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Caps make lineup adjustments for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final

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Caps make lineup adjustments for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final

TAMPA—Caps Coach Barry Trotz has made some adjustments to his forward lines ahead of Saturday’s Game 5 at Amalie Arena.

Nicklas Backstrom received a promotion in his second game back from injury, Andre Burakovsky is the odd forward out and Alex Chiasson draws back into the Caps’ lineup as they look to continue their winning ways on the road. The series is knotted 2-2, with both teams winning twice on enemy ice.

Backstrom’s promotion should come as no surprise; he skated 18:51 on Thursday night and played well, winning six of nine faceoffs and putting four shots on net.

“When you come back from any injury, the player usually takes a game or two,” Trotz said. “He didn’t take a game or two. He was ready to go.”

Burakovsky’s benching, meanwhile, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, either. The 23-year-old winger has struggled mightily since returning from injury, producing just two shots and no points in four previous games. He also saw his role and playing time decrease significantly the last two games.

“This is a ‘now’ business right now,” Trotz said of benching Burky. “Talking with staff, looking at his game, we just felt that this is the best lineup for tonight. That doesn’t mean Andre is not going to be back in or anything like that. He’s a good young player.”

With Burakovsky out, Chiasson will return to the lineup after sitting out Thursday as a healthy scratch. Chiasson has a goal and an assist in 15 postseason games.

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The Caps aren't leading the Metro Division for the first time since Oct. 19

The Caps aren't leading the Metro Division for the first time since Oct. 19

For the first time since Oct. 19, the Capitals do not sit in first place of the Metropolitan Division. The Pittsburgh Penguins jumped Washington with a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday ending a streak of 122 days in which the Caps sat atop the division.

Pittsburgh won despite Evgeni Malkin missing the game due to illness. It was a fitting way to take first place given how the Penguins have overcome a number of significant injuries this season. Anthony Angelo played in Malkin’s place and scored his first NHL goal. Jason Zucker also scored his third goal in just his fourth game with the Penguins after getting acquired by Pittsburgh in a trade.

Pittsburgh has now won six of its last eight with its only two losses coming against the red-hot Tampa Bay Lightning.

By contract, the Caps have lost four of their last five. Since Dec. 23, no team in the Metropolitan Division has earned fewer points than Washington which has gone 11-11-0 during the stretch, allowing Pittsburgh to close the gap in the standings.

The Caps and Penguins appear to be two teams headed in different directions. The good news for Washington is that it is February and there is still time for them to rally. With three games left to be played between the Caps and Pittsburgh this season, Washington will have ample opportunity to reclaim supremacy of the division. For now, however, the Penguins certainly look like the team to beat within the Metro.

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Trade acquisition Brenden Dillon ‘couldn’t be happier’ to be joining Capitals

Trade acquisition Brenden Dillon ‘couldn’t be happier’ to be joining Capitals

The Capitals made their first significant trade of the season on Tuesday, acquiring defenseman Brenden Dillon from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick and a conditional 2021 third.

Dillon, who’s spent the last six seasons with the Sharks, was emotional Monday night when asked for his thoughts on potentially playing his last game with San Jose. He choked up during his answer and had to walk away from the media scrum to collect himself.

The mood was a bit different Tuesday when Dillon found out he’d be heading to D.C. to play with the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals.

“I’m really excited,” Dillon said. “I can’t wait to get out there. I mean obviously the opportunity, the team, the group, what an opportunity.”

The Capitals have been widely rumored to be seeking a defenseman to bolster their blue line and Dillon was an attractive piece as Washington didn’t have to part with a first-round pick in order to get him. After losing six of their last nine games, the Capitals are looking for a spark—and Dillon can’t wait to help get them back on track.

“It’s been crazy, it really has,” Dillon said. “I think just mentally, guys can say, ‘You don’t read this or don’t read that.’ But it wears on you for sure and I’ve just kinda tried to bring the lunch pail to work every day and do my job. But definitely couldn’t be happier to get going.”

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