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Tarik's 3 stars: Top line rolls as Caps crush Blackhawks

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Tarik's 3 stars: Top line rolls as Caps crush Blackhawks

The Caps are at their best when they get offensive contributions from all four lines.

On Wednesday night, however, they only needed one line.

Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson took turns scoring goals in the first period as they downed Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks, 6-2, at Capital One Arena.

Washington has won three straight games and six of the last seven. Chicago, meantime, has lost five straight games overall, while their futility in D.C. now stretches all the way back to 2006, a span of seven contests.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Tom Wilson, Capitals

It was, um, an active night for No. 43. He scored two goals, racked up a primary assist and a secondary assist, drew a penalty, was assessed penalties for boarding and roughing and gave everyone a brief scare after leaving the bench for a few minutes with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.

The performance marked Wilson’s first four-point game. His previous best? A three-point night...against the Blackhawks in January.

2-Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Ovechkin, already enjoying a bounce-back season to remember, had another huge night. The Caps’ captain racked up a goal and three primary assists, giving him his first four-point night since he scored four goals against Montreal in the home opener back on Oct. 7.

Ovechkin now has 17 points (9 goals, 8 assists) in 15 career games against the Blackhawks.

3-Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals

Backstrom opened the scoring to end a nightmarish goal drought that had reached 21 games.

But he wasn’t done; No. 19 also chipped in with a pair of assists—one on Wilson’s first tally and the other on Brett Connolly’s power play strike late in the second period. This was Backstrom’s first game with at least three points since he posted four against the Devils on Oct. 13. Connolly, by the way, has a goal in three straight games.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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All signs point to T.J. Oshie returning to the Caps' lineup in Dallas

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All signs point to T.J. Oshie returning to the Caps' lineup in Dallas

T.J. Oshie is back.

Almost, anyway.

The Caps’ star winger practiced with his teammates on Monday morning, marking the first time he’s been a full participant in a team setting since getting his head smashed into the boards by San Jose’s Joe Thornton on Dec. 4.

SEE THE LATEST NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oshie resumed skating on Dec. 10 and has steadily been ramping up his level of intensity since.    

If Oshie receives final clearance from doctors, he’ll suit up in Dallas on Tuesday night. And, as you might expect, he’s pretty excited about the possibility.

“I felt great,” said Oshie, who noted that this was the fourth documented head injury of his career. “They’ve got me in pretty good shape while I’ve been away. I feel ready.”

Although Coach Barry Trotz said a decision on Oshie’s status won’t be made until Tuesday morning, the fact that he took his normal spot on the right side of the second line with Jakub Vrana and Evgeny Kuznetsov is a strong indication that he’s expected to face the Stars.

Oshie was also back in his usual spot on the first unit power play, where he still leads the team in goals on the man advantage (7), despite missing six games.

Getting a player with Oshie’s skill set back represents a boost for the Caps, who went 5-1-0 while he was sidelined. But, on the flip side, it also means someone who has been playing well will have to come out of the lineup.

“The whole team is playing pretty good hockey right now,” Oshie said. “On the team side, you feel bad that someone is playing good hockey and they’re going to have to sit out.”

He added: “Hopefully I don’t mess up the mojo, but selfishly I want to get back in there and join in on some of the fun.”

WAS KUZNETSOV TRYING TO SCORE ON HIS GAME-TYING GOAL?

The odd man out on Monday, based on line rushes anyway, was Devante Smith-Pelly, who has not missed a game after winning a spot in training camp.

Here’s what the forward combos looked like at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:

Ovechkin – Backstrom – Wilson
Vrana – Kuznetsov – Oshie
Connolly – Eller – Burakovsky
Stephenson – Beagle – Chiasson

So the plan appears to be for Oshie to bump Chiasson down to the fourth line into Smith-Pelly’s spot. 

With 13 healthy forwards, Trotz said deciding whom will sit out is going to be based on performance and/or role. But that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be an easy choice to make.

“If everybody's playing well,” he said, “I just have to make a tough decision, that’s all.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are overcoming all obstacles, even the loss of Oshie

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are overcoming all obstacles, even the loss of Oshie

If you were to make a list of the players the Capitals could not afford to lose, chances are T.J. Oshie would be near the top of that list. Unfortunately, the Caps’ winger has missed the last six games due to an upper-body injury he suffered from a hit to the head by Joe Thornton.

Yet, even with Oshie out of the lineup the past six games, Washington has managed a 5-1-0 record.

SEE THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oshie is the undisputed energy leader of the Caps. He was considered so important, in fact, that a team with significant salary cap constraints still elected to re-sign him in the offseason to an eight-year, $46 million deal that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.

Oshie’s injury, however, has not cooled off the red-hot Caps who have now won 11 of their last 14 games. It is still clear the team is missing him—their 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders in which the Caps lacked any energy at all is evidence of that—but the way the team has been able to rally without him is impressive.

If Washington can win five out of six without Oshie, how much better will they be once he gets back into the lineup?

The Caps keep winning and that means they keep climbing in the NHL Power Rankings. See how high they climb in this week’s rankings here.