Capitals loan defenseman Alex Alexeyev to Hershey for rehab assignment

Capitals loan defenseman Alex Alexeyev to Hershey for rehab assignment

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The Capitals sent defenseman Alex Alexeyev to their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears on a long-term injury conditioning loan Friday, paving the way for him to return to game action for the first time since he underwent labral repair surgery on his left shoulder in June.

Alexeyev, 22, made his NHL debut for the Capitals last season but spent most of the year in Hershey. Washington placed the 2018 first-round pick on long-term injury (retroactive to Oct. 11), which prevents him from being exposed to waivers but limits his rehab assignment with the Bears to up to six days or three games — though the Capitals can request an extension of two additional games.

When his time in Hershey is up, the Capitals will have to decide whether to add him to their 23-man roster or attempt to get him through waivers so he can stay in the AHL. Either way, the team will face a roster crunch on its blue line. Washington has suited up the same six players for each of its first eight games with veteran defenseman Matt Irwin the lone healthy scratch.

Following their 2-0 loss to the Dallas Stars on Thursday, the Capitals have allowed 3.25 goals per game this season, which ranks 20th in the NHL. Head coach Peter Laviolette has lauded the goaltending they’ve seen out of Darcy Kuemper (.903 SV%, 2.89 GAA) and Charlie Lindgren (.925 SV%, 3.09 GAA), pointing to breakdowns in front of them as primary contributors to the high goal totals.

Laviolette has tried shaking up their top blue-line pairings, giving John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov the chance to play together after beginning the year with Carlson alongside Martin Fehervary and Orlov opposite Nick Jensen. Offseason addition Erik Gustafsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk have been paired for all eight games thus far.

Washington could opt to send forward Connor McMichael to Hershey without costing the team any players since he is waiver exempt, but Laviolette said Wednesday there have not been “any conversations” about moving him to the AHL. Doing so would leave the Capitals with 13 forwards and eight defensemen.

Orlov, Jensen, Gustafsson and van Riemsdyk will all be unrestricted free agents this offseason while Fehervary will be eligible for a qualifying offer. How they fare in the Capitals’ next week’s worth of games could play a role in what they do with Alexeyev.

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