COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the fourth time in just over two weeks, Coach Adam Oates has spun the line combination wheel again this time reuniting Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the top unit.
The Capitals’ dynamic duo hasn’t played on the same line together since Dec. 30 at Ottawa but seeing as how splitting up Ovechkin and Backstrom didn’t have a profound impact in changing opponents’ matchups it was time for them to be combined once again.
While Ovechkin and Backstrom playing with Marcus Johansson is far from a new-look top line, in fact it’s the most familiar combination of the year, there is a new addition to the top six. Jason Chimera is now skating as the second line left wing with Mikhail Grabovski and Troy Brouwer, marking the first time in practice this season that the speedy winger hasn’t been on a unit with Joel Ward.
Martin Erat, who played his first game after sitting out five as a healthy scratch Friday night, is now skating on the third line centered by Brooks Laich, who had been playing top-six left wing the past several games, and Ward. Meanwhile, Eric Fehr has been relegated to the four-man, fourth line group that rotates through drills. Got all that?
The defensive pairings appear to have remained the same and, yes, all three goaltenders are still with the team.
Here are the lines from Saturday’s practice in Columbus before the team travels to New York in the afternoon.
Oleksy rotating in as an extra
Holtby, Grubauer and Neuvirth all sharing time.