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Capitals don't mind carrying 23 players ... for now

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Capitals don't mind carrying 23 players ... for now

Now that center Nicklas Backstrom has returned to the lineup after nearly five months of rehab from hip surgery, the Capitals find themselves with more healthy forwards than they need.

The team took the NHL maximum of 23 players with them on their three-game road trip, which begins tonight in Calgary against the Flames (8:30 p.m. pregame, CSN). With center Chandler Stephenson and defenseman Taylor Chorney coming off strong games over the weekend, forwards Stan Galiev and Michael Latta and defenseman Nate Schmidt are expected to be healthy scratches again tonight.

“I’m not a big proponent of 23, but three things come into play,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said when asked about taking a full roster to western Canada.

“Financially, where we are within the cap system. Two, if a player is not playing very long and he’s not developing, that’s not really what we want. And the third one is the waiver situation for guys that can get exposed. If we’re going to expose anybody we want to make sure we’re healthy.”

RELATED: Hendricks placed on IR, will miss Friday's game against Caps

According to generalfanager.com, the Caps are roughly $436,000 under the salary cap, so there are no real issues there. Ideally, Trotz would like to carry 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies. With that in mind, Galiev is the most likely player the Caps would assign to Hershey, but he would need to clear waivers to get there.

Barring injuries, the Caps likely will wait until they return from Canada on Saturday to make any roster moves.

Chorlov: Trotz said he was pleased with the way his third defense pairing looked in Saturday night’s 4-1 win over Carolina, so look for Taylor Chorney, 28, and Dmitry Orlov, 24, to stay together tonight in Calgary, with Nate Schmidt remaining a healthy scratch.

Chorney and Orlov are left-handed shooters with experience of playing both sides. But after two games on the right side, the Caps moved Orlov to the left.  

“I thought the left side was good for him,” Trotz said.

The Capitals like the calm, consistent play of Chorney, especially when matched with Orlov, whose unpredictability can be both entertaining and maddening.

“I think I’ve been playing so-so,” said Orlov, who has one assist and is a minus-1 while averaging 13:25 in ice time. “I made some turnovers. Maybe I just need to play simple. If I have a chance to make a play, make a good pass. If not, just chip it off the boards and get it out of our zone.”

Essentially, that’s what Chorney (plus-1, 14:06) has been doing in his two games since replacing Schmidt.

“He’s skating,” Trotz said. “Sometimes you have to skate pucks out of trouble and he did that (against Carolina).”

Chorney said one of the reasons he signed with the Capitals is because of their need for someone who could play either side of the ice.

“They’re going to need left-handed guys who play right,” he said. “I played the right side with Wilkes-Barre and with Pittsburgh last season. At this point I don’t care who I play with or what side. I just want to go out there and do my thing.”

MORE CAPITALS: Caps say they're in a better place than a year ago

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.