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Ovechkin, Kuznetsov set to start the season on a line together

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov set to start the season on a line together

Alex Ovechkin will start the season on a line centered by Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday.

“I’ve had them pretty well together the whole camp,” Trotz said. “You can probably see that.”

Trotz also said he intends to have T.J. Oshie centered by Nicklas Backstrom when the Caps open the regular season in Ottawa on Oct. 5.

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Trotz said his plan entering the season is to pair a high-end skill veteran wing with a high-end skill veteran center on each of the first two lines, then add a young player on the other wing.

Andre Burakovsky, 22, figures to be one of those young wingers, giving the Caps five of their top six. The sixth spot, however, remains up for grabs, with Jakub Vrana, 21, Brett Connolly, 25, and others set to compete for it.

“We’re going to start with Kuzy and probably Ovi together and probably a Backy-Osh [pairing], and we’ve got to find…who’s going to go with them,” Trotz said.

Trotz added: “Nothing is permanent in this business, as you know. But that’s probably where we want to start.”

In the battle for the final spot in the top six, Vrana will get the first chance to show what he’s got. The 2014 first round pick will skate on the right of Ovechkin and Kuznetsov as the Caps play preseason game No. 2 in Montreal on Wednesday night.   

“The thing with ‘V’ is he’s a young guy who’s got speed,’ Trotz said of Vrana. “He can get to space, and when he does, he can shoot it. There are very few guys that can skate with Kuzy. We drafted him to be a high prospect and we want to put him in that position. It’s in his hands now.”

Trotz said he’ll reveal the rest of the lineup that’s headed to Bell Centre on Wednesday morning. 

MORE CAPITALS: WHO IMPRESSED IN THE CAPS' PRESEASON OPENER

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Burakovsky may be healthy, but he is still adjusting to the speed of the game

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Burakovsky may be healthy, but he is still adjusting to the speed of the game

Andre Burakovsky was considered a key piece of the Capitals offense this year, but a thumb injury in late October forced him out of the lineup until Dec. 8.

But just because he is healthy does not mean he is back to game speed yet and that is evident in his stats. In four games since he has returned, Burakovsky has only one point to show for it, an assist against the Colorado Avalanche.

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“Stops and starting and turning feels, I think when I'm skating, I feel like it's a little bit odd,” Burakovsky said after practice on Friday. “But I think stickhandling and passing and shooting is coming back. I had a couple good looks [Thursday against the Boston Bruins], it's just some bad luck. Just sometimes when I skate I can feel like it's still a little bit different.”

When a player misses six weeks like Burakovsky did, he has two hurdles to clear before he is truly “100-percent.” First, he must get healthy. Second, and one aspect that many forget is the process of getting back into game speed.

Burakovsky has done the first part, but he is still working on the second.

“Just like any player coming back, they're not going to be 100-percent all the time in the whole thought process, the whole game process,” Barry Trotz said. “He's missed six weeks. He's in great shape, he's worked hard, he's done all that but it's just getting the timing. You've been skating and working with guys and haven't had six weeks of people tracking you down, leaning on you, putting pressure on your stick and the puck and all that. Those plays are a little harder to make because you haven't had that for six weeks.”

MORE CAPITALS: WHEN WILL OSHIE RETURN TO THE CAPS' LINEUP?

For a player like Burakovsky who wants to produce points, that process can get frustrating. He’s back in the lineup and getting minutes, but not points as he continues to get back up to speed.

“Obviously, I'm trying not to get frustrated, but I'm just a player that's really hard on myself,” he said. “When things aren't going 100-percent the right way, I'm getting hard on myself. I'm trying not to think too much about it, just trying to do all the right things.”

It’s all just part of the process for a player who needs to realize that being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re 100-percent.

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Game 34: Capitals vs. Ducks Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 34: Capitals vs. Ducks Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Anaheim Ducks

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

When: 8:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Ducks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Ducks game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-DUCKS GAME?

The Capitals (20-12-1) take on the Ducks (14-11-7) Saturday, December 16 at 7:00 p.m. ET at Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-DUCKS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Ducks game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 7:00 p.m. followed by Capitals GameTime at 7:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra, Caps Overtime at 11:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 12 a.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

7:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Ducks
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
12:00 a.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-DUCKS GAME?

The Capitals-Ducks game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, 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.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR CAPITALS-DUCKS?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

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

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Christian Djoos - Madison Bowey

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury), Taylor Chorney

CAPITALS-DUCKS 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.