The Washington Capitals have just two preseason rehearsal games remaining on their schedule before they’ll take on the Boston Bruins to open the regular season. Head coach Peter Laviolette will have to iron out the kinks in his lineup before that October 12 date.
Tuesday, he tweaked his forward lines again at practice. This time changing the shape of his middle-six forward group.
Here are the #Caps' lines and pairs on Tuesday. Home preseason games Wednesday+Saturday to close out camp.
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) October 4, 2022
The main changes come via Anthony Mantha and Marcus Johansson flipping sides of the ice. Mantha’s move to the left wing forces Connor McMichael to Lars Eller’s line, reuniting the two after they played over 226 minutes together at five-on-five last season. McMichael has been the biggest mover up and down the Caps lineup as he tries to find a spot — any spot — on the team’s lines.
“He’s trying to work towards it,” Laviolette said after practice Tuesday. “I don’t want to discount the five guys that were out here earlier. This is still Training Camp and some of those guys will be in the lineup tomorrow night and they’ll be playing. There are people that are trying to cement their place here. We’re still in an evaluation process with Mikey, with everybody. The practices are important, the games are important. There’s evaluating going on.”
The “five guys” that Lavy mentions include Aliaksei Protas, Joe Snively, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Brett Leason, and Henrik Borgstrom. They have been skating before the main group the past two days of practice. Laviolette explained why it has been labeled the taxi squad.
“With 17 forwards on the ice, it gets really difficult to go through the reps of what we do,” Laviolette said. “Guys that we know will be here like Ovi, Kuzy, Lars, and Oshie need the reps in order to be ready for game one. Four lines is perfect and sometimes we’ll spot in a thirteenth forward or fourteenth forward but then it starts to slow down. To have just shy of six lines out there at practice is too much.
“So, basically, we took the guys that were here last year and put them in a group and took the guys that were not here full-time last year and put them in a group just to get them a workout,” Laviolette continued. “We still want to look at some players in the next game. Training Camp is still wide open. It should not be read into. Anybody can make this team if they want to go out and play hard and earn a spot.”
Last season, mainly due to the impressive play of McMichael at center, the Caps tried Lars Eller out on the wing. The bench boss seems far less keen on that sort of idea this season, narrowing the “available” spots in the center of the ice to really just the one Dylan Strome is currently filling.
“I think [Lars] is a centerman,” Laviolette said. “We did things at times for different reasons but I think he’s a centerman. He’s faceoff ready, he’s battle ready, he’s penalty kill ready. When you go out on a penalty kill, you need to win the faceoff so he checks a lot of boxes right away. I think he’s smart in the middle of the ice. He’s played center his whole life.”
Nothing was changed with the first and fourth lines as well as the team’s defensive pairings that were matched up together during Monday’s practice. That indicates that Connor Brown is still in line to get the first crack at filling Tom Wilson’s role and similarly, Conor Sheary with Carl Hagelin’s spot at fourth-line left wing. Erik Gustafsson also looks likely to begin the season as Trevor van Riemsdyk’s partner on the third pair.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.