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Pregame primer: Backstrom returns to face Canes


Pregame primer: Backstrom returns to face Canes

News and notes as the Capitals (2-1-0, 4 points) prepare to take on the Carolina Hurricanes (1-3-0, 2 points) tonight at Verizon Center (7 p.m., CSN):

Taming the Canes: The Caps are 5-1-1 in their last seven games against the Hurricanes. Nicklas Backstrom, who returns to the lineup after missing the first three games of the season, has 46 points in 41 career games against Carolina, his most against any NHL team.  The Hurricanes are the second straight opponent visiting Verizon Center after playing the night before. The Canes won their first game, 5-3 in Detroit Friday night.

Who’s in goal: Braden Holtby (2-1-0, 2.40, .914) is expected to face Cam Ward (1-2-0, 3.07, .859). In three career appearances against the Hurricanes, Holtby is 7-4-0 with a 2.08 GAA, .942 SP and one shutout. In 34 career games against the Caps, Ward is 16-13-4 with a 2.60 GAA and .919 SP and four shutouts.

10-year Cup anniversary:  Caps RW Justin Williams was on the 2005-06 Stanley Cup champion Hurricanes. Only two players from that team remain on the Hurricanes’ current roster: Ward, who is 31, and Eric Staal, who will turn 31 on Oct. 29.

“Eric and Cam were amazing that year,” Williams said. “Staal was only in his second year and had 100 points. He took attention off of Rod Brind’Amour, who had a great year as well. (Peter) Laviolette pulled the right strings that year and Cam made his announcement he would be here to stay.”

Chorlov: The Caps have altered their third defense pairing by moving Dmitry Orlov from the right side to the left, while moving Taylor Chorney to the right. Both are left-handed and both have said they are comfortable playing either side.

“He’s got a lot on his plate this year and he’s done a really good job to this point,” Trotz said of Orlov. “I thought the left side was good for him (on Thursday).”

RELATED: Trotz unwilling to break up shut-down line

Better starts: Last season the Caps scored 67 goals in the first period, 87 goals in the second period and 78 goals in the third. This season they’ve scored three in the first, one in the second and five in the third.

“If there is anything we can correct from last year it’s we weren’t a good quick-start team,” Trotz said. “Our first periods were sort of ho-hum. We’ve got to go after teams, especially in our building.”

Passing Hatcher: With his 687th game as a Capital, Brooks Laich will pass Kevin Hatcher for 10th on the Caps’ all-time games played list.

Hey, buddy: Caps LW Jason Chimera and Carolina D Ron Hainsey played together for the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2005-08 and are close friends.

Here are projected lineups for tonight:


Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich - Chandler Stephenson - Andre Burakovsky

Defense pairings

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov -Taylor Chorney


Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Injured: Chris Brown (hand)

Scratches: Michael LattaNate SchmidtStanislav Galiev


Forward lines

Brock McGinn - Eric Staal - Kris Versteeg

Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Andrej Nestrasil

Jeff Skinner - Victor Rask - Elias Lindholm

Brad MaloneJay McClement - Chris Terry

Defense pairings

Ron Hainsey - Justin Faulk

John-Michael Liles - Michal Jordan

Noah Hanifin - Ryan Murphy


Cam Ward (starter) - Eddie Lack

Injured: James Wisniewski (torn ACL), Joakim Nordstrom (lower-body), Riley Nash (shoulder)

Scratches: Brett Pesce

MORE CAPITALS: Backstrom returns as Capitals' second-line center

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

USA Today Sports

Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

USA Today Sports

Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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