With the Caps’ fourth line struggling to generate offense, Coach Barry Trotz has decided to shake things up ahead of Saturday night’s pivotal game against the Penguins.
Paul Carey will make his postseason debut with Washington in Game 2, replacing Brett Connolly, who will be a healthy scratch.
Carey did not have a point in six regular season games with the Capitals but is a fast skater and a diligent forechecker. The 28-year-old will be skating in his first NHL playoff game since 2014 when he played sparingly in three games for the Avalanche.
“Just looking for a little bit of a fit,” Trotz said. Asked he told Carey, “I phoned him yesterday and said I think I’m going to put you in tomorrow. Enjoy it. Prepare yourself. You got this.”
Carey’s wheels figure to be an asset against a fast Pittsburgh team that’s in control after winning Game 1 on Thursday, 3-2.
“He’s a tremendous skater. He puts pressure on people,” Trotz said. “He can get to space. He’s a real good pro. He’s one of those quiet guys who prepares every day like he’s playing even if he’s not in the lineup.”
Carey conceded that he didn’t get much sleep Friday night but joked that he’s got fresh legs after sitting out the Caps’ first seven postseason games.
“I want to bring some speed, a little energy,” he said. “As you can see, I’m well rested right now. I’m hungry and ready to go.”
Carey will play alongside Jay Beagle and Daniel Winnik, both of whom are still looking for their first point. Connolly, who had played 10 or fewer shifts the past four games, also has not recorded a point. In fact, the fourth line’s only appearance on the score sheet thus far came courtesy of Tom Wilson’s unassisted overtime winner in Game 1 against Toronto. And Wilson, of course, has since been promoted to the third line.
“If our line can be effective by bringing some energy and wearing those guys down and also producing, that can really help us win,” Carey said.
Asked about centering Carey, Beagle said the journeyman is easy to play with.
“He’s easy to play with,” Beagle said. “Easy to read. A lot of speed. He’s got a complete game. Me and Winnie are excited to have him on, and we’ll try and play more in down in their end and get our cycle game going.”
Although Carey’s first NHL playoff experience was not extensive, he said the little time he received three years ago with the Avs should serve him well on Saturday.
“That definitely helps,” he said. “It’s a completely different beast from the regular season. The refs let everything go. It’s a man’s game. It’s a lot of fun.”
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