The Washington Capitals announced they have recalled goaltender Ilya Samsonov from the taxi squad, and head coach Peter Laviolette said that he intends to start the netminder, who will be making his first appearance for Washington since Jan. 17. Veteran Craig Anderson has been returned to the taxi squad.
Samsonov had appeared in just two games this season before he and a number of Russian teammates found themselves on the COVID-19 protocol list. Once activated, the team sent him to the Hershey Bears of the AHL to find his game, but the 24-year-old has struggled there instead, posting a 3.25 goals-against average and a .869 save percentage in four games. Samsonov’s last game on Friday showed promise as he picked up the win, while allowing just three goals. The team hopes that giving him an easy assignment against the New Jersey Devils, who are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, might make for an easy transition back to the NHL.
The Capitals have been relying most of the season on rookie Vitek Vanecek, who has played quite well considering the workload they have placed upon him. Vanecek has posted a 2.81 GAA and a .909 save percentage in 17 appearances. Depending on Samsonov’s success, Vanecek will likely return to the back-up role that he was projected to take this year.
The Capitals allowed starting goaltender Braden Holtby to walk in free agency this offseason as they felt that Samsonov was the goaltender of the future after an impressive season in 2019-20. In 26 games, he put up 16 wins and a .913 save percentage. He didn’t appear in the playoffs, however, due to a lower-body injury and now has seen little time so far this year.