As is always the case with Coach Bruce Boudreau's line tinkering, we'll have to see how long any particular combination lasts -- whether a shift or a game -- but the latest tweaks are an effort to spark the Capitals' star players, particularly Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.
Ovechkin "and Nicky are both in slumps so I'm trying to get them away from each other," Boudreau said. "I think Marcus [Johansson] is playing pretty well, so maybe that will work."
If you missed it in the previous post, Washington's top two lines in practice Friday were Semin-Backstsrom-Knuble and Laich-Johansson-Ovechkin.
Over the past 20 games, Ovechkin has just four goals (including one into an empty net against Montreal on Dec. 28) and he has just 14 in the first 41 games of the season. Meantime, Backstrom hasn't scored in the past 15 contests. While the Capitals have found a way to win even with some of their traditionally biggest offensive producers slumping, Washington wants to get them back on track and over the past several weeks Boudreau has tried anything he can think of.
"We've got a pretty good record but in the end your best players have got to be your best players," Boudreau said. "We'd like to get [all the primary scorers] back on track, so you try different things to get them on track. Like a parent scolding their child. Sometimes you pat them on the back and say everything's alright, sometimes you kick them in the butt. Sometimes you take away ice time, you give ice time, you give responsibility, you take away responsibility until you find out whatever works. It's our job to find that Achilles' heel."
For at least the start on Saturday, the latest experiment will be to see if separating Ovechkin from Backstrom and placing the usual left winger on the right side and Semin with the No. 1 center can jump start either player. ...
After practice, Mathieu Perreault said that he doesn't expect to face the Panthers on Saturday after undergoing surgery on his broken nose Wednesday. The procedure made it a little easier to breathe, although the center said he's still having some difficulty taking a breath.
The pain has also subsided for the most part Perreault said, but his nose is loose, which he demonstrated to reporters. Let's just say it moved side to side the way a bobble-head doll does. If Perreault is indeed out tomorrow, it might be an opportunity for D.J. King to get back in the lineup. King, who has not played since Dec. 6 against Toronto and has been on the injured reserve list for most of the past month, skated with Matt Hendricks and David Steckel in one variation of the fourth line at practice.