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Christian Djoos to make NHL debut, replaces Chorney against rival Penguins


Christian Djoos to make NHL debut, replaces Chorney against rival Penguins

With the two-time champion Penguins in town Wednesday night, Caps Coach Barry Trotz has opted to make a couple of changes. On the blue line, he’s inserting rookie Christian Djoos into the lineup for veteran Taylor Chorney. Up front, Tyler Graovac is back in for Nathan Walker.

Here’s how we expect Trotz to have the Caps lined up at Capital One Arena:

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov - Vrana
Burakovsky - Backstrom - Oshie
Connolly - Eller - Chiasson
Graovac- Beagle-Smith-Pelly

Orlov - Niskanen
Orpik – Carlson
Djoos – Ness



Some notes, quotes and observations from the morning skate KCI:

  • Trotz said the decision to play Djoos, who’ll make his NHL debut, was twofold: He wanted to get the rookie for a home game since he controls the matchups and Taylor Chorney has struggled a bit on the right side, which is where Ness will line up. “He’s played all his games over there but he’s a little bit of a rough patch [with his] handles and stuff like that,” Trotz said of Chorney. “And Nesser has played both [sides]. We’ll get [Chorney] a reset. …That’s always a tough scratch for us.”
  • Djoos said he found out this morning. “It’s huge,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun night to finally play my first game. It’s a big game for the organization and they’re a great team.”   
  • Djoos said his father, Per, who played 82 games for the Red Wings and Rangers is in Washington and will attend the game.
  • Asked if there’s any significance to facing the team that eliminated you the year before, Trotz cracked, “No, just hatred. You hate the guys that bumped you out. All the credit to the Penguins they’ve been the standard for the last two seasons.”
  • Trotz on playing Graovac over Walker: “I didn’t play [Graovac] a lot in the first game. He didn’t play that poorly. He actually played fairly well. He did some good things. In that game we were trailing and I wanted to get a little more offense from guys that I had a longer history with.” Graovac played 6:22 vs. Ottawa. Trotz added: “And it was important for me to get Walks in, just as it was important to get Djoos in. Now we’ve got everybody in, except Tom [Wilson] who we’ll get in next game. Then we’ll sort of be complete.”
  • Trotz said he anticipates keeping the roster max of 23 even when Wilson returns, saying it’ll create competition within the bottom 6, while also allowing forwards on the third line to pressure on guys in the top 6.



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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."