Nate Schmidt made Barry Trotz’s lineup decision tougher with his recent play, but not tough enough to stay in the lineup.

After serving a two-game suspension, Kevin Shattenkirk will play in Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators. That was not unexpected, but Trotz did hint after Tuesday’s game that perhaps Schmidt could stay in the lineup saying, “We do have a little bit of an interesting scenario here. [Schmidt] stepped in and is making our decisions tougher.”

As the team took to the ice for morning skate Thursday, however, the pairs returned to what they were before Shattenkirk’s suspension.

Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – Kevin Shattenkirk

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Following the skate, Trotz made very clear the team’s defensive depth chart.

“Our top six are what you're going to see tonight. That's our top six. Nate is seven and what I said is he played very well and made some decisions tougher. And that's his job as a player. He's in that seven hole and that's perfect.”

The Caps snapped a four-game losing streak on Tuesday with a win over the Minnesota Wild in a game in which Nate Schmidt scored. With the Caps back in the win column, some wondered if that meant Schmdit may get another game in Shattenkirk’s place.

 

But that was never going to happen.

The Caps showed what bringing left-right balance to each defensive pairs meant to them by trading Zach Sanford, a first-round pick and a conditional pick in order to acquire Shattenkirk. That made it unlikely that Schmidt, a left-handed shot, would stay in the lineup over Shattenkirk, a right-handed shot.

“When you make trades you make yourself deeper,” Trotz said. “[Genearl manager Brian MacLellan] did that to make us deeper and give us a better chance and Nate has been in that sort of six hole all year. Shattenkirk, we didn't get him to be the seventh. Those are our six and [Schmidt’s] seventh.”

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