When the Capitals rolled through their line rushes ahead of Friday night’s game against Tampa Bay, it raised a few eyebrows when Jason Chimera was in a spot on the fourth line.
The speedy winger is tied for second on the team in goals with 14 and has been a consistent catalyst for the offense. So when Chimera only skated 9 minutes and 53 seconds – his second lowest time on ice this season — in Washington’s 4-3 win over the Lightning it was unexpected.
During Saturday’s practice, though, Chimera was back on the third line skating alongside Jeff Halpern and Joel Ward. It’s likely that’s where he will play Sunday when the Capitals host the Hurricanes at Verizon Center. (Note: It’s a 5 p.m. game, so there will not be a morning skate on Sunday.)
Coach Dale Hunter explained his decision to shift Chimera as an attempt to provide balance among the bottom six forwards, given the Capitals’ frantic schedule this month. From Jan. 3-24, Washington plays 12 games.
“I balanced out the third and fourth line or that’s what I was trying to do before the game,” Hunter said. “It didn’t come [out] that way, [Tampa Bay] got down early and they played their top guys so much that it was hard to play the rest of the guys. …It wasn’t nothing to do with the play or nothing just the matchups. They got down early and they played a lot their top guys and they didn’t play their other line that was matched up against them.”
Hunter has leaned heavily on his top two and three lines since taking over the helm in Washington, but the coach said he’s not too worried about fatigue setting in and the need to use all four sets of forwards on a more consistent basis.
“It always depends on the game…If I’m down you’re going to see more [Alex Ovechkin] and these guys than a guy who’s a good checker or a hitter,” Hunter said. “It’s just the way the game goes too. Every coach would love to roll four lines but you’ve got to see how the game goes every day.”
Neither Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) nor Mike Green (groin) skated Saturday. The lines and defensive pairings during practice were as follows: