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Roy, Laich, Chimera set to battle for ice time with Backstrom out


Roy, Laich, Chimera set to battle for ice time with Backstrom out

Assuming center Nicklas Backstrom returns from offseason hip surgery sometime in the first month of the season, the Capitals are fairly certain their top two forward lines will look something like this in early November:

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky/Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Aside from the fact Tom Wilson is projected as a third-line right wing, the battle for the remaining five forward positions should be a fierce one between Burakovsky or Johansson, Jason Chimera, Derek Roy, Brooks Laich, Jay Beagle, Michael Latta and Stan Galiev.

“(Roy) is going to play with some of our top six forwards and see what we’ve got,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of the 32-year-old free agent. “Once we know where Nicky is then I think it will fall into place better.”

“I think Derek can play different parts of the lineup,” Caps general manager Brian MacLellan said. “He’s got enough skill to do that. We want to take a look at him and see how he fits in with our group, if it possibly makes our team better or it doesn’t. We’ll see how it goes in the exhibition season.”

MacLellan said the Caps’ third-line center spot is open, with Burakovsky, Roy and Beagle the likely candidates.

The real battle could come at the left wing position, where beyond Ovechkin, there is no real certainty of who will play where.

If Roy begins training camp at center and Burakovsky begins at left wing, Johansson could slide from the second line to the third line, with Laich, Chimera, Latta and Galiev pushing for spots on a fourth line with Jay Beagle.

“I think we’re looking for Brooks Laich to give us more this year, a better two-way game,” MacLellan said of the 32-year-old forward, who managed seven goals and 13 assists in 66 games last season.

“We need more offense, more plays, more goals, more production from him. He’s struggled through some injuries and we’ve been patient with him coming back and hopefully we get a little bit more out of him this year.”

It won’t take long before the Capitals start assembling their forward lines. They begin regularly scheduled practices on Saturday and kick off their seven-game preseason on Monday night against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

MORE CAPITALS: Next on Ovechkin's bucket list: Stanley Cup ring

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

3 reasons the Caps beat the Red Wings

Not much separated the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. A late 2-on-0 goal for Brett Connolly proved to be the difference.

Here's why the Caps ultimately walked away with the 1-0 win.

A first period goalie interference call

Andreas Athanasiou thought he had given the Red Wings a first period lead, but Barry Trotz challenged the call for goalie interference. The review showed that Tyler Bertuzzi clipped Philipp Grubauer in the head with an elbow right before the shot went in. Given how long it took the Caps to get going in this game, it is fair to say an early deficit would have been hard to overcome.


Killing off a full two-minute 5-on-3

Two man advantages are hard to kill. Killing off a full two-minutes at 5-on-3, that's a tall task. With the game still scoreless in the second period, T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller were both assessed penalties giving Detroit two-full minutes at 5-on-3. The Red Wings managed four shots on goal, but Washington was able to successfully kill off the penalty and keep the game scoreless.

Philipp Grubauer

There were few players who had strong efforts on Tuesday, but Grubauer was phenomenal. Even when the game felt sleepy in the first two periods, Detroit still managed 28 shots on goal, all of which were turned aside by the German netminder. When Washington finally took the lead in the third, the Red Wings woke up and began pushing the offense, but Grubauer was in the zone at that point and could not be beaten. His best save came in the third period when he stared down a breakaway from Athanasiou and extended the pad to deny the shot.


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Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

Tarik's 3 stars: Grubauer, Caps shut down the Red Wings

It wasn’t pretty but the Caps eventually got what they needed in Detroit: two points.  

After a sleepy first 40 minutes, Brett Connolly scored midway through the third period and then Philipp Grubauer made sure it stood up at Little Caesars Arena, where Washington eked out a 1-0 victory Thursday over the scuffling Red Wings.


Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Philipp Grubauer, Capitals

For much of the game, Grubi was left to fend for himself. Good thing for the Caps he was up to the task. The German netminder, who has been one of the NHL’s top goaltenders since Thanksgiving, turned aside 39 shots, including three stops on a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty kill in the second period.

2-Brett Connolly, Capitals

The Caps didn’t get many Grade-A opportunities vs. Jimmy Howard. But Connolly buried one of the few they got…on a 2-on-0, set up by Jakub Vrana in the third period.

Connolly’s goal was his 15th of the season in his 63rd game, equaling the career-high he set a year ago in 66 contests. Vrana, meantime, has three goals and five assists since getting scratched 12 games ago.

3-Lars Eller, Capitals

Eller didn’t record a point, but he was all over the puck in Motown. The veteran center finished with a game-high six shots on net. He also had a key backcheck against Darren Helm, on a shorthanded breakaway, in the first period.

Eller was good in the dot, too, winning eight of 12 faceoffs.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.