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It might be time for nicknaming Caps lines

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It might be time for nicknaming Caps lines

Capitals coach Barry Trotz has been around hockey long enough to know not to mess with success, so there’s a good chance the Caps’ lineup will look the same tonight against the Canucks in Vancouver (10 p.m., CSN) as it did in Tuesday night’s 6-2 win over the Flames in Calgary.

“I think we’re playing a higher pace than we were the first couple games,” Trotz told reporters in Vancouver when asked about the Caps’ 4-1-0 start to the season. “I think we’re catching up to game speed a little bit and when we’re playing at game speed I think we can make some plays.

“Getting Backy back puts everybody in the right order.”

Before Nicklas Backstrom returned from offseason arthroscopic hip surgery on Saturday night, Trotz considered dozens of different line combinations. But instead of re-assembling all four lines, he left the top unit of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie and the checking unit of Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson untouched, while creating a new second line of Marcus Johansson, Backstrom and Justin Williams.

RELATED: Prospect Report: A big week for Chandler Stephenson

In the two games since Backstrom’s’ return, Ovechkin and Oshie each have two goals and one assist, Kuznetsov has three assists; Backstrom has three goals and two assists, Williams has two assists and Johansson has provided net-presence screens on three goals.

 “I like the way the lines are right now,” Trotz said, noting Chimera’s “nail in the coffin” third-period goal against the Flames. “They’re playing quick. You can basically throw any line out there right now. They all kind of have their own unique qualities that make them good.”

While the Caps’ top line is built on power and skill, their second line possesses a blend of speed and defensive awareness, while their third line is a seek-and-destroy unit that can shut down some of the NHL’s top offensive units.

The Caps’ fourth line presents an interesting combination of speed and skill (Andre Burakovsky), grit along the walls (Brooks Laich) and defensive awareness (Chandler Stephenson).

Tonight in Vancouver look for the Beagle line to see a lot of the Canucks’ new top line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin with Radim Vrbata. Vrbata led the Canucks with 31 goals last season but has not found the net in six games this season.

Spreading ice time: The Caps’ penalty kill has been a perfect 7-for-7 the past three games and Trotz said a big reason is fresher legs.

Last season six forwards carried most of the penalty killing load, with Brooks Laich (2:10), Troy Brouwer (2:06), Jay Beagle (1:51), Joel Ward (1:39), Jason Chimera (1:23) and Eric Fehr (1:23) leading all forwards in shorthanded ice time.

This season, the Caps are trying to add Wilson to that forward rotation on kills. So far, shorthanded ice time has been spread among seven forwards like this: Laich (2:09), Beagle (1:53), Oshie (1:38), Williams (1:30), Backstrom (1:26), Chimera (1:22), Wilson (1:01).     

“I think we have more guys doing it this year than last year,” Trotz said. “I’d like to go eight guys deep.”

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Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Alex Ovechkin said the Caps would return to Washington with a tied series. The Caps captain is a man of his word as the Caps won both Game 3 and Game 4 to even up the series at two games apiece.

John Tortorella had no answers after seeing his Columbus Blue Jackets fall in Game 4, but he will have to figure things out quickly as the series shifts back to Washington for a pivotal Game 5.

The Caps return home with two straight wins and all the momentum. There's just one problem: No one seemingly can win at home.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 5

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

When: 3:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC.

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 on NBC Sports' live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 5 on Saturday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. ET in Washington. The series is tied 2-2.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 2:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 2:30 p.m. Tune back to NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 6:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

2:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
2:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
3:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Blue Jackets on NBC
5:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
6:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 5 is available to stream live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

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

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS 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.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Now it's a series

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: Now it's a series

The Caps looked to be in real trouble after blowing leads and losing in overtime in both Game 1 and Game 2.

After two straight wins, however, Washington is in control against the Columbus Blue Jackets as the series returns to Washington, D.C. for Game 5. 

On the latest eipisode of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast, JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir talk about what changed for the Capitals between Game 2 and 3, as well as resetting their series predictions.

And as always, they answer several viewer questions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page