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Trotz makes two lineup changes for tonight

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Trotz makes two lineup changes for tonight

Forward Michael Latta and defenseman Nate Schmidt will return to the Capitals lineup tonight when the Columbus Blue Jackets visit the Verizon Center (6:30 p.m. pregame, CSN) because …

“A loss,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “Bored.”

Latta, a healthy scratch the past six games, will replace rookie center Chandler Stephenson, who was on the ice for the Penguins’ game-winning goal Wednesday night in a 3-1 loss. Latta will play right wing on a fourth line with Andre Burakovsky moving to left wing and Brooks Laich moving to center.

“He’s got an edge,” Trotz said. “He’s a good draw guy. He can have an effect, but he’s got to show it on the ice.”

Latta has not played since the Caps’ 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks in the second game of the season.

“It’s unfortunate you’ve got to lose to go back in but I’m excited to get back in, It’s been a couple tough weeks sitting out and not going to battle with your teammates every night.”

During his time as a healthy scratch Latta worked with strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish on improving his explosiveness and quickness. In 53 games with the Caps last season Latta had no goals and six assists while averaging 8:31 in ice time. His last NHL goal came on Nov. 15, 2013, a span of 62 games.

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On the back end, Schmidt will return to the lineup in place of veteran Taylor Chorney and will play on the right side of Dmitry Orlov on the Caps’ third defense pairing. Schmidt has no points and three shots in three games this season.

Trotz said he moved Orlov, who is left-handed and has played most of his career on the right side, to the left because it helps him both offensively and defensively.

“I thought last game was his best game of the year,” Trotz said. “It’s taken a while to get all the rust off but his game is starting to have a real sound level of consistency that we know he has. … We feel he’s got top four talent.”  

Schmidt, who is also left-handed, said he played on the right side during his three seasons at Minnesota. He said playing the off side (a left-handed shooter on the right side of the ice) is an advantage offensively and can be a bit of a disadvantage defensively.

“I think they’re trying to figure out something that works for everybody,” Schmidt said. “There’s a huge advantage to play your offside in the offensive zone. You’re always in a shooting position on your forehand. It’s mostly neutral zone stuff, where you’re catching pucks on your backhand and you don’t have your body facing the ice; you’re more turned sideways.”

Trotz said goaltender Braden Holtby (5-2-0) will get the start tonight, with backup Philipp Grubauer possibly getting the start Saturday night when the Caps visit the Florida Panthers.

“I might, yes,” Trotz said when asked about starting Grubauer in Florida.

Here’s a look at how the Caps should look tonight:

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Justin Williams

Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Andre Burakovsky - Brooks Laich – Michael Latta

Defense pairs

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner

Dmitry Orlov – Nate Schmidt

Goaltenders

Braden Holtby (starter) - Philipp Grubauer

Scratches: Chandler Stephenson, Taylor Chorney, Stan Galiev

Injured: Chris Brown (hand)

MORE CAPITALS: Chimera throws his support behind Boudreau

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

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How to watch the IIHF World Championship Finals: Date, Time, TV Channel, Lineups

The 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship is coming to a close this Memorial Day weekend.

After two weeks, the sixteen team field has been narrowed down to four with the world championship now on the line in Slovakia. 

The two group winners, Canada, the top-ranked team in the world and 26-time IIHF Champions, and Russia, who rolled through the group stage with a 7-0 record and a +29 goal differential, are the favorites. Russia overwhelmingly has played like the best team in Slovakia, outscoring its opponents 40-10 behind Nikita Kucherov's 16 points in eight games.

The Russian/ Soviet Union team is the only team with more titles than the Canadians with 27 (five as Russia, 22 as the Soviet Union). 

Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin is playing for Team Russia. In eight games he's scored two goals and recorded an assist. 

Canada will face off against the Czech Republic, whose only loss came against the Russians in group play, with a spot to the Finals on the line. Russia will play Finland for the last spot in the gold medal match.

Three of the four teams remaining (Russia, Canda, and the Czech Republic) are the winningest teams in the IIHF's history. The four semifinalists have combined to win 67 of the 82 IIHF World Championships.

When is the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will take place at 8:15 p.m. local time (2:15 p.m. ET) on Sunday, May 26. The bronze medal match will precede the gold medal match at 3:45 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. ET). 

2019 IIHF World Championship Schedule:

There are only four matches left in the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The two semifinals, the bronze medal match, and the gold medal match.

SEMIFINALS:
No. 3 Russia vs. No. 5 Finland, 9:15 a.m. ET, May 25
No. 1 Canada vs. No. 6 Czech Republic, 1:15 p.m. ET, May 25

BRONZE MEDAL MATCH:
Loser of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Loser of Semifinal No. 2, 9:45 a.m. ET, May 26

GOLD MEDAL MATCH:
Winner of Semifinal No. 1 vs. Winner of Semifinal No. 2, 2:15 p.m. ET, May 26

How to watch or stream the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

All games at the IIHF World Championships will be broadcast on NHL Network.

Who is playing in the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals?

The 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals will be played between the winner of Russia (8-0-0)/ Finland (7-0-1) and Canada (7-1-0)/ Czech Republic (7-0-1).

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF World Championship Finals:

Lineups for the 2019 IIHF Championship Finals will be announced on the morning of May 26. 

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

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The Blues turnaround from last place to the playoffs began with a blowout win over the Caps

When the St. Louis Blues woke up on Jan. 3, they were in dead last in the NHL. A 15-18-4 record gave them 34 points, less than teams like the Los Angeles Kings and the Ottawa Senators who would go on to finish the season as the two worst teams. Yes, St. Louis had played in only 37 games to that point, the fewest in the league, but finding a way to climb back into the playoff hunt seemed daunting and unlikely.

Now the Blues are the Western Conference champions and stand just four wins away from the Stanley Cup.

The Blues have been one of the best stories of the NHL season climbing from last place to the Stanley Cup Final. When looking back at St. Louis’ season, there are several moments one can point to as key moments in the turnaround. Craig Berube replaced Mike Yeo as head coach on Nov. 20 and goalie Jordan Binnington got his first start with the Blues on Jan. 7 and never gave back the crease.

But the turnaround really started on Jan. 3. On that morning, the Blues were in last place. That would be the last day they would find themselves there.

And it all started with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals.

On Jan. 3, St. Louis and Washington looked like two teams headed in opposite directions. While the Blues were in last place, the Caps were rolling with a 24-11-3 record, first in the Metropolitan Division. Washington came into St. Louis on a five-game road winning streak. As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues were also without sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

And yet, what looked like an easy win for the Caps turned into anything but. Robert Thomas scored a deflection just four minutes into the game. Washington managed to take a 2-1 lead early in the second, but St. Louis rattled off four straight goals for the 5-2 win. With Washington down only 3-2 heading into the third period, the Blues but on a possession clinic outshooting Washington 14-2 in the final frame.

"We stayed aggressive," Alex Pietrangelo told reporters. "When we're playing in the O zone, the best way to play defense is to play in their end. We kept the puck, we moved the puck, we worked. Forwards were great tonight, protecting the center of the ice. It kind of took their playmakers out of the game."

The Caps’ first shot came 13 minutes into the third. By then, the Blues already had 12 shots and two goals.

Over the course of an 82-game season, teams will lose games against teams they shouldn’t. This felt different. Watching this game, you did not come away thinking the Caps played down to an inferior team. The Blues dominated that game and the Caps knew it.

“They were skating, competing harder, won races, more determined than we were,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “If we’re being honest about it, we didn’t have a very good game, and they played a pretty darn good game.”
More importantly, St. Louis realized it as well. They knew following the game that this was a win and a performance they could build on.

“I think we out-chanced them, so we're building here at even strength,” Pietrangelo said. “It's just a matter of keeping it at even strength and scoring goals. Tonight the goals weren't necessarily pretty but we created a lot of chances."
That night proved to be the first night of the turnaround. From Jan. 3 on, no team in the NHL earned more points than St. Louis’ 65, not even the Tampa Bay Lightning who won the Presidents’ Trophy with an incredible 128 points.

St. Louis was not expected to be bad this season. The team made a number of offseason moves to bolster the roster and many thought they could be real contenders, but they sure did not play like it through the first half of the season. It took a big win over the defending Stanley Cup champs to show them and everyone else just how good they really were. From that point on, they never looked back.

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