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Trotz shakes things up on Caps' fourth line

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Trotz shakes things up on Caps' fourth line

Quick hits from today’s morning skate at Kettler, where the Capitals (21-6-2, 44 points) prepared for tonight’s game against the Ottawa Senators (16-10-5, 37 points) at Verizon Center (6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN+):

Latta in, Galiev out: After playing Stan Galiev in favor of Michael Latta the past two games, Barry Trotz will put Latta back in the lineup, centering a fourth line with left wing Brooks Laich and right wing Andre Burakovsky.

“They’ve got a few physical players and they’re real dynamic on the rush,” Trotz said.

Aside from what he described as a poor line change that led to a goal against, Trotz said he liked the way Galiev played in games in Tampa and Pittsburgh. He was snuffed by Marc-Andre Fleury on a partial breakaway Monday night.

“He’s coming,” Trotz said of Galiev. “I liked Stan a lot, actually.”

Stopping Karlsson: The Caps will spend a lot of time tonight focusing on Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson, who leads the Sens and all NHL defensemen with 34 points in 31 games (7 goals, 27 assists).

“He plays a little bit like Mike Green did five or six years ago,” said Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who will make his 25th start of the season. “He’s always up in the rush. You just have to be aware because he adds that different element.”

Caps defenseman Karl Alzner called Karlsson the best offensive defenseman in the NHL.

“We can’t be turning the puck over, especially with him out there,” Alzner said. “We need to hit him and stick him. We can’t just let him roll off checks because he joins the rush and when you have four guys in the rush it’s hard to defend.”

Best start: The Caps’ 21-6-2 record is their best to start a season. They’ve earned at least a point in 10 of their last 11 games (9-1-1) and lead the Eastern Conference with 44 points.

“We’re winning games in different ways,” Caps right wing Justin Williams said. “We’re winning them 2-1, we’re winning them 5-4. And sometimes we’re winning games that maybe we shouldn’t win. Those are all good things. Regardless of how you play, you get the win and you want to keep pushing to be better.”

Here are the Caps’ projected lineup for tonight:

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich – Michael Latta – Andre Burakovsky

Defense pairs

Nate Schmidt – John Carlson

Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov – Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) – Philipp Grubauer

Extras: Chris Brown, Stan Galiev, Aaron Ness

[RELATED: Are the Caps relying too much on Braden Holtby?]

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Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

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NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Extra Podcast: Trade deadline story time with Alan May

Alan May knows a thing or two about the trade deadline.

Over the course of his NHL career, May was traded five total times, four at the trade deadline. He sits down with Rob Carlin on a special edition of the Capitals Extra Podcast to tell stories from his playing days about what it was like getting traded.

This one's a can't miss for hockey fans. You can listen to the episode here on the Capitals Extra page or with the player below.

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NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Awards tracker: Where would the Caps' offense be without Ovechkin?

The Hart Trophy is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to their team. With the Caps currently struggling in almost every aspect of the game, consider this: Just where would they be without Alex Ovechkin?

Washington ranks 10th in the NHL in goals per game with 3.05. Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals with 36. He has scored an incredible 19-percent of his team's goals. No one on the Caps is within 20 goals of the Caps' captain.

That's not a typo. Evgeny Kuznetsov ranks second on the team with 16 goals. No other team in the league has a larger separation between its top two scorers. In fact, only three teams have a difference that's in the double digits: Vancouver (11), San Jose (10) and New Jersey (10).

Ovechkin is almost singlehandedly propping up Washington as a top-ten offense. If you think about just where this offense would be without him, there's a pretty strong case to be made that Ovechkin is as valuable to his team this season as any other player in the league.

SEE THIS WEEK'S 2018 NHL AWARDS TRACKER HERE

Here are the Caps' hopefuls for awards this season:

John Carlson

In contention for: Norris

Carlson is fifth among all defensemen with 45 points, but his case goes beyond the numbers. With a blue line that has featured two rookies the majority of the season, an aging veteran in Brooks Orpik and that had to deal with an injury to Matt Niskanen, the Caps have asked a lot of Carlson this season and he has always been up to the task.

Alex Ovechkin

In contention for: Hart

Few players, if any, are as important to their team's offensive production and therefore its success than Ovechkin has been this season.

Check out who the top candidates are for the league's major individual awards in this week's 2018 NHL Awards Tracker!