Jason Arnott has been credited with helping change the tide of the entire Capitals season, improving Alexander Semin’s game and bringing some serious leadership to the locker room.
Now comes a test of what Washington will do without Arnott, as the center is not on the road trip with the team because of an undisclosed injury and is listed as week-to-week, according to the Caps’ official website.
Arnott, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Devils for David Steckel and a second-round pick in 2011, has two goals and three assists in seven games with the Caps. More than anything, he knew his role coming into Washington.
“I knew that they had a young team and they needed a little more leadership, a few more older guys in the dressing room,” Arnott said Saturday. “The older guys are basically just wanting to come in there and help [younger guys] learn and bring them along.”
One younger guy Arnott has helped a lot is Semin, who has three goals and three assists since Arnott donned the Caps uniform. Teammate Mike Knuble said he’s “solidified that line so much.”
Arnott played 17:09 in the Caps’ overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Sunday, including a shift in overtime. The team had the day off Monday, so the injury must have been suffered Sunday or before. Arnott did miss time during the Tampa Bay game on March 7.
It’s not 100 percent certain he’ll miss the whole road trip, as the Caps visit Montreal Tuesday night and Detroit Wednesday night before getting a day off and facing New Jersey Friday night. They’ll stop home after that game before going to Philadelphia on March 22. Bruce Boudreau told reporters in Montreal Tuesday morning that Arnott will miss at least three games.
But no matter how long he’s out – even if it’s just one game – Arnott’s presence will be missed.
“He’s a smart player. It seems like he’s not moving a lot, but you can’t get the puck from him. He just makes simple, easy plays,” Knuble said Sunday. “His presence has been huge for us. He’s a second center and he’s defensively just another big body to counteract teams’ one-two punches.”
Nicklas Backstrom has been out with a fractured left thumb, though his cast was clearly off following the Caps’ game against the Blackhawks. According to the team’s site, he is on the road trip and at least a candidate to play at the Canadiens. If he can’t go, Jay Beagle or D.J. King would slide into the lineup.
Backstrom is a game-time decision to play Tuesday night, according to reporters in Montreal, citing Boudreau.