Capitals Share Thoughts On Lineup Changes, Shakeup To Combos
Here’s what the Washington Capitals had to say about the major line shakeups and the changes to the mix against the Minnesota Wild.
WASHINGTON — Less than 24 hours after a 4-3 comeback win over the New York Islanders on Monday that saw the Washington Capitals finally start to click and get on the same page with one another, the team saw another major shakeup to the lineup and combinations for Tuesday's tilt against the Minnesota Wild.
While Nic Dowd's injury played a part in some of the change, as it forced head coach Peter Laviolette to make some tweaks to keep the center depth intact, the lineup was apparently going to change anyway, as Laviolette said Lars Eller would have been back in on Tuesday anyway.
Not only did Eller draw back in, but Nicolas Aube-Kubel also got to return to the lineup after four straight games as a healthy scratch. With him and Eller returning to the mix, Anthony Mantha drew out as a healthy scratch for the third time in five games.
The lines also got a new look with different guys slotting in, as NAK took on a top-line winger role with Alex Ovechkin and Dylan Strome while Evgeny Kuznetsov moved down to play alongside Marcus Johansson and Garnet Hathaway. Eller returned to a center role and played between Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie. The only forward line that remained the same from Monday was the Sonny Milano-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson trio.
Those changes would be a lot to take in, and the Capitals, who had gelled and come together for four unanswered goals on Tuesday, only got goals from the Ovechkin-Strome-NAK unit in a 4-2 loss to the Wild on Tuesday. And postgame, players offered their insight on the moves.
Despite the quick turnaround after having played the night before, Marcus Johansson said the team has enough familiarity that the line combinations changing shouldn't necessarily present an issue.
"We've got so many good players it doesn't really matter what the lineup is or who you're playing," Johansson explained. "Nothing we can [do], just gotta play. When we have so many good players, I think anyone could play with anyone, and we've shown that before."
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Aube-Kubel said he was happy to be back in the mix and that it was a confidence boost to be put on the top line with Ovechkin and Strome, though there were chances and play he and his linemates wanted to have back.
"I felt I had good legs, I could've ended up with a few scoring chances more, but not too bad overall," Aube-Kubel said. "I think our line could've had a little more, even though they scored tow. But I feel like some plays where we created a turnover, I tried to pass too quick, where I can just skate a little more, then things will open. But I think tha'ts part of being in and out of the lineup where you kind of want to get rid of the puck a little faster than you should."
Laviolette had a simple explanation for the shakeup and said that when it came to scratching Mantha, it was simply "a coach's decision."
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"We wanted to make sure playing last night that we came back and we had speed on every line, we had physicality," Laviolette explained. "Minnesota is a heavier team in the league. They have some guys that have a heavy game, so it kind of set up Kubel to come in for me. I just thought that was his game — he's fast, he's physical, he got in a scrap, his line scored a goal. I thought he came in and had a positive impact on the game.
"You look at Kuzy's minutes, it's kind of the wording that you want to use, but you got four balanced lines just to roll them, because we played last night and wanted to make sure we had fresh bodies," Laviolette said. "We were playing a team that didn't play last night nd was going to be ready, and we wanted to make sure all lines [were] able to compete."