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Trotz looks to spark offense by switching up offensive lines

Trotz looks to spark offense by switching up offensive lines

The Caps have stayed pretty consistent with their offensive lines this postseason, but if Friday's practice is any indication, that's about to change. Head coach Barry Trotz changed his offensive look as his team prepares for a critical Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Here's a look at the top three lines from practice on Friday:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Justin Williams

Evgeny Kuznetsov took line rushes on the top line at practice with Nicklas Backstrom moving down to the second. Trotz has matched his top line against the top lines of both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh this postseason with success...at least defensively. Sidney Crosby has only one point this series, but the trade-off has been less offensive production from the Caps' top weapons. T.J. Oshie managed a hat trick in Game 1, but since then Oveckin, Backstrom and Oshie have combined for only three points.

RELATED: Caps need more production from 'certain guys'

With both the power play and the secondary scoring dried up as well, the Caps need to find some way to spark their offense. Switching up the lines appears to be Trotz's solution.

"We've got last change so they give me a little different matchups," Trotz said. "We don't have anything to lose right now."

As the Caps return home for Game 5, they will get the last line change, allowing Trotz to get the matchups he wants more easily. If he does find success, it will be difficult to replicate that in Game 6 as Pittsburgh will get the last change, but right now the Caps are just focusing on getting to Game 6.

The move allows Trotz to continue matching Backstrom against Crosby while freeing up Ovechkin and Oshie. It also could spark more offense from Kuznetsov.

A year after a breakout postseason performance, Kuznetsov has been largely absent throught the playoffs with only two points, none of which came at even strength.

When asked about the move, Kuznetsov said he was comfortable playing with Ovechkin and it would be an easy adjustment for him.

"We know each other and we know what we need to do on ice and all," Kuznetsov said. "Maybe some small areas we will correct a little bit, but it's still same hockey. We just have to play our game."

Williams also moves down to the third line after a surprisingly rough postseason performance.

"I know I'm counted on to support this team offensively and defensively among other things so I certainly put onus on myself to be better," Williams said.

Williams has contributed four points in the playoffs, but he's also a career low minus-5 and has 12 penalty minutes in just 10 games.

The third line may change a bit for Game 5 as Mike Richards was not at practice. According to the team he was under the weather, but Trotz said he should be OK for Saturday. Whether he would take Jay Beagle's spot at third line center or move down to the fourth line remains to be seen. Richards has also underachieved this postseason with zero points.

"Using the other side of your brain once in a while when you get someone different in the lineup," Trotz said. "That's really what we're trying to do tomorrow."

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz named Jack Adams finalist

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: The Caps add two defensemen, problem solved?

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: The Caps add two defensemen, problem solved?

The Capitals got their trade deadline started early by trading for defensemen Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek. Washington has been struggling of late, but do their new acquisitions address the team's weaknesses?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir evaluate the two trades and talk about where they could fit into the lineup.

You can listen to the latest episode here on the Capitals Faceoff page or with the player below.

Want even more great Capitals coverage? Follow @TarikNBCS and @JJReganNBCS on Twitter!

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Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

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USA TODAY Sports

Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

The Capitals continued to retool their scuffling blue line on Wednesday, acquiring 26-year-old defenseman Jakub Jerabek from Montreal in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2019.

The move comes a couple of days after GM Brian MacLellan dealt a conditional third-round selection to Chicago for swift skating Michal Kempny.

Both Jerabek and Kempny are left shot, puck-moving defensemen who move well and make crisp outlet passes. Both also hail from the Czech Republic.

RELATED: BRADEN HOLTBY BLAMES HIMSELF FOR TAMPA LOSS

The team sees Jerabek as a No. 5 or 6, I’m told.

On Wednesday, the Caps also officially said goodbye to Taylor Chorney, who was claimed off waivers by Columbus. Chorney will report to the Blue Jackets.

The Caps were off on Wednesday as they made their way Florida for Thursday night’s meeting with the Panthers, so it’s unclear how Coach Barry Trotz intends to deploy his new defensemen.

But it’s probably safe to assume that Kempny will move into a spot within the top four with John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

MORE CAPITALS: GET TO KNOW MICHAL KEMPNY

That figures to leave Brooks Orpik and Jerabek on the third pair, while rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey jockey for position as the next man up.

Kempny is expected to make his Caps’ debut on Thursday night.

Is the Caps’ D corps better? Well, that remains to be seen. But it had become clear to MacLellan and Co. in recent weeks that the status quo was not going to cut it. This month, in fact, the team has allowed 39 goals in 10 games. Only the Rangers (40) have allowed more in the same span.

With the trade deadline looming next Monday, the Caps now have roughly $617,000 in cap space, according to www.capfriendly.com, and are at the roster maximum of 23 players. So they would need to make a move in order to add another body.