Updated, 1 p.m.
After Tuesday night’s lackluster showing at Verizon Center in a 4-0 loss against division rival Carolina, the Capitals were back on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Wednesday morning, working out with juggled lines.
Mike Green and Brooks Laich, both battling groin injuries, practiced, along with defenseman Tom Poti, who missed last night’s game with what the team is calling an upper-body injury.
Notably, the top line features Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Hendricks with Alex Ovechkin, dropping center Mike Ribeiro, the team leader in points, to the third line with Mathieu Perreault, Jason Chimera, and Joel Ward. The second line features Marcus Johansson, Eric Fehr and Troy Brouwer.
“Just trying to find a little chemistry,” Oates said after the session. “Sometimes, you get a little flat. Looking for a spark. Throw a different wrinkle at them tomorrow night, how they might cover us. I know [Ribeiro] played with [Ward] and [Chimera] and had some good games earlier, so just trying to find something.”
Washington, now 10-14-1 and 14th in the Eastern Conference, will need to right the ship quickly if it hopes for a better result on Thursday night in Raleigh, visiting the Hurricanes in the second leg of a home-and-home.
Oates made the switch to Backstrom and Ovechkin down the stretch on Tuesday night, a pairing he hadn’t utilized since the third game of the season. Ovechkin has not scored in three straight games and did not put a shot on goal against the Hurricanes.
“I’m a little surprised it didn’t happen a little sooner,” Brouwer said of the line shakeup. “Again, he’s trying to find creative ways to get guys sparked up, get guys a newfound enthusiasm and find some way to score some goals.”
Carolina took advantage of Washington’s injuries in the back for three goals in the opening two periods. Tomas Kundratek, Steve Oleksy and Cameron Schilling, three players who began the season at Hershey, were among the six healthy defensemen in action. Schilling made his NHL debut in Tuesday’s loss, logging 11 minutes, 58 seconds on the ice.
Reinforcements should be on the way soon, although likely not in time for Thursday’s contest.
Green, who skated with teammates on Tuesday morning, was back on the ice, working through drills alongside Karl Alzner. Green’s groin injury has kept him out of nine of the past 11 games. On Tuesday, Green said he was “a little bit of a ways away.” He did not speak with reporters on Wednesday and Oates didn’t address the defenseman’s status.
Poti said he “tweaked something” in Sunday’s loss at the New York Rangers. He missed time last month after being boarded by Toronto’s Leo Komarov, but he said that the latest ailment was not related. Although feeling better on Wednesday, Poti would not speculate on his availability for Thursday other than saying he will travel with the team.
“We’ll see what happens tomorrow after I skated today and kind of go from there,” Poti said.
Laich also skated with teammates on Tuesday and seemed to be participating fully early in Wednesday’s session. He’s still waiting to make his season debut, battling a lingering groin injury.
John Erskine remained out with an upper-body injury.