One of the first things you notice when attending a Capitals practice is the players skating around the ice before Barry Trotz blows the whistle to begin drills. Sometimes you’ll notice a bottom six forward sporting a top six red practice jersey and you wonder what Trotz was up to. Turns out after dropping two straight games Trotz took the forward lines from the Friday night’s game, tossed them in a blender before Saturday’s practice and came out with scrambled lines compared to the night before.
“If you’ve watched us play lately, we’ve gone a little bit stale in some areas of our game. I don’t know if it’s the break but I go right before the break,” Trotz told reporters after practice. “I’ve been contemplating that maybe it’s time for a switch. It might be a game, it might be next 20 (games), I don’t know.”
Here is what the lines looked like on Saturday morning.
Trotz has shaken up the #Caps forward lines. Here’s what they look like today:
Jakub Vrana in rotation.
— Michael Marzzacco (@Marswaggo) January 20, 2018
In case you didn’t see the game last night Andre Burakovsky was on the fourth line but in Saturday’s practice, he moved to the second line. Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov flip flopped between the top two lines with Kuznetsov up top and Backstrom centering the second line. This move split up the top-line duo of Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin and should this be the lineup Sunday afternoon, that would end a stretch of 25 consecutive games that the two were paired on a line together.
T.J. Oshie moved up from the third line to the second line. Alex Chiasson dropped from the second line to the fourth line. Chandler Stephenson moved up from the fourth line to the third line. Devante Smith-Pelly, who was scratched from the lineup Friday night was inserted back in as he was placed on the fourth line. This meant the odd man out would be Jakub Vrana.
Trotz wouldn’t hint on whether or not Vrana would be scratch for Sunday’s matinee with the Flyers but it wouldn’t be surprising if he was. Vrana hasn’t scored a goal in his past 14-games and only posted three assists during that stretch. Over the last five game. Vrana has just one assist which came in last Friday’s thrilling win over Carolina before the bye week
“He’s a young player. He was playing quite well a little bit before the break. I’d say about five games back he had some of his better games. I know his parents were in town and he had extra gear those few games but after that he sort of dissipated,” Trotz said. “He’s a good player… you know there’s gonna be a drop off at some point but with young guys, they seem to drop off a lot sometimes.”
With puck drop for Sunday’s game taking place at 12:30 p.m., there won’t be a morning skate prior to the game. We’ll see tomorrow if the lines from Saturday’s practice stick.
By Michael Marzzacco