The Washington Capitals got on the ice at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday for their first full-team practice following a 1-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday.
While the win was good, the victory not flawless. The W was powered by goaltender Darcy Kuemper as the team in front of him struggled. The Capitals’ forward lines in particular lacked chemistry as the team reintegrated Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson into the lineup.
In response, Caps head coach Peter Laviolette put together a new set of interesting lines at practice.
Here is how all of that shook out via The Athletic’s Tarik El-Bashir.
#Caps’ lines, pairs and goalies on Tuesday:
Extras: Mantha and NAK
— Tarik El-Bashir (@Tarik_ElBashir) January 10, 2023
Sonny Milano has earned himself another look on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Laviolette first played those three together back on November 15 when the Caps took a 5-2 loss to the Panthers. They were given just 4:52 of ice time at five-on-five before being separated. With them on the ice, the Caps were out-attempted 9 to 4, out-chanced 4 to 2, and got scored on in the very small sample size.
“I like the way [Milano] skates,” Laviolette said Tuesday. “I like the way he competes on pucks. He makes small-area plays. Five-on-five he’s been one of our most productive forwards.”
On the second line, Lars Eller is getting a look on the left wing for the second time during Laviolette’s tenure. The Great Dane skated a handful of games on the wing last season in the team’s bottom six due to both injury issues and due to a hot stretch of games from Connor McMichael at center.
“Lars is one of those players for me that can play anywhere,” Laviolette said then. “Left wing, right wing, center. I know he’s a natural centerman.”
The third line sees a return to center for Dylan Strome. Strome played 13:51 of five-on-five ice time against Columbus on the left wing of a line also featuring Kuznetsov and Wilson. The pending restricted free agent has been an integral piece of the Capitals’ offense this season, ranking third in overall scoring with 31 points behind only Kuznetsov (36) and Ovechkin (48). He did not find the scoresheet in his one game on the wing.
Marcus Johansson, Nic Dowd, and Garnet Hathaway started Sunday’s game together but were eventually separated as Johansson flipped spots in the lineup with Conor Sheary. In a small 27-minute sample size at five-on-five this season the Caps have been dominant with that line on the ice. They’ve out-attempted opponents 35 to 14, outshot them 17 to 4, and out-scoring chanced them 16 to 2.
The only other tweak made by the bench boss is sliding Alex Alexeyev to his more natural left side. He has been playing on the right when paired with Martin Fehervary who is also a natural left-sided player. Alexeyev recently played a career-high 19:20 of ice time against Columbus on January 5.
Anthony Mantha is currently slated to be a healthy scratch for a second-straight game. He is joined by Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Matt Irwin.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily the points and goals that (Laviolette is) mad about,” Mantha said Monday. “It’s more the rest of (my) game.”
The Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers in the city of brotherly love on Wednesday night.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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