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Capitals Game Day

Capitals Game Day: Lines Tweak, Who To Watch In Vital Tilt vs. Kings



ARLINGTON, V.A. — The Washington Capitals (2-3-0) aren’t pressing the panic button just 10 days into the season, but the start has not gone according to plan at all. And, after kicking off the first five games of the season with the worst start in the Metropolitan Division, they are eager to turn things around. And for them, starts with Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings (3-3-0).

Trevor van Riemsdyk said that the club feels that urgency in the room, though, and that the Capitals know that they need to stop the bleeding before it gets too late.

“No, no, definitely [no panic]. I think there’s, it always seems when you have a few losses early on for whatever reason, that seems like more pressure to get that next one. But I think you just got to approach it with a calm head,” van Riemsdyk said. “Clear mindset, but have a little urgency to your game… the points now count just as much as the points at the end of the year. So if you can bank them early, that always helps out.”

Evgeny Kuznetsov is also ready to draw back into the lineup after serving a one-game suspension and also missing a couple of practices due to body maintenance. He said he is feeling “unbelievable,” and agreed with TVR that the group needs to just stick to its game plan.

“We just have to win the game. If it’s going to be ugly game and we’re going to get two points or it’s going to be beautiful game and two points, it doesn’t really matter by the end of the day,” Kuznetsov said. “We just need to start collecting the points.”

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Taking that into account, Washington tweaked the lines slightly. Connor McMichael will draw back out after making his season debut in Thursday’s 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, while Joe Snively will stay in. Beck Malenstyn remains up with the club as an extra with Connor Brown out long-term.

Here are the combinations from the Capitals morning skate:

Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Conor Sheary

Marcus Johansson-Dylan Strome-T.J. Oshie

Aliaksei Protas-Lars Eller-Anthony Mantha

Joe Snively-Nic Dowd-Garnet Hathaway

Dmitry Orlov-John Carlson

Martin Fehervary-Nick Jensen

Erik Gustafsson-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Darcy Kuemper will get the start in net, marking his third consecutive game between the pipes for D.C. Charlie Lindgren will back up but expect him to get a game in the near future. Meanwhile, head coach Peter Laviolette, who was under the weather and missing from Saturday’s skate, is expected to be behind the bench come game time.

When it comes to players to watch, keep an eye on Marcus Johansson. The 31-year-old has points in three of his last four games and has four points in five games to open the season. He has made a major impact on the power play as well, which has five goals and has converted in three straight games.

“The thing with Marcus is he knows the position well. He was kind of ground level when we started it, and I think he has the ability to not only make plays from that goal line position [but he puts himself] in a position to get rebounds or at least get the puck back,” assistant coach Blaine Forsythe said of No. 90. “The biggest thing for Marcus is entry.”

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Look out for Conor Sheary and Anthony Mantha, too. Sheary is on a three-game point streak, and Mantha has goals in two of his last three games. Both lead the club in goals so far this season. Sheary is again working with Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin on that top line, and against Vancouver, that trio did a lot of damage in the third and does a good job with extended zone time and pressure.

On the L.A. side of the coin, watch for Gabriel Vilardi, who leads the Kings with four goals and three assists for seven points in three games and has points in three of his last four outings. Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe also have six points in six games this season.