Aliaksei Protas Elevated To Top Line, Marcus Johansson Dropped To 4th Line: Notes From Thursday’s Morning Skate In St. Louis

The Washington Capitals made their way to St. Louis following Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers in Sunrise. They will wrap-up their three-game road trip Thursday night against the Blues. Here’s the latest from morning skate:


Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette began mixing up the lines on Tuesday night in his continuing quest for more even-strength scoring. Thursday’s morning rushes reflected a few of those in-game changes. Lines and pairs at morning skate courtesy of Samantha Pell/Washington Post:

Alex Ovechkin — Evgeny Kuznetsov — Aliaksei Protas
Sonny Milano – Dylan Strome – Conor Sheary
Connor McMichael – Lars Eller – Anthony Mantha
Marcus Johansson — Nic Dowd — Garnet Hathaway

Erik Gustafsson — John Carlson
Martin Fehervary — Nick Jensen
Matt Irwin — Trevor Van Riemsdyk

Darcy Kuemper
Charlie Lindgren

Aliaksei Protas was elevated to the right side of the top line while Marcus Johansson was dropped to left wing on the 4th line. Connor McMichael cycled back in to replace Joe Snively.

Dmitry Orlov (lower body, IR) was on the ice and skated with Alexeyev as an extra d-pair.

Charlie Lindgren was the first goalie off the ice at Capitals morning skate, and as a result, is expected to be the starter tonight. Lindgren went 5-0-0 with the Blues last season.

Extras: Alexander Alexeyev, Joe Snively, Dmitry Orlov
Suspended: Nicolas Aube-Kubel (1 more game)
Injuries: Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson, T.J. Oshie, Carl Hagelin, Connor Brown, Beck Malenstyn.


The Capitals conclude their three-game road trip tonight against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center.

The Capitals have a record of 45-44-12-1 all-time versus St. Louis and are 4-2-0 in their last six games at Enterprise Center.


The Capitals power play went 0 for 5 on Tuesday night against the Panthers, extending their scoreless streak to 0 for 21 in the last four games.

The Capitals have fallen from 6th-best power play to 24th-ranked power play in the last four games. For what it’s worth, the St. Louis Blues penalty kill is currently 29th in the league, with a  71.9% efficiency.


Today’s bonus stat looks at the expected goals differential (xGF – xGA) at 5-on-5 for each of the Capitals skaters through the first 18 games this season. [Click to enlarge].

As noted in the defensemen performance review from yesterday (here), Martin Fehervary and Nick Jensen have become the Capitals de facto defensive defensemen pairing, so their negative differentials are somewhat expected because of the depleted forward group.

We’ve documented Connor McMichael’s new struggles, beginning in the preseason (here), but the 4th line’s negative differentials is somewhat new, possibly reflecting the team’s challenges in finding a suitable replacement for Carl Hagelin.


Haakon Hanelt scored his second goal of the season last night in Gatineau’s 4-2 win over the Charlottetown Islanders. He also had two primary assists in the game.

Capitals goaltending prospect Mitchell Gibson stopped 27 of 28 shots he faced at New Hampshire on Tuesday night. His record improves to 4-0-0 on the season.

Dru Krebs scored his first goal of the season on Wednesday night against the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Krebs, 19, is a 6’-0” left-handed defenseman from Okotoks, Alberta. The Capitals selected Krebs in the fifth round (#176th pick overall) of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. He remains unsigned by the Capitals.


Former Capitals netminder Vitek Vanecek and the New Jersey Devils are running real hot, and currently sit atop the Metropolitan Division.


  • John Carlson is expected to play in his 900th career game tonight against the Blues. Carlson will become the sixth player in franchise to history to play 900 games for Washington, joining Alex Ovechkin (1,292), Nicklas Backstrom (1,058), Calle Johansson (983), Peter Bondra (961) and Kelly Miller (940).

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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11 Responses to Aliaksei Protas Elevated To Top Line, Marcus Johansson Dropped To 4th Line: Notes From Thursday’s Morning Skate In St. Louis

  1. Anonymous says:

    All Russian speaking top line. That just might work!

  2. Anonymous says:

    A goal for Connor McMichael would be huge.

  3. Jon Sorensen says:

    The top line Milano experiment didn’t last long.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lavi has zero patience, giving time to let things gel. I love the urgency to find the right combo, but is he giving each option enough time?

    • KimRB says:

      To coin a phrase, our head coach is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

      Only 22.5% of teams out of a playoff spot by American Thanksgiving make the playoffs.

      But on the bright side, it’s a deep draft this summer.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Pretty sure Lavi is just drawing names out of hat right now.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Protas to top line? I’m not sure he even belongs playing in the NHL. The only thing you ever hear about him is his reach – smh. If we were healthy, he would be playing in Hershey.

  6. Jon Sorensen says:

  7. Anonymous says:

    Perfect time for the Capitals power play to right the ship.

  8. Anonymous says:

    So what NAK is reinstated do we put him on 4th line and bench Marcus?

  9. novafyre says:

    The way Lavi shifts players around, I wonder what are his goals? OK, main goal is to win, secondary goals are to score and stop them from scoring. I guess maybe a third would be to stay healthy (ha!) and not get suspended. But I just get the feeling that his approach is like throwing mud at a wall. If you throw enough of it, some will stick. It’s not the precision, thoughtful throwing of a darts game.

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