Capitals

Quick Links

Coach Barry Trotz shuffles lines as Caps look to end slide in Edmonton

Coach Barry Trotz shuffles lines as Caps look to end slide in Edmonton

Coach Barry Trotz scrambled his forward lines ahead of Saturday’s game in Edmonton, where the Caps will be looking to stem a two-game slide against Connor McDavid and the Oilers (10 p.m. NBC Sports Washington).

Here’s how Trotz had his forwards lined up:

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Smith-Pelly

Vrana – Backstrom – Oshie

Stephenson – Eller – Wilson

Chiasson – Beagle – Peluso

Here’s what you need to know about that alignment:

  • Nicklas Backstrom appears set to return after missing Thursday’s game with an illness. Which, of course, is huge for a banged-up Caps' team that has been limited to two or fewer goals in four of the last five games.
  • Brett Connolly looks to be out after taking that big hit from Canucks Dman Erik Gudbranson. Connolly was placed in the concussion protocol after leaving Thursday's game in the second period. He could be out Sunday in Calgary, too.
  • A couple of days after Trotz hinted that he envisioned a promotion in Devante Smith-Pelly’s future, and that he suspected Smith-Pelly could complement “higher-end” players, we’re going to see top-six DSP for the first time. Chiasson skated with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov in Vancouver; now Chiasson is back on the fourth line.
  • Chandler Stephenson, who scored his first NHL goal in Vancouver, slides over to the wing and replaces Connolly on Lars Eller's line. Jakub Vrana, meantime, returns to the top-six.
  • Anthony Peluso, who was recalled from minor league Hershey, will skate on the fourth line. As I wrote Friday, part of the reason the Caps opted to recall Peluso as opposed to a prospect is this: he's played 142 NHL games and, at 6-3 and 225 pounds, can serve as a bit of deterrent vs. an Oilers’ team that’s got some ruggedness in Zack Kassian, Milan Lucic, etc. If things get rough, it also means Peluso—and not Tom Wilson—can answer the bell.   
  • Braden Holtby is expected to start, which could mean Philipp Grabauer will get the backend of back-to-back. Again.

 

RELATED: WITH THE INJURIES CONTINUING TO PILE UP, THE CAPS MAKE ANOTHER CALL-UP FROM HERSHEY

Quick Links

Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

usatsi_10423605.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

Nicklas Backstrom has made a career out of setting up other players, but what many forget is that he is a pretty darn good scorer in his own right. Just not these days.

Backstrom had three goals in the first six games of the season, but since then he has been held scoreless. His last goal game on Oct. 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA!

Offense, in general, has been hard to come by for the veteran center who also underwent a career-long seven-game pointless streak.

While Backstrom has managed to get back on the score sheet with three assists in his last five games, he still can’t seem to get a goal.

“Obviously you want to score,” Backstrom said. “That's a no brainer, but at the same time you've just got to stick with it. I mean, at least I created chances tonight.”

While the goals may not be there, however, the chances are. For Barry Trotz, that’s an encouraging sign.

“Backy was on the bench, I gave him a little tap I said you know the hockey gods will even that out,” Trotz said. “You probably could have had three tonight and he'll probably get one of those leaky lizards go through the legs or through the arms and one from a bad angle. They'll even it out for him.”

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN GETS STITCHES AFTER GETTING HIT BY PUCK, BUT REMAINS INDESTRUCTIBLE

With Backstrom taking on a more defensive shutdown role this season, his offensive numbers have taken a hit. The Capitals, however, do not have the same scoring depth as in recent years and need Backstrom, still arguably their best center, to produce offensively in order to be successful. He is just too good of a player to not produce.

But given his recent play, Trotz is not all that concerned and believes the goals are coming. Backstrom seems to agree.

“The sun goes up the next day anyway even if I don't score,” he said, “So you've just got to stick with it, work hard and hopefully you'll get rewarded.”

Quick Links

Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

usatsi_10423140.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

It's always scary when you see a player get hit in the head with a puck. It's even scarier when you're a fan of the Caps and that player is Alex Ovechkin.

But there's is one thing you should always remember before you worry about the Great 8: He is not built like a normal human being.

Ovechkin was struck in the face by a puck in the second period of Saturday's game against the Minnesota Wild. It was a scary moment made scarier by the pool of blood he left behind on the ice as he made his way to the locker room.

RELATED: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS BEAT THE WILD

"Anybody who takes a puck to the face, you hope that they're not hurt badly," Barry Trotz said after the game. "Anytime you get hit to the face there's usually pretty good leakage. I saw, I knew he got hit in the face and in the mouth area and there was pretty good leakage around our bench and he went off and we were just hoping that it's not too serious."

Remarkably, it wasn't serious. Ovechkin missed the remainder of the second period, but returned for the third. After the game, there were a few stitches in his lip, but otherwise there appeared to be no serious damage.

Ovechkin said that after he had been hit he "Just tried to feel my tooth and it was fine. Just moving a little bit, but it's fine. It's hockey."

The fact that no serious damage was done turned what was a scary moment into one both players and coach could laugh at afterward.

MORE CAPITALS: WHO WERE THE 3 STARS OF THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA?

"He's a big strong man and he's got a few zippers so he's a lot better looking now that they fixed him up and all that," Trotz said. "It's when you get stitched up, that's the great thing about medicine, they can make you look great."

"It can be much worser," Ovechkin said when asked if he was scared in the moment. "I could lose my teeth."

Nicklas Backstrom had the same thought many of you are probably asking yourself right now: "Does he have any more teeth?"

It was just another reminder that Ovechkin is truly a machine. You know what they say, "Russian Machine...never gets broken."

I think that's how the saying goes.