Capitals Coach Barry Trotz wouldn’t confirm that he’d nailed down his season-opening first line after Wednesday’s practice at Kettler Iceplex. He used words like “if,” and “depending on” in talking about potential linemates for Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, and was quick to point out that in addition to leading candidate Eric Fehr, he’d also used Brooks Laich there at points this preseason.

But after Fehr, Backstrom and Ovechkin played together Sunday in Montreal, none will make the trip to Buffalo Wednesday., and they are set to play together again Thursday against Philadelphia. Laich, meanwhile, will head to Buffalo tonight, likely to be paired with Troy Brouwer on the second line.

So Trotz has left his trail of breadcrumbs, but has so far refused to acknowledge where they lead, redirecting a question about Fehr starting on the top line into a lengthy answer about young players trying to prove themselves in the remaining preseason games. But after Fehr played with Backstrom and Ovechkin Sunday night in Montreal, Trotz said he “was really happy,” and that he thought Fehr did “a really good job” with the all-world duo: All indications suggest he may be playing with them when the Capitals open their regular season next week. 

Fehr played with Backstrom and Ovechkin at points last season, a year he spent bopping between oft-shuffled Capitals lines, sometimes finding himself out of the lineup, other times getting top-six minutes. As can be said about nearly all the Capitals’ forwards, then, Fehr is familiar with Backstrom and Ovechkin — and he says that experience has shown him the importance of playing to his strength, even as he plays alongside one of the league’s best passers and one of its best finishers.

“I think that’s something in the past we’ve done — you play with those guys and you try to give them the puck at all costs, to the point that you’re making bad plays,” Fehr said. “I think it’s important just to play my style and work together and try to get some chemistry.”

Trotz says Fehr brings “great reach and great hands and a way of getting pucks,” to that top line, and that he and Laich both “have a good defensive consciousness to them.” Trotz also said both Fehr and Laich “have a high level of skill that can match some of the skill that Backie and Ovie have, and hopefully complement that.”

Of the two contenders, Fehr seems to have a more powerful puck magnetism — something that could prove important in setting up Backstrom and Ovechkin for points — and his experience at all three forward spots on all four lines means he’s had time to hone his defensive game, too.

“I think it’s a good fit,” Fehr said. “It brings a little bit of puck retrieval to the line, and hopefully I can help out a little defensively. Obviously I feel like I’ve gotten more comfortable in the ‘D’ zone the past year or two, so hopefully try to relieve some pressure off those guys and contribute offensively.”

Fehr played in 73 games for Washington last season, overcoming the constant linemate shuffles to score 13 goals and chip in 18 assists.

In other news from Wednesday’s practice at Kettler, Mike Green, Jay Beagle, Tom Wilson, Aaron Volpatti all watched practice from the balcony. Trotz provided no additional updates on their injuries, their statuses unchanged since the update he provided Tuesday.