News, notes and quotes as the Caps look to turn the page from Saturday night’s streak-busting 4-1 loss in Buffalo and focus in on the New York Rangers, whom they’ll face at 5 p.m. tonight at Verizon Center (CSN):
Short on dividends: Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he did not see the commitment level he needed from his players in Buffalo, especially his top two lines. “We didn’t invest enough to win a hockey game,” Trotz told reporters. “We were really easy on them in the first period. No one touched anybody.”
Trotz said he was happy with the compete level of the caps’ third and fourth lines, but not from his top six forwards, noting a “light play” by Marcus Johansson in the neutral zone that led to a second-period goal by Evander Kane.
“There was not enough net presence,” Trotz said. “There were too many players looking for an easy game. I don’t think we made Buffalo work enough.”
Pulling Holtby: Trotz said his decision to pull Braden Holtby after he allowed three goals on 16 shots was not because of Holtby’s poor play, adding he though Kane’s shot changed direction on him.
“I was just trying to change momentum because I didn’t like what I was seeing,” Trotz said.
Trotz said he would wait until the team’s flight back to Washington after the game to decide whether Holtby or Philipp Grubauer would play tonight against the Rangers, who are expected to go with backup Antti Raanta.
Praise for Richards: Trotz said he did not expect to give Mike Richards 13:01 of ice time, including 3:16 on the penalty kill, but liked what he saw from the 30-year-old veteran, who was playing in his first NHL game since April 9.
“I thought he was really good,” Trotz said. “I thought the (Zach) Sill-(Michael) Latta-Richards line was as effective as any line we had. They played against some higher end lines and they were effective. They were the one line getting pucks in deep.”
Richards’ average shift length was 35 seconds, the shortest among all Caps forwards. He said his legs felt “all right” but his passing wasn’t quite as sharp as he’d like.
“I guess that’s kind of expected for the first match of the year in January,” he said.
Richards said he felt most comfortable on the penalty kill.
“PK is a lot of read and react,” he said. “That’s what I thought I was doing.”
Richards, who took Brooks Laich’s spot in the lineup, said he’ll be good to go against the Rangers.
“If they need me I’ll be ready,” he said. “I’m part of the team. I’m here and if they need me I’ll play. My legs didn’t feel bad and it’s about making plays. It’s the best league in the world. If I’m in I’ll try to be better.”
Trotz sounded as though he has every intention of putting Richards back into the lineup tonight.
“I didn’t have any problem with his stamina,” he said. “We played him a lot more than we thought we were going to play him. I thought maybe not playing for eight months, maybe the speed of the game (would be difficult for him).
“He didn’t look at all out of place. When a guy who hasn’t played in eight or nine months comes in and is one of your better players, it doesn’t say a lot about us or it says a lot about Mike. I know he’s going to be a real good add for us and he’s going to be a big part of our success. You can see the hockey IQ.”
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