Dale Hunter was pressed on Jay Beagle multiple times. Every time his answer was clear.
“He’s fine. Just resting his legs,” the Washington Capitals coach said. “No, no, he’s fine, he’s gonna play.”
Beagle will not play in Game 6 Wednesday night against the New York Rangers, despite repeated assurances in that direction by the Caps. He was not on the ice for pregame warm-ups, replaced by Jeff Halpern. Beagle blocked a shot by Anton Stralman in the second period of Game 5, his only block of the game.
The Caps announced it as a lower-body injury.
Halpern offered no comment when he was asked about playing after the morning skate. He did not take extra work with the rest of the scratches.
Asked about Beagle and the possibility of playing without him, even Matt Hendricks bristled.
“I’m not going to talk about that one,” he said.
But all along, Hunter talked and made it clear Beagle would be in the lineup.
“Beags would play no matter what, if you know Beags,” he said at 5:30 p.m.
This one stings. Beagle has been huge to the Caps’ success on the penalty kill, on faceoffs and in the shot-blocking department.
“It hurts a lot. Jay’s been logging tons of minutes as we all know, and he’s been doing all the key things that have been helping us succeed, the little areas that a lot of times go unnoticed but are extremely important,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Regardless of what happens, somebody else has a chance to do it now if he’s not in the lineup.”
That somebody else is Halpern, playing for the first time since March 23. The 35-year-old is the only other right-handed center the Caps have other than Beagle.
“He’s been big for us,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “He does a great job out there, he kind of gets overlooked on this team but he deserves a lot of credit for how he’s played so far in the playoffs.”