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Barry Trotz warns Caps about confident Coyotes calling Monday's matchup a 'trap game'

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Barry Trotz warns Caps about confident Coyotes calling Monday's matchup a 'trap game'

The Caps will be looking to win three games in a row for the first time this season when they host the league-worst Coyotes on Monday night.

Here’s how Coach Barry Trotz had the players lined up for the morning skate:

Forwards
Vrana – Backstrom – Oshie
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Smith-Pelly
Stephenson – Eller – Wilson
O’Brien/Walker – Beagle – Chiasson

Defense
Djoos – Carlson
Orpik – Bowey
Orlov – Chorney

Extra: Ness

So, yeah, the forward combos and D-pairs look awfully similar to what we’ve seen in recent games.

RELATED: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-COYOTES

Lineup aside, here's what we were talking about at the morning skate:

  • Braden Holtby is expected to start vs. Arizona, with backup Philipp Grubauer expected to get the nod Tuesday in Buffalo. Why? “We’re trying to establish some traction at home,” Trotz said, referring to the Caps’ 2-3-0 record on F Street. “And obviously Buffalo is sitting there waiting for us. So let’s make sure we take care of business at home. Most nights Grubi is going to get that back-to-back.”
  • Holtby (7-3-0, 2.70 goals against, .921 save percentage) will oppose Scott Wedgewood (1-1-0, 3.41 goals against, .900 save percentage).
  • It’s unclear who the fourth line left wing will be for the Caps as both Liam O’Brien and Nathan Walker came off the ice at the same time.
  • Trotz said he warned his players about overlooking the speedy Coyotes, who are a league-worst 2-12-1 but have won two of their last four games. “I think Phoenix is a very dangerous team. In some ways it’s a little bit of a trap game because you look at the record and go, ‘That’s not a very good record.’ …They’ve won two of their last four games. They look confident.” Trotz added that he thinks Arizona is one of the faster teams in the NHL and is more talented that the record reflects at the moment.
  • One area where Trotz wants to see his team improve is on special teams. The power play is 16th overall (18.6 percent) but just 31st at home (5.3 percent). The uber-skilled unit hasn’t scored a 5-on-4 goal since New Jersey, a span of 10 games. The penalty kill, meanwhile, is 27th with a success rate of 74.6-percent. “If you assess our special teams right now, the penalty kill has had big moments; it’s like a goaltender you make the big save when you need to,” Trotz said. “And they have for the most part [but] we probably have lost a point or two because we weren’t able to get a kill. And we’ve probably lost a point [because we didn't] get an extra goal from the power play.” Trotz added: “Our power play at home is 31st in the league. With that group of guys, it’s got to produce there. They will. We don’t have any worries about that, but it would make things easier.”
  • Brett Connolly (upper body) hit the ice before the morning skate but there is no timetable for his return. He’s missed the past four games.
  • Tyler Graovac (upper body) joined his teammates for the morning skate and is progressing, but Trotz said there’s no timetable for him, either.
  • Matt Niskanen is eligible to come off LTIR Tuesday in Buffalo but that doesn’t seem to be plausible given that he hasn’t started skating with his teammates yet.
  • No update on Andre Burakovsky (thumb surgery) but we know he’s out until sometime next month.

 

MORE CAPITALS: GOOD THING THE CAPS HAVE TWO GREAT GOALIES, RIGHT JAY BEAGLE?

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Avalanche

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4 reasons why the Caps lost to the Avalanche

The Caps were handed an ugly 6-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday and Washington will now return home with zero points on their two-game road swing. Here's why they lost to Colorado.

Another early goal

The Capitals had a rough start to their game Tuesday against Nashville. The Predators hit the post with their first shot and scored their first goal at 11:48. Their start on Thursday was worse. Washington did not get any help from the post and Gabriel Landeskog made Colorado’s first shot count just 17 seconds in. That set the tone for the entire game.

RELATED: BARRY TROTZ ON THURSDAY'S GAME, 'IT WAS ALL JUNK'

The late first period goal

Despite the bad start, the Caps kept it 1-0 through the first and looked like they would have a chance to regroup in the locker room before the second…but they allowed a Nathan MacKinnon goal with just seven seconds left in the first. That is a backbreaker.

Mistakes with the puck

For years, the Capitals were criticized for being “too cute,” for not making the simple plays. As a highly skilled team, they could pull off some of those beautiful plays. They are not that team anymore. Washington made a lot of mistakes on Thursday and a lot of them came because they would not make the simple, easy play.

You can read more about Washington’s mistakes with the puck here.

The Caps frequently turned the puck over because they would not make easy passes electing instead to go for the home runs. They could not get sustained offense because they kept turning the puck over in the neutral zone.

MORE CAPITALS: WHO WERE THE 3 STARS OF CAPS-AVALANCHE

Missed third period power play opportunity

It looked like the Caps would trail 4-1 heading into the third period, but Washington somehow won a coach’s challenge on a goal by Nikita Zadorov for goalie interference. With a second chance at life and down by only two heading into the third period, the Caps had a golden opportunity less than three minutes into the final frame when they were given a power play opportunity. They did not take advantage. A goal in that situation would have pulled Washington within one with a lot of time left to play. T.J. Oshie came close as he hit the post, but the Caps ultimately failed to score and gave up a fourth goal on a penalty shot just 16 seconds after Colorado returned to full strength.

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Tarik's three stars: Caps buried by Avalanche

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Tarik's three stars: Caps buried by Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog each had huge performances for the Avalanche, who jumped out to an early lead and thumped the Caps, 6-2, at Pepsi Center.

The loss was the Caps’ second in a row overall and fourth in their last five games away from Capital One Arena. Colorado, meantime, snapped a six-game losing streak against Washington with the win, their first victory in four contests.

RELATED: CAPS MAKING LIFE DIFFICULT FOR THEMSELVES WITH BAD MISTAKES

Tarik’s three stars of the night:

1-Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche

MacKinnon got off to a poor start this season, producing just one goal and a minus-8 rating in his first 10 games. Lately, however, the 2013 first overall pick has been hot…as the Caps found out. With seven seconds remaining in the opening frame, MacKinnon turned Brett Connolly inside out, then stuck a shot underneath the crossbar to put the Avs ahead 2-0. MacKinnon also recorded a trio of primary assists and a secondary helper, giving him a five-point performance.

2-Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche

Landeskog, who recorded a hat trick, struck on the Avs’ first shift, sniping a shot past backup goalie Philipp Grubauer just 17 seconds into the contest. The top-line winger’s second score came on a penalty shot early in the third period, staking the home team to a commanding 4-1 lead. Landeskog put home his own rebound with 25.2 seconds remaining in the game for his third goal of the night.

MORE CAPITALS: TROTZ EXPLAINS WHY VRANA WAS A HEALTHY SCRATCH

3-Tom Wilson, Capitals

Wilson blocked a slap shot from close range in the second period, leaving him limping for the remainder of his shorthanded shift. Then, a short while later, No. 43 set up the Caps’ first goal with a nifty pass from the corner right to Connolly at the doorstep. The primary helper was Wilson’s second in three games.