As the preseason nears its end, Capitals Coach Trotz continues to tweak his forward lines and D pairs in search of the right mix for the start of the regular season.
Here’s how Trotz had his players lined up for practice on Saturday—24 hours before the Caps close out the exhibition season in St. Louis.
Burakovsky – Backstrom – Oshie
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Vrana
Connolly – Eller – Wilson
Smith-Pelly – Beagle – Chiasson
Graovac, Walker, Peluso and Stephenson
Orlov – Niskanen
Orpik – Carlson
Ness – Chorney
Djoos – Bowey
Some notes, quotes and observations from KCI:
- Trotz didn’t hold back when asked about how important it is for his team to have a strong performance in St. Louis. The Caps are 1-5 in their first six exhibition games. “The most embarrassing fact that I can say is we’ve scored eight goals in six games,” he said. “You have to look at that and go, ‘That’s not good enough for this group.’ We’ve really got no production from our top guys. In saying that, we are going to get production from our top guys. They’re too good. They’re too professional. They’re too talented. So we will get that from there. I’m trusting [that], as true pros, they are going to come through and they are going to show what they are made of. I have to trust that. History tells me that. We’re not where we’ve been in the past in terms of our game in a lot of areas—detail, urgency and all that.”
- Trotz added: “If you talk to players, it’s been a little harder to get the energy this year based on how it ended in the summer. Another way to say it is that is we got stuck with last year’s energy, or lack of, at the end. It took a piece of us, and now we got to dust ourselves off here and go. Let’s quit with the self-pity and all that. And whatever’s holding us back, let’s go play. We need to play.”
- With one preseason game remaining, Trotz has a pretty good idea of which players he wants to keep on his 22-or 23-man opening night roster. But it’s also clear that he’s still searching for the right combinations based on some of the alignments on Saturday.
- Orpik has moved back in the top-4 and was skating with Carlson. Asked if he’s considering that pair to start the season, Trotz said: “Yes, we are. We are considering that, especially with the number of road games that we have. It could help restart [Carlson]. They were a terrific complement together a couple of years ago, so we’re just rewinding the clock a little bit, if you will.”
- After a strong game Friday night at Carolina, Vrana is getting another look on Ovechkin’s line. Connolly, meantime, is on the third line.
- The battle for the two openings on the fourth line is ongoing. On where the competition stands following Friday’s 3-1 loss in Raleigh, Trotz said: “Some guys took a step forward and some guys maybe took a half step back. Do I have it totally clear? No, not totally clear. When we sit down with [GM Brian MacLellan] obviously there’s some of the business side.”
- As we’ve mentioned a number of times, the roster decisions won’t be decided by performance alone. Waivers and cap considerations will also factor into who makes it and who doesn’t—at least to start the year.
- The Caps are scheduled to play in St. Louis on Sunday and take Monday off. Opening night rosters are due Tuesday at 5 p.m.