Coach Barry Trotz scrambled his forward lines ahead of Saturday’s game in Edmonton, where the Caps will be looking to stem a two-game slide against Connor McDavid and the Oilers (10 p.m. NBC Sports Washington).
Here’s how Trotz had his forwards lined up:
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Smith-Pelly
Vrana – Backstrom – Oshie
Stephenson – Eller – Wilson
Chiasson – Beagle – Peluso
Here’s what you need to know about that alignment:
- Nicklas Backstrom appears set to return after missing Thursday’s game with an illness. Which, of course, is huge for a banged-up Caps' team that has been limited to two or fewer goals in four of the last five games.
- Brett Connolly looks to be out after taking that big hit from Canucks Dman Erik Gudbranson. Connolly was placed in the concussion protocol after leaving Thursday's game in the second period. He could be out Sunday in Calgary, too.
- A couple of days after Trotz hinted that he envisioned a promotion in Devante Smith-Pelly’s future, and that he suspected Smith-Pelly could complement “higher-end” players, we’re going to see top-six DSP for the first time. Chiasson skated with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov in Vancouver; now Chiasson is back on the fourth line.
- Chandler Stephenson, who scored his first NHL goal in Vancouver, slides over to the wing and replaces Connolly on Lars Eller's line. Jakub Vrana, meantime, returns to the top-six.
- Anthony Peluso, who was recalled from minor league Hershey, will skate on the fourth line. As I wrote Friday, part of the reason the Caps opted to recall Peluso as opposed to a prospect is this: he's played 142 NHL games and, at 6-3 and 225 pounds, can serve as a bit of deterrent vs. an Oilers’ team that’s got some ruggedness in Zack Kassian, Milan Lucic, etc. If things get rough, it also means Peluso—and not Tom Wilson—can answer the bell.
- Braden Holtby is expected to start, which could mean Philipp Grabauer will get the backend of back-to-back. Again.