Forward Michael Latta and defenseman Nate Schmidt will return to the Capitals lineup tonight when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Verizon Center (6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN) because …
“A loss,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “Bored.”
Latta, a healthy scratch the past six games, will replace rookie center Chandler Stephenson, who was on the ice for the Penguins’ game-winning goal Wednesday night in a 3-1 loss. Latta will play right wing on a fourth line with Andre Burakovsky moving to left wing and Brooks Laich moving to center.
“He’s got an edge,” Trotz said. “He’s a good draw guy. He can have an effect, but he’s got to show it on the ice.”
Latta has not played since the Caps’ 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks in the second game of the season.
“It’s unfortunate you’ve got to lose to go back in but I’m excited to get back in, It’s been a couple tough weeks sitting out and not going to battle with your teammates every night.”
During his time as a healthy scratch Latta worked with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish on improving his explosiveness and quickness. In 53 games with the Caps last season Latta had no goals and six assists while averaging 8:31 in ice time. His last NHL goal came on Nov. 15, 2013, a span of 62 games.
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On the back end, Schmidt will return to the lineup in place of veteran Taylor Chorney and will play on the right side of Dmitry Orlov on the Caps’ third defense pairing. Schmidt has no points and three shots in three games this season.
Trotz said he moved Orlov, who is left-handed and has played most of his career on the right side, to the left because it helps him both offensively and defensively.
“I thought last game was his best game of the year,” Trotz said. “It’s taken a while to get all the rust off but his game is starting to have a real sound level of consistency that we know he has. … We feel he’s got top four talent.”
Schmidt, who is also left-handed, said he played on the right side during his three seasons at Minnesota. He said playing the off side (a left-handed shooter on the right side of the ice) is an advantage offensively and can be a bit of a disadvantage defensively.
“I think they’re trying to figure out something that works for everybody,” Schmidt said. “There’s a huge advantage to play your offside in the offensive zone. You’re always in a shooting position on your forehand. It’s mostly neutral zone stuff, where you’re catching pucks on your backhand and you don’t have your body facing the ice; you’re more turned sideways.”
Trotz said goaltender Braden Holtby (5-2-0) will get the start tonight, with backup Philipp Grubauer possibly getting the start Saturday night when the Caps visit the Florida Panthers.
“I might, yes,” Trotz said when asked about starting Grubauer in Florida.
Here’s a look at how the Caps should look tonight:
Andre Burakovsky - Brooks Laich – Michael Latta
Dmitry Orlov – Nate Schmidt
Scratches: Chandler Stephenson, Taylor Chorney, Stan Galiev
Injured: Chris Brown (hand)
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