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Earlier today, the Capitals’ lines for tonight’s game against the Winnipeg Jets were announced. It came as a surprise to some that right wing Brett Connolly had been placed on the second-line rather than in the bottom-six, as one might expect. This comes after Connolly’s third period goal against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday, a goal that helped the Capitals rally back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game. While the Caps would go on to lose this game in overtime, Coach Barry Trotz is hoping to utilize Connolly’s current wave of momentum to help carry the team to victory against a hot team in the Jets.
Connolly’s line promotion has received mixed approval from fans so far, but the hope is that the “Conn Man” can create some positive chemistry with new linemates Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie tonight. Despite typically playing in the bottom-six, Connolly has the third-most goals amongst Capitals players this season, with 14. He trails only Kuznetsov (15) and Alex Ovechkin (33), and has done considerably well on the power play as well, having scored four of his goals on the man-advantage.
It’s interesting to note that Kuznetsov, with whom Brett will be sharing a line tonight and whom is a regular on the second-line, averages nearly 19 minutes in time on ice (TOI) per game this season. Meanwhile, Connolly has averaged just over 11 minutes. Perhaps the extra ice time in tonight’s game could help Connolly create some more scoring chances to help Washington walk away with a big win over a tough Winnipeg team.
Tonight’s game is the first of a four-game road trip, and with determined teams like the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, and the struggling Buffalo Sabres on the horizon before returning home, Washington can ill-afford to give up any points if they wish to maintain their dominance in the Metropolitan Division, which is really beginning to heat up. Hopefully by the time the Caps return home to face the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are currently first in the league, fans will be wondering why Connolly hasn’t been in the Top Six all along.
By Chris LaRoche