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Posted On Tuesday, 04.16.2013 / 10:25 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineup for Capitals vs. Maple Leafs

The Southeast Division-leading Washington Capitals seek a season-high eighth straight win when they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night at Verizon Center.

The Maple Leafs have won two straight games and seven of nine to pull within four points of the Northeast Division-leading Montreal Canadiens with six games remaining.

The Capitals have not played since a 6-5 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday The Maple Leafs are coming off a 2-0 win Monday against the New Jersey Devils.

Here is Washington's projected lineup for Tuesday:

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Posted On Thursday, 04.11.2013 / 10:26 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Capitals, Hurricanes

The Washington Capitals will attempt to at least maintain -- and perhaps add to -- their slim lead atop the Southeast Division when they host the reeling Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at Verizon Center.

The Capitals begin play Thursday two points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, who are hosting the Florida Panthers. Forwards Joel Ward, Martin Erat and Brooks Laich all remain out with injuries.

Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Hurricanes:

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Posted On Thursday, 04.04.2013 / 11:23 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Erat to make Capitals debut with familiar face

Martin Erat will make his Washington Capitals debut Thursday when his new team faces the New York Islanders.

However, he'll have a familiar face near him as it appears Erat will play on a line with Joel Ward. The two were teammates with the Nashville Predators.

In addition, Eric Fehr will return to the lineup for the Capitals after missing four games with an upper-body injury.

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.12.2013 / 2:12 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Johansson moved up to Capitals' top line

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Marcus Johansson is the latest to play as the top-line left wing after returning to the lineup in a 4-1 loss Sunday against the New York Rangers.

Prior to that, Johansson missed 12 games with a concussion while Jason Chimera, Wojtek Wolski and Matt Hendricks all saw time on the top unit.

"I really saw some energy and skating and being a bit of a hound on the puck and making good decisions," Capitals coach Adam Oates said of Johansson's game Sunday. "Maybe that hit in training camp [in which he collided with Ovechkin in a scrimmage] did hurt him where he was trying to fight through it and didn't have the pace I saw the other night. I really thought he was solid."

In his first nine games this season, Johansson was limited to one goal and a team-worst minus-7 rating. In his return Sunday, the 22-year-old had an assist and saw time on both special teams units.

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.12.2013 / 2:07 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Capitals' Laich feeling better physically, mentally

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals welcomed a familiar face back to practice Tuesday when injured forward Brooks Laich skated with his teammates for the first time since Feb. 16.

Laich has missed the entire season with a strained groin muscle suffered in Switzerland during the lockout. There still is no time frame for his return.

"It's been a lot of work," Laich said ahead of the Capitals' game Tuesday against the Southeast Division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. "It's been the hardest thing I've ever gone through. Physically it's a lot of work, but mentally probably even more draining. But hopefully it's all for good. We have a great medical staff that's really helped me and pushed me in the right direction. Hopefully I'll be back out soon."

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Posted On Saturday, 02.09.2013 / 12:42 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Johansson to be scratched again for Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. – Marcus Johansson is expected to be a healthy scratch Saturday night for the third time this season when the Washington Capitals play host to the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.

The Capitals’ first-round selection in the 2009 NHL Draft (No. 24) has one goal and a team-worst minus-7 rating in nine games this season.

“I think his confidence might be one of the problems with his play,” said Capitals coach Adam Oates, who had high hopes for Johansson heading into the season.

Johansson spent the entire six-day training camp on Washington’s No. 1 line and began the season playing with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

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Posted On Saturday, 02.09.2013 / 11:57 AM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Holtby starts in net for struggling Capitals

ARLINGTON, Va. – One day after Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee singled out discipline and goaltending as two areas that must improve, Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals tonight against the Florida Panthers.

Holtby’s 4.74 goals-against average is last in the NHL among goalies with at least five appearances.

"Obviously everyone in here knows they can be better," Holtby said of the 2-8-1 Capitals. "But that’s in the past, it’s all in the past now. We have to move forward. Looking at how we’ve played in the past isn’t going to help us at this point. We’ve dwelled on that long enough to dig us into this hole, so right now our focus is on the next game, doing little things that we need to, treat it as just another hockey game and have patience."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 2:57 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Ovechkin stays at right wing ... for now

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals will have a different look tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, as Wojtek Wolski joins Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the top line.

Wolski is expected to play on his natural side at left wing, meaning Ovechkin will continue to play on the right side. Ovechkin has played left wing throughout his NHL career, but coach Adam Oates moved Ovechkin to the right side in training camp and he's played there in the first two games of the season.

"I think when you play all the time on the left side, and you try right away on the right side, you just have to realize it and give it some time," said Ovechkin, who has been held to one assist through two games.

"If I score one goal or two goals, like, I'm going to feel much more comfortable and it's going to take pressure off of my shoulders."

Oates explained in training camp that the decision to move Ovechkin to the right side -- not unlike what the New Jersey Devils did last year with Ilya Kovalchuk -- was in an effort to expand his game and limit his increasingly predictable tendencies from the left side.

"We're going to use him every way we can," Oates said before the start of the season. "He's a force in this League, he's very important to us and I want to make sure that he knows that I'm going to do my best to let him be successful."

For years, Ovechkin made a living by gaining an opponent's blue line, cutting to the middle and wiring a shot from atop the left faceoff circle (often while using a defenseman as a screen).

In recent seasons though, opponents caught on and adjusted and defended Ovechkin accordingly.

"It's a different view now," Canadiens defenseman Josh Georges said of Ovechkin's new position. "He's coming down now from his strong side. When he plays on the left side he does a good job of getting to the middle of the ice and getting that shot… He can kind of shoot it from any position and it's something that we have to be aware of. But now that he's coming down on the other side, he's a fast skater, a strong guy and we have to make sure that we're in his face no matter what.

"We'll take it in stride. Good players find open ice; they find the room no matter what side of the ice they're on. So we're going to have to rely on a five-man unit to play against him and his line."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 1:37 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Wolski gets prime opportunity for Capitals

WASHINGTON -- In the six months since Wojtek Wolski signed with the Washington Capitals, the 26-year-old has repeatedly said he is simply looking for a chance to prove his doubters wrong.

The Capitals are Wolski's fifth team in less than three years, and he ended his time with the Florida Panthers last spring as a healthy scratch for Games 3-7 of their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the New Jersey Devils.

Through two games with the Capitals, though, Wolski has seen top-six minutes and power-play time, and tonight against the Montreal Canadiens he is expected to play alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on Washington's No. 1 line.

"I'm happy to play wherever I'm going to get ice time and I'm going to get a good opportunity," Wolski said.

"I've been working hard. I've been moving my feet. I'm getting up in the play and creating opportunities, turnovers. I think that's going to give Nicky and Ovi an opportunity to get some scoring chances."

Wolski started the season on Washington's second line with Mike Ribeiro and Troy Brouwer. The unit combined for two goals and five points through two games, including a Wolski tally in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

But with Marcus Johansson struggling alongside Backstrom and Ovechkin on the No. 1 unit, lineup changes were expected.

"Just looking for a little spark, a little something," coach Adam Oates said. "I thought in the third [period against the Winnipeg Jets], I put [Wolski] up there and I thought that they had a little bit of chemistry, so hopefully we'll keep it going for tonight."

Wolski's addition to the top line should provide "more creativity," according to Ovechkin.

"You know, he's a skilled guy who can control the puck. Again, it's -- find out something new, maybe. We'll see how it works."

Ovechkin is still searching for his first goal of the season, and he enters tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens with one assist and eight shots on goal in two games.

With Wolski expected to see more opportunity on Washington's top line, Johansson's early season struggles have landed him on the Caps' fourth line, where he will play with Mathieu Perreault and Joey Crabb.

Johansson is a team-worst minus-3 and was benched in the third period of Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets for all but 50 seconds.

"He's a young kid, he's still learning the game, he's a natural center and we have playing the wing so I'm sure that some of his reads and decisions are based on that," Oates said of the Capitals' first-round pick (No. 20) from the 2009 NHL Draft.

"So we just showed him a lot of video yesterday and we moved him today with [Perreault] to see if they can get a little spark and help him out."

The Capitals have been held to three even-strength goals in their first two games and have played with the lead for a total of 2 minutes, 32 seconds. They are 0-2-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 season.

"They lost their first two games, you know they're going to be fired up," Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges said.

"They're at home, so you know that they're going to throw everything at us. We have to expect their best, we have to expect that they're going to come out full of [grit] and that they're going to do everything they can to win, so we have to come out and be ready to win."

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Posted On Thursday, 01.24.2013 / 12:18 PM

By Ben Raby -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2012-2013 At the Rink blog

Wolski to top line, Neuvirth to start for Caps

WASHINGTON – The Washington Capitals will have a different look Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens, with Michal Neuvirth making his season debut and Wojtek Wolski expected to see time on Washington’s No.1 line.

The Capitals are 0-2-0 for the first time since Oct. 1996.

“I feel cold, but, you know, this is job I picked and I’ve got to handle it,” said Neuvirth, who dressed as Braden Holtby’s backup for the first two games this season.

“I’m trying to stay positive and happy. I felt good during practice… and I’m ready to go.”

Neuvirth played in 24 games for HC Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic this fall, and appeared in 38 games for the Capitals last season. He has a 4-0-1 lifetime record against Montreal with a .939 save percentage, 1.82 goals-against-average and a shutout.

“Obviously I’ve just coached against him and I know that’s a very good goalie,” Oates said after Thursday’s morning skate. “I’ll like seeing him wearing my sweater.”

Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Canadiens:

CAPITALS

Wojtek WolskiNicklas BackstromAlex Ovechkin

Matt HendricksMike RibeiroTroy Brouwer

Jason ChimeraJay BeagleJoel Ward

Marcus JohanssonMathieu PerreaultJoey Crabb

Karl AlznerJohn Carlson

Tom PotiMike Green

Roman HamrlikTomas Kundratek

Michal Neuvirth

Braden Holtby

CANADIENS

Max PaciorettyDavid DesharnaisErik Cole

Rene BourqueTomas PlekanecBrian Gionta

Brandon PrustAlex GalchenyukBrendan Gallagher

Travis MoenRyan WhiteColby Armstrong

Andrei MarkovAlexei Emelin

Josh Gorges – Tomas Kaberle

Francis BouillonRaphael Diaz

Carey Price

Peter Budaj

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