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Will Caps, Sabres create pre-New Year's fireworks?

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Will Caps, Sabres create pre-New Year's fireworks?

Capitals center Michael Latta says that if Buffalo Sabres forward Nicolas Deslauriers knew that Latta’s arm went numb during their fight on Monday night, he probably wouldn’t have emphatically celebrated his victory over Latta by thrusting his arms in the air.

“The fight was going fine and then I tweaked something and my arm kind of went numb,” said Latta, who will be replaced by Zach Sill when the Capitals face the Sabres again tonight at Verizon Center.

“You saw what happened after. I couldn’t hang on. I didn’t have any grip left in my hand. He thought he beat me pretty good, but my arm kind of got numb.

“I’m not sure if he knew what happened. I don’t think he would have been cheering like that if he knew. … I would never do that, personally. I don’t think many guys in the league do that anymore. I think he embarrassed himself, more than anything.”

With Latta out of the lineup, Sill, who has 96 penalty minutes in 83 career NHL games, will make his Capitals debut tonight against the Sabres.

Could that mean some pre-New Year’s Eve fireworks?

“For sure, there could be some things going on out there – and it could be really quiet,” Deslauriers told the Buffalo News. “We’ll just see. I’m here to play hockey. I’m not here to fight every single game. We’ll try to get a win down there.”

“I’m just going to bring energy, a physical presence,” said Sill, a 6-foot, 202-pound veteran. “Hopefully, create some energy and run around a little bit with my linemates and do what a fourth line does.”

Sill, 27, said he didn’t see Monday night’s game between the Caps and Sabres but has been informed that Deslauriers’ questionable hit on Justin Williams led to the fight between him and Latta. Asked if there could be some spillover, tonight, Sill shrugged his shoulders.

“It can,” he said. “I’m not saying that it will. It was a good game and hopefully it will be another hard-fought game tonight. I’m going to finish my checks. I’m going to play hard. I don’t feel any pressure filling in for Latta.”

For his part, Williams seemed amused by all the fuss created by Deslauriers’ hit on him, even though the stick he took to the mouth opened up a cut that required five stitches to close. Williams said he appreciated Latta’s response but didn’t feel it was necessary.

“Nothing epitomizes a team more than people sticking up for each other,” he said. “Although I deemed it unnecessary, it makes you feel good. I love having guys like that on my team, who go to war with you. No matter if you’re right or wrong they have your back and everyone on this team feels the same way.

“It adds to the pack mentality,” Williams continued. “When someone hits someone and you’ve got 20 guys on your bench yelling at the guy it has an impact. I don’t care if it’s 2015 or 1995, it still has an impact on how others play the game. I love having guys like that on my team.

“I don’t need anyone fighting my battles for me, but he’s certainly more than capable of doing it.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Latta likely will return to the lineup Thursday night when the Capitals visit Carolina. Asked why Sill was the player the Caps recalled, Trotz said, “Center ice.”

Trotz also said the second game of a home-and-home can become a little more personal between the two teams.

“If anything goes on (in the first game) it tends to get a little more personal,” Trotz said. “You play one game and you move on. You play a team twice, depending on how the game is going, I think it becomes a little more personal.”  

Williams said he doesn’t expect anything more than a hard-fought game tonight.

“What’s going to happen is going to happen, but I certainly don’t see any bad blood,” he said. “It would have to be a lot worse thing than what happened.”

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz won't rule Carlson out despite MRI

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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came at the 2:30 mark of the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby. On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life. The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.

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Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

Capitals place Taylor Chorney on waivers, which could signal something, or nothing

When the Capitals acquired defenseman Michal Kempny on Monday, that put the team at the maximum of 23 players on the roster including eight defenseman.

Another move seemed likely and the Caps made it on Tuesday by placing veteran blueliner Taylor Chorney on waivers.

Teams now will have 24 hours to potentially claim Chorney. Should he clear at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, it is expected that he will be sent to the Hershey Bears of the AHL. Whether he is claimed or sent to Hershey, his entire $800,000 cap hit will no longer count against the Capitals' salary.

One important thing to note, however, is that placing Chorney on waivers was not required in order for Washington to remain under the salary cap.

Having eight defensemen would mean scratching two every game — assuming the team does not dress seven and after that failed experiment in last year's playoffs, why would they — which means it would be a struggle to make sure everyone gets consistent playing time in the final weeks of the season.

Perhaps placing Chorney on waivers is the team trying to get him more playing time to keep him sharp in case the team suffers injuries on the blue line and he is called upon in the playoffs.

Or perhaps it could mean something else.

RELATED: RANKING THE CAPITALS' TOP PROSPECTS

Chorney played on Feb. 15, but that was during the mentor's trip. Barry Trotz's policy for those trips is to get everyone in at least one of those two games. Before that, Chorney had not played since Jan. 2. It certainly seems like the team was comfortable with him being the designated No. 7 and was not all that concerned about getting him regular playing time before now.

When asked if the Kempny trade would mean any roster moves, Trotz said Monday that he was not sure and hinted that perhaps more moves could be coming from general manager Brian MacLellan. Moving Chorney's salary off the books does not clear much cap room, but it does clear some.

Perhaps MacLellan has another move up his sleeve before Monday's trade deadline.