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Dmitrij Jaskin moved to top line, Travis Boyd back as Capitals prepare for Edmonton

Right wing Dmitrij Jaskin will skate on the top line alongside center Evgeny Kuznetsov and captain Alex Ovechkin. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Ever since Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was suspended 20 games for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the preseason, the team has tried to shuffle multiple players on the top line in his absence.

The rotation continued on Monday ahead of the team’s game against Edmonton, with forward Dmitrij Jaskin moving up to the first line alongside center Evgeny Kuznetsov and captain Alex Ovechkin during the Capitals' morning skate. Jaskin replaced second-year forward Jakub Vrana at right wing, as Vrana was moved to the fourth line with center Travis Boyd and winger Devante Smith-Pelly.

“Obviously it is exciting to be out there with them and I’m looking forward to tonight,” Jaskin said. “If you get more minutes, it is exciting. Especially playing with those two. I will try to enjoy it as much as I can ... it’s always good when you play on the first line. It gives you some confidence.”

Jaskin’s move to the first line makes him the fifth Capitals player to fill Wilson’s role. Jaskin said he believes he and Wilson have a similar style of play when it comes to playing physically and defensive-minded and that’s what the coaches were looking to bring more of Monday night against Edmonton. On Saturday night in the Capitals' 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars, Jaskin was moved up to the third line and skated 15:02, tallying a primary assist.

“I thought he had his strongest game as a Capital for us," Coach Todd Reirden said. "You know, put him in some different spots and see if he is able to take advantage of that opportunity tonight. And also, you know whatever the first, second, third, fourth line, whatever it is, it balances our four lines out.”

With Jaskin to the top line, Vrana’s move to the fourth line came a game after he had two turnovers and skated 17:07. Replacing Vrana with Jaskin gives the top line less speed, but defensively enhances the line.

“It doesn’t really matter where you play,” Vrana said. “You are still going to produce good and you are still going to play good. It’s your job to play good and for your team. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the first line or the fourth line.”

Playing next to Vrana on the fourth line will be Boyd, who was activated off long-term injured reserve yesterday after he suffered a left foot injury blocking a shot in the preseason. The move came after the Capitals placed forward Nathan Walker on waivers Sunday afternoon.

“It’s been a long five-plus weeks for me," Boyd said. "You know, nobody ever wants to get hurt and my timing obviously wasn’t great. It felt good to get down to Hershey over the weekend and play two games. Excited to be back up here and super excited to get my first game of the season tonight.”

With the addition of Boyd on the line, that leaves center Nic Dowd a healthy scratch. Dowd joined the Capitals in the offseason as the team looked to replace longtime center Jay Beagle, now with the Vancouver Canucks.

“It will be good to see him [Boyd] back in," Reirden said. "I think he had a strong training camp and preseason until the injury and now is his chance to play on a pretty good line with Vrana and Smith-Pelly.”

Boyd and Vrana both played together in Hershey for the better part of two years so both are accustomed to their playing styles. Reirden said his awareness of the duo’s playing time in the AHL was a deciding factor in moving Vrana.

“We know we can play together,” Vrana said. “We know that we have a chemistry that is pretty good. Plus, Devo is a good player who can score goals in big moments and he’s going to be there for us and we are going to help each other out and try to create some offense and focus on playing good defensively."

Copley back in goal

Goaltender Pheonix Copley will start Monday against Edmonton, his third start this season. It will be Copley’s fourth appearance for the Capitals. Reirden said it was a planned start given the Capitals' upcoming schedule — four home games in seven days.

“We kind of had it planned before,” Reirden said. “I liked how he played in Calgary and wanted to get him a home game and home start and I think you now got to be able to build that position as well and give him opportunities and as has been the case, we will see if he can take advantage of that opportunity.”

Copley got his first NHL win in a 4-3 shootout victory against Calgary at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Oct. 27, during the last game of the team’s first extended road trip of the season to Western Canada.

“Anytime I am in there I am excited and I want to do my best to give the team a chance to win,” Copley said. “I work hard in practice and try to be prepared whenever they give me the nod and I am excited to be out there.”

Orpik out against Edmonton

Veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik was still not practicing with the team on Monday. Reirden said he is “day to day” as he has missed the past two games with an undisclosed “lower body” injury. Orpik hasn’t practiced with the team in a week.

The defensive pairings during Monday’s morning skate were the same as Saturday against Dallas, with Christian Djoos skating next to Madison Bowey on the third pairing in place of Orpik.

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