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Galiev in, Burakovsky out for Capitals

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Galiev in, Burakovsky out for Capitals

Right wing Stan Galiev will be in the lineup and right wing Andre Burakovsky and defenseman Brooks Orpik will be out when the Capitals face off against the Colorado Avalanche tonight at Verizon Center (7 p.m., CSN).

Galiev, 23, practiced on a third line with center Jay Beagle and left wing Jason Chimera Saturday morning, while Justin Williams, who had been on the third line, moved up to a second line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov and left wing Marcus Johansson.

Galiev was recalled by the Capitals on Nov. 16 after scoring three goals in five games with the Hershey Bears. He has not played for the Caps since the third game of the season on Oct. 15 when he picked up an assist.

“Gally deserves a chance,” Trotz said. “Every day he comes and practices hard and went down to Hershey and played pretty well. I expect a little more from (Burakovsky), some of the details in his game. We haven’t gotten much production from him.”

Burakovsky, 20, has just one point in his last 11 games and has not scored a goal since Oct. 23. He has just two goals and four assists in 18 games, after netting nine goals and 13 assists in 53 games as a rookie last season.

“Sometimes you pull him out and he gets to reassess,” Trotz said. “There’s nothing that gets your message across like pulling a player out. A little more detail and a little more production and he should be fine.”

Galiev, who led the Bears with 25 goals last season, said he’s looking forward to another crack at the NHL. He has one goal and one assist in four career games with the Caps.

“It’s been a long time and I’m excited to play,” Galiev said. “I just want to prepare mentally. I haven’t played in this league for a long time but those five games in Hershey should help me. I got my confidence back and I’m going to use my speed today and be the first guy on the forecheck and back check.”

Galiev also saw time Saturday morning on the Caps’ second power-play unit, where he occupied Alex Ovechkin’s spot in the left circle.

“It should be fun,” he said. “Hopefully (Ovechkin) finishes off all the power plays with a goal and I don’t have to do it.”

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Trotz said Galiev will take Williams’ spot on the third line and not Burakovsky spot on the second line because he needs to prove himself as an NHL player, and because Williams deserves more ice time because of his recent play.

“Let’s make sure you’re able to play in the league first,” Trotz said putting Galiev in the top six. “His assets are skating and his skill level. But can he produce at this level up here?”

Orpik still ailing: Orpik (lower body) received treatments at Kettler on Saturday but is still not ready to suit up. He will miss his fifth straight game tonight and is unlikely to play on Monday against the Oilers.    

“We want him to be 100 percent and once he gets to 100 percent we’ll give him a couple practices and you can expect him to be in the lineup after that point,” Trotz said. “It’s a long haul and he’s an important piece and we’re going to get him to 100 percent. It’s not a serious injury but it takes some time for what he has.”

Here’s how the Caps looked at Saturday’s morning skate:

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Stan Galiev

Brooks Laich - Michael Latta – Tom Wilson

Defense pairs

Nate Schmidt - John Carlson

Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen

Dmitry Orlov – Taylor Chorney

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) – Philipp Grubauer  

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The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

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The Caps showed flashes of their mentality with shorthanded win in Colorado

On November 16, 2017, the Washington Capitals were handed a brutal 6-2 loss in Denver at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche. It was the second blowout loss the team had suffered in as many games and dropped the Caps’ record to 10-9-1. That moment would be the low point of the season.

A year to the day, the Caps returned to Denver. They were given every reason to quit Friday and repeat last year’s disastrous result and yet, the Caps rallied for a 3-2 overtime win to improve their record to 9-7-3.

Coming off a loss Wednesday in Winnipeg, Washington found out earlier on Friday that the team would be without both T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov who had both suffered injuries against the Jets. In net, Braden Holtby was out as well meaning the Caps would have to turn to backup goalie Pheonix Copley for his third start in as many games. Backing him up would be Ilya Samsonov, a highly touted prospect but a player without a single minute of NHL experience.

And, just in case that all did not seem daunting enough, the Caps also spotted the Avalanche a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds into the game.

One year ago, the Caps gave up the first goal of that game just 17 seconds in. When Colorado scored early again, it felt like Friday’s game was going to end up being just like that blowout loss from a year ago.

But it didn’t.

“We were shorthanded, everyone stepped up,” Tom Wilson said. “We talked about guys stepping up before the game and we got it done.”

The Capitals battled back and took control of the game in the first and second periods, tallying two goals to take a 2-1 lead. A late goal by Colorado would tie the game, but Todd Reirden reminded his players of what happened in Montreal – a game in which the Caps gave up three goals in the final four minutes of the game to lose 6-4 – and challenged them not to let that happen again. The team responded.

With all the momentum on the side of the Avalanche, Devante Smith-Pelly drew a holding penalty with less than two minutes remaining and Nicklas Backstrom would score on the resulting power play in overtime.

“When you have a lot of guys hurt, it was nice to see that we really got together, played a good defensive game, everyone was on the same page and blocking shots and doing all the little things right,” Backstrom said.

The game was reminiscent of the Game 6 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last season. With one win separating them from advancing to the conference final, Washington had to somehow find a way to beat their biggest rival in Pittsburgh and they had to do it with no Nicklas Backstrom, Andre Burakovsky or Tom Wilson. When their backs were against the wall, the Caps responded and managed to defeat the defending Stanley Cup champions 2-1 in overtime.

“It was important for guys to step up in different situations with obviously very key guys out, but we did it in the playoffs,” Smith-Pelly said. “We had key guys out at times. I guess this group is used to guys coming in and out and stepping up.”

The Caps returned most of their Stanley Cup winning roster for the 2018-19 season and fans have been waiting for this year’s team to start playing like last year’s again. A record of 8-7-3 heading into Friday’s game was hardly what people expected from this team early on.

But the win in Colorado was one of the team’s most impressive wins of the season, and perhaps the closest Washington has come since the 7-0 win in the opener to looking like that championship squad. Not because they looked dominant – they didn’t – but because when their backs were against the wall, you saw what this team was really made of mentally. Every time they were challenged in the playoffs – whether it was going down 2-0 to Columbus, playing the unbeatable Penguins, facing elimination against Tampa Bay or facing the red-hot Vegas Golden Knights – the Caps responded.

On Friday, Washington was challenged and again, and the Caps responded.

Last year’s game in Colorado proved to be a turning point. The team was at a cross-roads. They could check out and watch the inevitable coaching and roster shakeup happen, or they could rally to save the season. The Caps made a choice and the rest is history.

Maybe Friday’s game will mean nothing in the greater context of the 82-game season, or maybe this game will again prove to be a turning point. Maybe in the spring we will again circle Nov. 16 and remember it as the game in which the defending champs put the rest of the league on notice that they’re still here, they’re still the champs and they’re not going down without a fight.

“Every time we have injuries, it’s going to happen and it’s going to get other guys to get that opportunity,” Backstrom said. "I thought we played pretty good today, we didn’t give them a whole lot. That was a nice win, we needed that.”

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How Todd Reirden saved the game in Colorado by calling a coach’s challenge he knew he would lose

How Todd Reirden saved the game in Colorado by calling a coach’s challenge he knew he would lose

With the Caps clinging to a 2-1 lead in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche Friday, disaster struck as Colorado forward Colin Wilson hit a puck out of midair past goalie Pheonix Copley to tie the game.

But Todd Reirden was going to make sure this game did not spiral out of control.

Reirden made what at the time seemed like a curious decision to challenge the goal for goalie interference. Avalanche forward Matt Calvert was right in Copley’s face, but there was, at best, minimal contact and certainly nothing that would suggest it hindered Copley’s ability to make a save. Sure, you never know what the refs will find when you watch in slow motion, but the challenge had almost no shot.

It was a curious call and a curious reaction when the call stood as a good goal. Reirden seemed legitimately angry, more so than you usually see from him.

But it was all calculated.

“Just thought there was some contact there, but to be 100-percent truthful on that, our team needed a timeout at that point so I had to make sure I was selling it properly,” Reirden said after the game.

Reirden knew the challenge was not going to be successful, but he wanted the opportunity to give the team an important reminder after they gave up the game-tying goal.

“It was a situation where a few weeks ago we had the lead and let it go against Montreal and it was something that we discussed with our team. I thought it was worth a try – I didn’t think it was very high percentage it was going to be reversed – and it gave me an opportunity to talk to our players about the fact that we’ve been in this situation before. Have we learned and are we going grow from that? Sure enough, we did and we end up stringing together a couple decent shifts of no panic and doing the right thing and we draw the penalty and are able to convert on the power play.”

On Nov. 1, the Caps held a 4-3 lead over the Montreal Canadiens with less than five minutes remaining in the game. The game spiraled out of control, however, when Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored a game-tying goal. Washington allowed three goals in the final 3:04 of the game to turn a road win into a two-goal loss.

Reirden was determined that was not going to happen again on Friday so he challenged a goal and reminded his team of what happened in Montreal during the review. The Caps responded by drawing a late penalty and winning 3-2 in overtime in a game in which they were without Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie and Braden Holtby.

“That’s important for me, early in the season, to have those growth moments as a team,” Reirden said. “That was actually what was going on behind the scenes there so that set us up for success.”|

But wait, why not just call a time out?

Because the Caps had nothing to lose. You still get the timeout and a chance, no matter how miniscule, of taking a goal off the board. And if you lose the challenge, all you lose is the timeout you would have used anyway.

Worth a shot, right? 

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