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Trotz unveils Caps' power play and penalty kill units

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USA TODAY Sports

Trotz unveils Caps' power play and penalty kill units

On Monday, Coach Barry Barry Trotz showed us what he’s thinking about for opening night forward lines and D pairs.

On Tuesday, he showed us what he’s thinking about for special team units.

The first power play unit featured forwards Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman John Carlson.

The second power play unit had forwards Andre Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly as well as defensemen Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov.

“We want to get something sorta in place,” Trotz said of the power play configurations. “That’s maybe where we’ll to try to start. That's really the first idea. …Yeah, you can read into it.”

RELATED: WHY TOM WILSON'S SUSPENSION MATTERS

The Caps have three preseason games remaining; the regular season begins Oct. 5 in Ottawa.

Tuesday's first power play unit had Kuznetsov in the spot vacated by Marcus Johansson, who was traded to the Devils in July. While it’s a promotion for Kuznetsov, it leaves the second unit without a center.

“That’s the negative,” Trotz said of promoting the Russian pivot to unit No. 1.

To that point, Trotz said Connolly will take the right side faceoffs and Burakovsky will take the left side draws.

For Connolly, starting the season with a full-time role on the power play unit represents a signficant step up in terms of responsibility. Last season, he scored once on the man advantage but was used sparingly.

“Conno is an instinctive goalscorer,” Trotz said. “He’s got a really good, quick release.”

Connolly, who was positioned on the goal line on Tuesday, added: “It’s obviously a great opportunity. I’ve had this opportunity before and I had to work hard to get that again. So I want to take advantage of it.”  

Trotz also put on display what he’s thinking about for his penalty kill units. The first forward pair was Tom Wilson and Lars Eller, while the second pair was Tyler Graovac and Jay Beagle.

One defensive pair on the penalty kill was Brooks Orpik and rookie Madison Bowey. (The primary penalty-killing D were probably being used on the power play in Tuesday’s drills.)

What stood out about the penalty kill groupings was Graovac’s continued ascension on the depth chart following his breakout performance in Friday’s preseason game against the Blues. Graovac was not used on the penalty kill last season in Minnesota, but Trotz likes his mobility and, at 6 foot 5, his long reach. From an Xs and Os standpoint, Trotz also likes the flexibility of having Graovac and Beagle, a pair of natural centers, on the same PK pair for faceoffs.

“He’s got some reach—that’s an advantage for a penalty killer,” Trotz said of Graovac. “He did a really good job in penalty kill situations in his first two [preseason] games, and faceoffs were a big component of that.”

Trotz added: “They sort themselves out as they go along. We’ll see if he can sustain his first two games.”

The Caps also worked on shootouts, with Oshie, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Burakovsky and Ovechkin taking reps.

MORE CAPITALS: TOM WILSON'S NOT GOING TO CHANGE HIS GAME EVEN AFTER THE SUSPENSION

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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NBC Sports Washington

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise. Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Towes intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. Toews' interception led to a 2-on-0 in the second period. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal. He also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board. Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.