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The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No.12 Lars Eller

The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps: No.12 Lars Eller

Every player on an NHL team plays a role.Some, of course, play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles.

Today’s player: No. 12 Lars Eller

The Caps headed into the summer of 2016 after yet another second round playoff loss left wondering what happened? That was year one of Brian MacLellan’s self-proclaimed championship window. Despite coming up short of the ultimate prize, Washington had won the Presidents’ Trophy and there were seemingly few holes for this team to fix. There was one hole, however, that was quickly identified and it became the biggest goal for the entire offseason: Find a third-line center.

Pittsburgh’s 2016 Cup run showed just how important team depth was. Of course, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the key players who make that team go, but one of the major differences in the 2016 series between the Caps and Penguins was Pittsburgh’s third line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino and Phil Kessel. Their effectiveness signaled to the Caps that the team was too top heavy.

RELATED: BACKSTROM DONATES BONUS CHECK TO HOMETOWN YOUTH HOCKEY

MacLellan addressed the third-line center need by trading two draft picks to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Lars Eller, a talented forward who Montreal handled with all the same care and forethought as an old, broken Swiss-Army knife.

Head coach Michel Therrien moved Eller all throughout the lineup at both wing and center. Which left him without any defined role. Consistency was something he did not get in Montreal, but that was exactly what the Capitals offered him on the third line.

Eller’s adjustment took some time and in his first month with Washington, he had more penalties (5) than points (1). But things started to click at the turn of the calendar when head coach Barry Trotz settled on a third line of Brett Connolly-Eller-Andre Burakovsky. After a slow start, Eller scored 16 of his 25 points of the season in January and February.

With the first year in Washington now under his belt, the hope is that Eller will not suffer the same growing pains and will be able to produce at the rate he showed in the latter half of the season. While Burakovsky will almost certainly move into the top-six, it seems likely that Connolly will remain on the third line with the Danish center. That familiarity may provide the third line with a spark early that they did not have last season.

Like many players adjusting to a new team and a new coaching scheme, it took time for Eller to acclimate to the Capitals. Once it clicked, it was evident just how talented he was. He has never surpassed 30 points in his career, but his talent tells me his ceiling is higher. There’s no reason to think he can’t top 30 points in his second season in Washington.

Center depth is one of the Caps’ biggest strengths heading into the 2017-18 season and Eller anchoring the third line is a major reason why.

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
 No. 22 Pheonix Copley
— No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly
— No. 20 Taylor Chorney
— No. 19 Nathan Walker

 No. 18 Philipp Grubauer
 No. 17 Christian Djoos

— No. 16 Madison Bowey
— No. 15 Jay Beagle
— No. 14 Brett Connolly
— No. 13 Tom Wilson

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Game 7: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 7: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET. Coverage starts at 6:00 p.m. ET with Capitals FaceOff.

How to Watch: Capitals vs. Maple Leafs will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals vs. Maple Leafs game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-MAPLE LEAFS GAME?

The Capitals (3-2-1) take on the Maple Leafs (4-1-0) Tuesday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-MAPLE LEAFS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Maple Leafs game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Capitals FaceOff gets things started at 6:00 p.m. ET followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra followed by Caps Overtime and Caps in 30 for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Capitals @ Flyers
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-MAPLE LEAFS GAME?

The Capitals-Maple Leafs game, as well as the pre and postgame shows, 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.

WHAT ARE THE LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-MAPLE LEAFS GAME?

Here are the projected lines:

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

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches
Tyler Graovac, Nathan Walker, Aaron Ness

CAPITALS-MAPLE LEAFS 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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Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

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USA Today Sports Images

Caps' Barry Trotz forced to change up defense lineups

Lars Eller did not practice on Monday, and coach Barry Trotz shuffled his injury-depleted defense corps.

Here’s how everyone lined up:

Forwards

Burakovsky – Backstrom – Oshie

Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Vrana

Connolly – Graovac – Wilson

Smith-Pelly – Beagle – Chiasson

Walker

Defense

Orpik – Bowey

Djoos – Carlson

Orlov – Chorney

Ness

Goalies

Holtby

Grubauer

RELATED: Caps destroyed by Flyers in lopsided road loss

Some notes, quotes and observations from KCI:

  • Trotz said Eller showed up sick and was sent home to recover and avoid spreading whatever he’s got. Trotz also isn’t sure whether the veteran center will be able to suit up against Toronto on Tuesday. “I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t answer that right now. We’ll see where his energy level is.”

 

  • The coaching staff shuffled the D-pairs with speedy Toronto coming to town. But Trotz also cautioned not to read too much into the tandems, since they’re likely to change throughout Tuesday’s game. Trotz even hinted that a final decision on which six D-men will suit up had not yet been made. “They’re going to be shuffled from now until we get people back,” Trotz said, referring to the injured Matt Niskanen, who is week-to-week with an upper body injury. “There are pairs for practice. There are pairs for parts of games. It’ll be a little bit situational.”

 

  • If defenseman Taylor Chorney does get back into the lineup, he knows that he needs to make a positive impression after sitting out the last three games as a healthy scratch. “I’ve been through this quite a bit over the last couple of years, but at the same time you probably want to make a little bit of a statement,” he acknowledged. “So for me, if I do get the opportunity to play, it would be a big game.”  

 

  • Speaking of the Leafs, they’re off to a 4-1-0 start with Auston Matthews (5 goals, including two OT winners) leading the way. Overall, Toronto is averaging a league-leading 5.2 goals per game. As you might imagine, Trotz had a lot of praise for last season’s first round opponent in general and Matthews specifically. “If he was playing 20 years ago, we’d be saying he’s Mario Lemieux-like,” Trotz said. “He’s six-foot-[three]. He skates great. He’s got unbelievable hands. And a hockey I.Q. and he’s strong on the puck.”  

 

  • As Washington attempts to turn the page from Saturday’s 8-2 clunker in Philly, Trotz said one area he’d like to see shored up is the number of shots the Caps have been allowing. Through six games, they’re yielding 34.5 shots on goal per game (tied for ninth most). Last year, they allowed 27.8 (fourth best). “We’re not as structured defensively,” Trotz said. “We haven’t put as big an emphasis this year as we did last year. We’ve put a little more emphasis on trying to replace some of the goals that we lost. But right now we have to get a little more balance. …We have to get that back into balance; we practiced some of that today.”

 

  • As you may remember, Madison Bowey’s father, Will, jumped on the first flight out of British Columbia that he could find in the hopes of catching his son’s NHL debut Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center. As it turned out, though, he experienced a couple of travel delays and didn’t make it. Dad will, however, be in attendance Tuesday night.

 

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