percent success rate during the regular season and led the Capitals in short-handed ice time, skating an average of 2:31 per game on the penalty kill.
Beagle’s consistency both in the faceoff circle and on the PK were sorely missed in Game 1, as the Blue Jackets rallied from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in Game 1, en route to a 4-3 win in overtime.
The Blue Jackets came back after scoring two power play goals in the third period and winning 10 of 11 third-period draws in the Capitals zone.
“Jay is one of those guys that you don’t probably value him as much until you don’t have him,” said head coach Barry Trotz.
“As a coach, I have a lot of value for him, but just the regular fan or regular people, Jay Beagle doesn’t put up high numbers. But he gives you everything he’s got, and the one place he can make a difference is that faceoff circle. It’s all about starting with the puck, and he gives us an advantage in that more than most guys in the league,” Trotz said.
Beagle is the Capitals’ only right-handed center and each of Columbus’ two power-play goals came seconds after winning an offensive-zone draw.
“Oh, we miss him,” Trotz added. “Especially this time of year, Beags is an all-in guy, a true pro, a buy that will give up his body to make a difference. For me, it’s a mentality. There’s other guys that can probably (penalty) kill as well as Jay, but he pulls people in the fight. And when it comes to the penalty kill unit, he has a lot of pride, and he’ll pull the other guys in.”
Beagle is still waiting for clearance from the doctors and head athletic trainer Jason Serbus, but the veteran of more than 62 postseason games said he has plenty of incentive to get back in.
“There’s always urgency in playoffs, for sure,” he said. “It’s always a difference. When you have the playoffs, it’s do or die. You want to get out there and the season’s always on the line in the playoffs, so it makes it that much more urgent to get out there and try to help your team.”
Trotz confirmed that goaltender Philipp Grubauer will start Game 2.
Defenseman Michal Kempny was a full participant at practice and has been cleared to play Game 2. Kempny left Game 1 with an upper-body injury late in the first period and did not return.
“Kemper is now fresh,” Trotz said, “And we’re looking to forward to having him right back.”
T.J. Oshie took a maintenance day and did not practice, but Trotz said he will take part in Sunday’s morning skate. Oshie missed two of the final four games of the regular season while dealing with a lower-body injury.
Forward Travis Boyd returned to practice after missing time due to illness.
Blue Jackets forward Alexander Wennberg, who scored Columbus’ first goal in Game 1, has been ruled out for Game 2 with an upper-body injury. Wennberg left Game 1 early in the third period after he was hit by Tom Wilson. Rookie Sonny Milano will make his 2018 postseason debut.