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Barry Trotz has a plan to reignite T.J. Oshie's scoring spark

Barry Trotz has a plan to reignite T.J. Oshie's scoring spark

In an effort to jumpstart T.J. Oshie, Coach Barry Trotz reunited the star winger with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the Caps’ top line Wednesday.

Trotz said he hasn’t decided if the move will stick—the team doesn’t play again until Sunday—but it’s clear he’s trying to get Oshie going again.

Oshie hit the ice earlier than most of his teammates Wednesday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to get in some extra stickhandling and shooting reps. After a few minutes, Trotz skated over to Oshie and the two had a long talk along the boards.

“He told me I was going with the big two guys, and I told him that I thought Devo and Tom probably deserved to play there,” Oshie said, referring to Devante Smith-Pelly and Tom Wilson, both of whom have played well on the right side of the first line this season.

With 11 goals, Oshie sits third on the Caps behind Ovechkin (26) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (12). But it’s been a bit of a struggle of lately. In fact, he’s got just one point—a goal—since returning from a concussion seven games ago. Against New Jersey last Saturday, he played a season-low 12:10—3:30 off his season average.

“Things aren’t really going my way right now; I’m not really playing my best,” Oshie said. “But I’m working hard and doing a lot of the little things good. So, we’ll see. I’m sure playing with those two guys never hurts.”


After practice, Oshie said he thought his first practice back with Ovechkin and Backstrom went smoothly. But he also expressed disappointment over the fact that he couldn’t find chemistry with Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana on the second line.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Oshie said. “We’re three pretty good players [and] we couldn’t figure a way to bring some offense to the team. But fortunately for us, a lot of other guys are playing really well right.”

Moving Oshie up to the first line wasn’t the only change on the right side of the forward combos. Oshie bumped Smith-Pelly down to the third line, while Wilson moved up to the second. (Earlier this week, Trotz mentioned how Wilson has sparked every line he’s joined this season, so perhaps he’s hoping No. 43 can kick-start Kuznetsov and Vrana, as well.)


Will the changes have the desired effect? Will Trotz even stick with them until the next game? Because the Caps don’t play again until St. Louis comes to town for a matinee on Sunday, that all remains unclear. But we could get a strong indication of Trotz’s thought process on Thursday. Indeed, if Oshie practices on the top line again, that’s likely where he’ll play against the Blues.

Trotz has in recent days acknowledged that Oshie has “had a couple games that were not Oshie-like.” On Wednesday, however, he attempted to downplay the decision to reunite Oshie with Ovechkin and Backstrom, adding that he’s not overly concerned about the 31-year-old’s play.

“That was just for practice,” Trotz said. “We’re just looking at different things.”

He added: “He’s an absolute pro in what he’s doing. Just like anything, they all work their way through stuff. That’s why they’re good. That’s the process. …I’m not too worried about Osh.”

Oshie also sounded confident that he’ll be able to find his own way out of this dry spell, just as he’s done previously over the course of his 10-year NHL career.  

“We’ll see what happens,” he said of the lines. “I’m not too worried about it, though. We’ve still got a long ways to go. It’s not the first time I went a couple of games without scoring. Still having fun, still working hard.”

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Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

Can Tom Wilson be an X-factor for Caps after finding redemption in Game 3?

When Mike Babcock essentially dismissed any concern over the impact Tom Wilson could have on a series, Wilson responded. In the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2017, the Caps' forward scored the overtime winner in Game 1 and saved the series in Game 3 with a sweep of the puck off the goal line followed by a goal of his own soon after.

If you dismissed Wilson after Game 1 and Game 2 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Barry Trotz believes you can expect a similar answer this year after how he played in Game 3.

"I think his game was really good and that will maybe give some trust and confidence in him going forward," Trotz said Wednesday on a conference call with the media.

Wilson's impact in the first round against Toronto was immediate. As a top-line winger this season, expectations for him were high heading into the playoffs. His start to the series, however, left a lot to be desired.

Through the first two games, Wilson did not record a single shot on goal. What's worse, he took a critical penalty in each game that allowed the Blue Jackets to tie the score on each resulting power play.

You can't compare Wilson's impact on the Caps to that of a player like Alex Ovechkin, but a top-line player has to have some sort of positive impact or, at the very least, not be a detriment to his team.

In Game 3, postseason Tom finally delivered.

Wilson recorded six shots on goal and scored Washington's first goal of the game, deflecting in a shot from Matt Niskanen.

"[Wilson's] taken a lot of criticism for his first two games and some of the penalties and the effect it's had on the game," Trotz said. "I think it's given him some confidence. He's a bright young man, he's a leader, he's an all-in guy."

The key now will be for Wilson to build on that confidence.

Columbus has a number of star players such as Artemi Panarin, Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky. What they do not have, however, is the scoring depth to match the Caps. Getting key contributions from players like Wilson in addition to the top playmakers like Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov will make it very hard for the Blue Jackets to keep up.

"[Wilson] had a big effect last year in the first round," Trotz said. "I think he can have a big effect in this series, in this first round."


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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.


Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30


Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.