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NHL Power Rankings: Line changes fueling Caps' recent surge

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NHL Power Rankings: Line changes fueling Caps' recent surge

Two weeks ago, many were clamoring for the Caps to go back to their old top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. With the team scuffling and the top stars struggling to put points on the board, it seemed like putting back together a line with a history of success made a lot of sense.

Barry Trotz did not do that. Instead, he put Ovechkin back with Backstrom, but added Tom Wilson on the right wing. Oshie moved down to the second line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana. The results speak for themselves.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS

In the five games since Trotz changed the lines, Ovechkin has six goals, Backstrom has five assists, Kuznetsov has four goals and Oshie has six assists. More importantly, the Caps won four of those five games.

The problem with putting Ovechkin, Backstrom and Oshie back together is that it would make the team too top-heavy. They do not have the depth they have had in recent years so putting all three players on the top line is a major risk. Two scoring lines are better than one and clearly the Caps have two at the moment and it has propelled them to their recent success.

Washington will still need contributions from the bottom six as well, but they got that on Saturday in a win over Columbus with goals from Brett Connolly and Alex Chiasson.

No team can be successful if their top players don't produce. The team's new lines have fixed that problem for now and it is why the Caps are rising in this week's NHL Power Rankings.

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Game 33: Capitals at Bruins Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 33: Capitals at Bruins Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins

Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Bruins will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Bruins game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BRUINS GAME?

The Capitals (19-12-1) take on the Bruins (15-9-4) Thursday, December 14 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Boston.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BRUINS GAME ON?

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

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Bruins
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BRUINS GAME?

The Capitals-Bruins game, 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.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR CAPITALS-BRUINS?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Alex Chiasson
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Christian Djoos - Madison Bowey

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury), Taylor Chorney

CAPITALS-BRUINS OPEN THREAD

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.

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Tuesday's win shows just how far the Caps have come since the last time they played the Avalanche

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Tuesday's win shows just how far the Caps have come since the last time they played the Avalanche

The Caps have come a long way in the past month.

On Nov. 16, the Capitals lost 6-2 to the Colorado Avalanche in Colorado. The game was not as close as the score indicated. Not only was it a bad loss, it felt like a significant one.

Over the course of an 82-game season, every team is going to have a lot of losses. Some of those losses are not going to be close. But given the fact that just one night before, the Caps were handed a 6-3 loss at the hands of the Nashville Predators, the loss to the Avalanche did not feel like a blip on the radar. It had all the feelings of a downward trend.

LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST BREAKING DOWN THE CAPS' WIN OVER COLORADO

In hindsight, that game was in fact significant, but not because it signaled the unstoppable downward spiral of an aging team in need of a rebuild. Instead, it marked the moment the Caps turned their season around.

Since that loss in Colorado, Washington has gone 9-3-0. Since those ugly back-to-back losses, they have not lost consecutive games since.

And then on Monday, they hosted that same Colorado team that looked as if it had ended the Caps’ season in mid-November. The new-look Caps disposed of Colorado with relative ease by a score of 5-2.

After the game, it did not take long for November’s loss to come up.

“I guess we do better at this altitude than over there,” John Carlson said.

Matt Niskanen said the Caps had “our butts kicked” by the Avalanche and Barry Trotz said that they "handed us our lunch last time" and felt that motivated his team to respond in the rematch.

Considering how Washington looked the last time these two teams met, it would be hard for the Caps to respond much better than what they did on Tuesday.

MORE CAPITALS: 3 REASONS THE CAPS BEAT THE AVALANCHE

In November’s game, Washington had no answer for Colorado's top line. Nathan MacKinnon had a five-point night and Gabriel Landeskog recorded a hat trick. On Tuesday, neither player earned a point. Instead, both players finished with a minus-three rating on the night.

“I think there's a pride factor,” Trotz said of his team’s ability to bounce back. “I think there's a little bit of a cultural factor, DNA factor with this group because we've won a lot of games. We understand that best thing you can do after losing a game is start another streak and don't let the streak go the wrong way.”

Over the course of the last 12 games since the Caps’ first game against Colorado, Washington has been a team decidedly going the right way and, as of Wednesday morning, sit tied for first in the Metropolitan Division.

Who would have thought that’s where they would be after that disastrous two-game road swing in mid-November?