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Trotz gives Caps day off the ice, hints at changes

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Trotz gives Caps day off the ice, hints at changes

Coming off a physical 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday and facing back-to-back games against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers Friday and Saturday, Capitals coach Barry Trotz cancelled practice on Thursday, instead directing players through a video session.

Trotz said he thought the Verizon Center was “really warm” Wednesday night and several players lost a lot of body weight in the loss to the Penguins. The team measures each player’s body weight after every game.

Defenseman Karl Alzner said it was a good move by the head coach.

“Last night was our toughest physical game we played so far and I think guys were feeling it a little today,” Alzner said, referring to the combined 61 hits between the Pens and Caps. “It came at a good time.”

“Sometimes,” Trotz said, “rest is a weapon.”

Left wing Jason Chimera said Thursday’s video session emphasized some of the details that led to scoring chances on both sides. Several players said too many neutral zone giveaways led to offensive chances by the Penguins, who were outshot by the Caps 34-25.

“It wasn’t like a rip-your-butt session,” Chimera said. “We did some good things, we did some bad things and like every game you learn to correct some things and try to do what you did good, better. We didn’t play too bad last night. It’s just like playoffs, you’ve got to move on from it right away and don’t let your mistakes compound.”    

With the Caps sitting in third place in the Metro Division with a 6-2-0 record, Trotz said he will make a few lineup changes for Friday’s game against the Blue Jackets, who have won two of their three games since replacing head coach Todd Richards with former Lightning, Rangers and Canucks coach John Tortorella.

“I would probably say yes, absolutely,” Trotz said. “Maybe Latts (Michael Latta) or Gally (right wing Stan Galiev) because they haven’t been in, and Schmitty (defenseman Nate Schmidt). I’d say there will be a couple changes.”

Schmidt, a left-handed shooter, has been learning to play the right side at practice, while Dmitry Orlov is growing accustomed to playing the left side after starting the season on the right. If that holds true, the Caps likely would replace Taylor Chorney with Schmidt.

As for the fourth line, which was on the ice for Phil Kessel’s game-winning goal Wednesday night, rookie center Chandler Stephenson could sit out his first game after playing his first six in a row. Stephenson, 21, has averaged 8:01 in ice time and is a minus-3 in those games.  

“Being on a fourth line is sometimes tough for a young player,” Trotz said, “because most young players that get called up are playing 20 minutes a night in Hershey and then all of a sudden they’re playing eight and that’s a hard role.

“That’s why a lot of teams have three veteran players on that fourth line, because they know how to deal with that.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz wants Capitals to show more resilience

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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.