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Caps' Alex Ovechkin to sit out NHL All-Star Game in Nashville

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Caps' Alex Ovechkin to sit out NHL All-Star Game in Nashville

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin will not be playing in the NHL All-Star Game on Sunday in Nashville, Capitals coach Barry Trotz confirmed following Wednesday night’s game against the Flyers at Verizon Center.

TSN's Elliotte Friedman first reported the news.

Trotz confirmed Ovechkin will be suspended one game for his decision to skip the All-Star Game. That one-game suspension will be served next Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.

Ovechkin, 30, was the leading vote-getter among Metropolitan Division players and was named captain of the Metro All-Stars.

Ovechkin has been selected to play in six NHL All-Star Games but sat out the 2011-12 All-Star Game in Ottawa after he was suspended by the league just before All-Star weekend.

Trotz said Ovechkin has been bothered by an injury since November.

On Tuesday Ovechkin said he was “looking forward” to playing in Sunday’s All-Star Game and said the decision not to play was a "last-minute" one.

“Probably (for) most of the guys going it’s going to be hard to skate," Ovechkin said on Tuesday, "because we are going to spend there like two days before the game, so probably lots of guys going out and do some crazy stuff, but it’s OK. We’re going to do something special for the fans and it’s going to be fun.”

On Tuesday Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who will coach the Metro All-Stars, said he is concerned about players getting injured in the league’s new 3-on-3 All-Star format.

“When you’re fatigued you can actually probably blow a groin or something,” Trotz said. “If you have any kind of low back or groin issues, those are things that could lead to re-injury.”

Ovechkin leads the Caps with 28 goals and is third on the club with 42 points.

Ovechkin has played in four All-Star Games and last season lobbied for a car that was eventually donated to the American Special Hockey Association.

[RELATED: Backstrom, Holtby selected to NHL All-Star Game]

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Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals are sticking with Chandler Stephenson on the top line… for now

With Tom Wilson still serving a 20-game suspension, Washington Capitals head coach Todd Reirden has the difficult task of finding a wing to complement his top line of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. For the first four games of the season, that player was Brett Connolly.

On Saturday, however, he changed things up and went with Chandler Stephenson instead.

Just 18 seconds into the game, Stephenson made his head coach look very smart as he finished off a 2-on-1 with Kuznetsov to score his first goal of the season.

“Obviously, the start was great,” Reirden said after the game.

Stephenson is an incredibly fast skater and the extra speed seemed to add another dimension to that line that opponents had to contend with, and it led to both of the Caps’ goals on the night.

In addition to Stephenson’s goal, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty in the second period, and Washington scored on the resulting power play.

“Those guys are a lot of fun to play with,” Stephenson said. “They just know where to be and can find each other. I've just got to get the puck to them and just go to the net with your stick on the ice, and they'll find you.”

The top line’s success was a matter of finding instant chemistry as Stephenson had very little time to adjust. The Caps were off on Friday following back-to-back games, and Reirden did not make the switch of putting Stephenson on the top until Saturday’s morning skate.

Putting a new top line together with little time to practice does not seem like an ideal scenario, but according to Kuznetsov, the level of familiarity between all the players made the adjustment quick and easy.

“It doesn't matter with who you play,” he said. “In this locker room, we can communicate with anybody. We don't have a first line, we don't have a fourth line. We try and roll all lines.”

Reirden seemed pleased with the new trio after the game saying, “They did a number of good things during the game as well, so they I thought accomplished a lot. I thought [Stephenson] brought the speed on the forecheck and was able to at least go after their defense a little bit and force some turnovers that Kuznetsov and [Ovechkin] were able to at least get some opportunities from. So I think that's important to have him in that situation.”

Reirden was happy enough with the top line’s performance to keep them together. The team is off Monday, but Stephenson remained on the top line during Sunday’s practice.

But so long as Wilson remains out, finding the right match for the top line will remain a work in progress.

Said Reirden, “We’ll continue to try to put together our four lines that give us the best chance.”

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NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

NHL Power Rankings: Not every night is a big-time game for the Capitals

There was a lot of excitement to start the season for the Caps. First, there was the home-opener and the banner raising against the Boston Bruins. Then there was a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the rival Penguins. After that, it was a Stanley Cup Final rematch against the Vegas Golden Knights.

And all of that was followed up with a trip to Newark.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

With all due respect to New Jersey, given the slate the Caps faced to start the season, it was no real surprise to see the team struggle to get up for Thursday’s game against the Devils, a game in which the Caps were blown out 6-0. Of all the games Washington faced to start the season, the trip to New Jersey was definitely the least exciting.

But not every game is going to be a big rivalry matchup or a playoff rematch. With every team gunning for the Caps, they better make sure they can get themselves ready for the grind of an 82-game season that won’t always feature a big-time matchup.

A trip to Newark may not be flashy or exciting, but it still counts as two points.

The Caps dropped the game in New Jersey and lost a tight contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Where do they stand now after two straight losses?

FIND OUT HERE IN THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS

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