Martin Erat centering second line; Michal Neuvirth to start against Canadiens (updated)

November 22, 2013

(Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Update 2:15 p.m.: The Washington Capitals need to find a way to spark more offense out of their second line, but with Coach Adam Oates unwilling to change the personnel on the unit right now, there’s only so much that can be done to potentially give the trio a new look. Oates will try one of those options as the Capitals host the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center Friday, moving Martin Erat to center and sliding Brooks Laich over to left wing.

With this move, Oates wants to see if Laich and Troy Brouwer can establish more of a forecheck to control and sustain offensive zone time.

“Just experimenting. I really think in the league now that one of the things that really gets you in trouble is turning the puck over on the offensive blueline and just inside it. Every team backchecks so well, they get five guys back in the defensive zone that if you don’t have a sure thing off the rush you’ve gotta win the battles behind the net. Chimmer and Wardo do a great job of it,” Oates said. “There’s no reason why those two guys, Brooksie and Brouw, can’t win those wars back there as well. Now we’ve got some meat going down the boards. It puts Marty in a difficult spot because he hasn’t played that position in a long time but he’s also a very smart player, it should free him up a little bit.”

Erat, 32, played center on rare occasions in Nashville and also back during his days in the Western Hockey League, but this the first time he’ll play in the middle for the Capitals during a regular season contest. The veteran forward will try to keep things simple.

“You just have to hold on to it. It’s the biggest thing. If you give the puck away and you don’t get it back you’re going to be chasing it for a long time,” Erat said. “You can skate back and forward for so long. You have to hold on to the puck in the offensive zone and create mistakes.”

>> Michal Neuvirth will make his fifth start of the season Friday night and face the Canadiens. He’s had success against Montreal over the course of his career, going 5-2 with a .926 save percentage and 2.14 goals against average.

>> All signs point to Mike Green returning to the lineup Friday night after missing three games with a lower-body contusion. While Oates wasn’t definitive, Green came off the ice with those expecting to play. He said he needed to meet with the athletic trainers one more time, but that he’s feeling good.

“I’m close. It was just a matter of getting back into game shape,”  Green said. “Today was good to get another skate in, and I’ll go talk to the trainers and see what the deal is for tonight.”

Washington made two expected moves this afternoon to activate Green from injured reserve and, in order to create a roster spot, reassigned Dmitry Orlov to Hershey.

If Green is activated from injured reserve, the Capitals will need to make a corresponding roster move. Given that Tyson Strachan came off the ice early with those expecting to play, it certainly appears as though that move will be for the Capitals to reassign Dmitry Orlov, who does not have to clear waivers, to Hershey.

>> Based on who stayed out with the assistant coaches for quite the lengthy extra skate, it sure looks like Steve Oleksy will be a healthy scratch against the Canadiens. Green’s return coupled with Strachan’s strong play in his three-game stint may have made him the odd man out. Eric Fehr and Jay Beagle are expected to sit out among the forwards.

Here are the projected lineups for both teams:

Canadiens
Daniel Briere-Tomas Plekanec-Brian Gionta
Max Pacioretty-David Desharnais-Brendan Gallagher
Alex Galchenyuk-Lars Eller-Brandon Prust
Travis Moen-Ryan White-Michael Bournival

Andrei Markov-P.K. Subban
Josh Gorges-Alexei Emelin
Francis Bouillon/Douglas Murray-Raphael Diaz

Peter Budaj is expected to start.

Capitals
Johansson-Backstrom-Ovechkin
Laich-Erat-Brouwer
Chimera-Grabovski-Ward
Volpatti-Latta-Wilson

Alzner-Carlson
Schmidt-Green
Urbom-Strachan

Neuvirth, Holtby.

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