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Barry Trotz contemplates lineup changes ahead of Capitals' game vs. Avalanche

Barry Trotz contemplates lineup changes ahead of Capitals' game vs. Avalanche

Winger Brett Connolly and backup goalie Philipp Grubauer could make their season debuts Tuesday when the Capitals host the Avalanche.

“I’m thinking probably Brett, possibly, in tomorrow,” Trotz said after Monday’s practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “And same with Gruby, possibly. We’ll make that decision and go from there.”

Connolly is the only Capitals’ forward who hasn’t suited up yet. On Monday, he worked on a four-man third line along with rookie Zach Sanford and veterans Lars Eller and Justin Williams.

“We’re blessed that we’ve got seven defensemen who are capable of playing and we’ve got 13 forwards who are very capable of playing [different] roles,” Trotz said. “Decisions are, obviously, not easy decisions. Players make those decisions [with their play], for the most part.”

After going scoreless in five preseason games, Connolly, who signed a one-year contract in July after Boston declined to retain his rights, has been the odd man out.

“With Cono, I look at him as a guy who can play [on lines] one through three, really,” Trotz said. “His skill set indicates that he should be able to be in all of those roles. ...He’s a really good skater, got a real good attitude. He’s got really good speed. He can shoot the puck. In the preseason, I liked a lot of his game; he just didn’t find the back of the net.”

RELATED: Trotz met with Ovechkin, linemates to address slow start

Trotz also noted Connolly’s hustle in practice as one reason he’s under consideration for a sweater against Colorado.

“I thought he was our best worker today, by far,” Trotz said.

As for Grubauer, Trotz said he’s hoping to keep his No. 2 netminder sharp while managing Holtby’s workload. The Capitals’ first set of back-to-back games aren’t until Nov. 11-12 in Chicago and Carolina, respectively.       

“It’s important for the whole journey that we get right number of games, keep both goalies sharp and not overwork guys,” Trotz said.

Holtby appeared in 73 games in 2014-15. That total, however, dropped to 66 last season as he went on to win a whopping 48 games and claim the Vezina Trophy.

“I thought last year with Holtby we did a better job of [managing his number of starts] than we did the year before,” Trotz said. “And I’d like to do a better job [this season] than we did last year even.”

MORE CAPITALS: Power play lacking firepower 

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.