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Capitals again shake up forward lines after second straight loss

Alex Ovechkin carries the puck while Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl defends during the third period at Rogers Place on Wednesday. (Perry Nelson/USA Today Sports)

VANCOUVER — The Washington Capitals’ forward corps enjoyed plenty of stability last season, Coach Barry Trotz rarely tinkering with the lines because they had been so successful.

But with the team now coming off a loss in Edmonton and the offense largely stagnant to start the season, the Capitals could feature new forward lines for a second straight game. At a Friday afternoon practice in Vancouver, the defensive pairs appeared unchanged, but here’s what Washington’s trios looked like:

Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Justin Williams
Marcus Johansson-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky-Lars Eller-T.J. Oshie
Zach Sanford-Jay Beagle-Brett Connolly

“Just spread them out a little bit and see what we can come up with,” Trotz said. “This is not a revelation. All coaches move them around. We’re spreading them out a little bit, and hopefully it’ll give some teams something to think about.”

Capitals ‘not happy’ with how many times penalty kill has been scored on

Some things to consider about this new lineup:

  • Trotz said that the Capitals had more scoring chances than the Oilers on Wednesday night but added that the only statistic he cares about is the scoreboard, on which Washington has come up short in back-to-back games for the first time since March 2015. It’s also early in the season, and there’s no harm in experimenting with new and somewhat unexpected trios to see what works best. This won’t be the last time Trotz shakes up his combos.
  • Daniel Winnik skated as the extra forward Friday. Here’s what Trotz said about how Washington will make up for Winnik’s penalty-killing load, if he’s indeed scratched against the Canucks: “We’ve got a lot of guys that we’ve kept off the PK a little bit. We’re just going to share them evenly. You know, we haven’t used [Oshie] a whole lot, or [Backstrom].” Trotz also mentioned Johansson, Connolly and Sanford potentially seeing some shorthanded time.
  • Ovechkin and Backstrom haven’t started a game on a line together yet this year, as Kuznetsov was Ovechkin’s center for the first six games. Ovechkin has scored a goal in four straight. Centering the second line has allowed Backstrom to take on the opposition’s top line in a shutdown-center role, and with him and Ovechkin now reunited, expect that trio to see a lot of the Sedins against Vancouver.
  • One possible reason for Justin Williams and Tom Wilson moving into the top six could be Trotz wanting to generate more of a net-front presence, as Washington’s even-strength scoring has largely come from close range. The Capitals have often expressed a desire to develop Wilson’s offensive game, and this could be a significant opportunity for him.
  • As Trotz mentioned, these trios will potentially allow Washington’s scoring to be spread throughout the lineup. It especially strengthens the third line, with Burakovsky and Oshie possessing more combined offensive upside than Eller’s other linemates (Williams, Sanford and Connolly) to this point. Oshie and Eller were teammates in St. Louis early in their careers.

“It’s a message for us,” Ovechkin said. “We have to wake up and play better offense, obviously.”