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Forward Brett Connolly could crack the lineup against Colorado

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

It’s just two games and less than a week into the regular season, but Capitals Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t want to wait much longer to get forward Brett Connolly into the lineup for the first time.

“I think about that every day actually,” Trotz said. “Yeah, I do. I’m thinking Brett is possibly in tomorrow.”

Washington signed Connolly on the first day of unrestricted free agency, hopeful that for the inexpensive price of $850,000 on a one-year deal, Connolly would flash the offensive potential that made him the sixth-overall pick in 2010. But after he didn’t score in five preseason games, Connolly was a healthy scratch for the Capitals’ first two games.

In Monday’s practice, Connolly rotated onto the team’s third line in drills, so if he were to make his Capitals debut against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night, expect him to play beside center Lars Eller, potentially supplanting rookie Zach Sanford on the wing. Trotz said Connolly has the ability to play anywhere in the lineup.

“I’d like to get him to play more to his skill set,” Trotz said. “He’s a really good skater. He’s got a real good attitude. He’s got really good speed and he can shoot the puck. In the preseason, I liked a lot of his game. He just didn’t find the back of the net. But right now, we’re not finding the back of the net a lot, but we’re still finding ways to get it done. I’m just hoping to put him in a role that he’s comfortable and give him the ice time that I think he’s earned based on training camp and based on his work ethic in practice. I thought he was out best worker today, by far.”

With the Bruins last season, Connolly saw time on Boston’s first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but didn’t score enough to play there consistently. Averaging almost 13 minutes in a career-high 71 games, Connolly had nine goals and 16 assists. Connolly said he’s gotten increasingly comfortable with the Capitals’ system, and watching two games from the press box has helped him pick up other tendencies of the team.

“It’s been a good adjustment, so I’ve been happy with the way that’s been going so far,” Connolly said. “Now, it’s a matter of kind of trying to get in the lineup and see what I can do, and hopefully, that can be soon.”

Said Trotz: “We’ve got some new guys that are sort of changing roles slightly that we’re trying to incorporate. We’ll make a couple of decisions here. The first 10 games, I always look at it as, ‘Let’s just try to get everybody’s roles established and a little bit of our game established.’ Then really, that’s the tipping point, then your play takes over.”

>>> Connolly cracking the lineup may not be the only change for Washington, as Trotz also said that he’s considering playing goaltender Philipp Grubauer against the Avalanche on Tuesday. The timing would be curious because the team will hold a pregame ceremony against Colorado to honor Braden Holtby’s historic 2015-16 season, and all fans in attendance on Tuesday will receive a Holtby “fan banner.”

Grubauer typically plays in the second game of back-to-backs, but Washington won’t have one of those until the end of the month, which might be too long to wait for Grubauer’s first regular-season game of the season. A condensed schedule that includes a new bye week for every team could lend itself to Grubauer playing more games this season.

“What you’re seeing with the schedule is that there are some more back-to-backs, but also, you’re playing every second day,” Trotz said. ” . . . I said to the goaltenders, if I could go, Grubi one game and then Holts three, that type of situation, that would be in the perfect world what I’d like to do. How we’re playing and when we’re playing and our travel and all of that sort of messes with that.”

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