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At the Rink blog

Oates feels Capitals' even-strength play will improve

Thursday, 10.10.2013 / 12:24 PM

By Adam Vingan - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates would not have been criticized -- perhaps even lauded -- if he shuffled his forward lines after his team's slow offensive start at even strength.

Through three games, Washington's offense has been buoyed by its NHL-leading power play, which has accounted for six of its nine goals this season. That leaves just three goals scored at 5-on-5, tied for the third-fewest in the NHL.

Yet after three consecutive days of practice, the Capitals' forward lines, minus one change to the fourth line ahead of their game Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes, remain intact.

"I'm a very patient guy when it comes to that," Oates said earlier this week. "You've got to give a guy a fair amount of time to let everything happen."

Washington's even-strength offensive woes stretch throughout the lineup. Alex Ovechkin and Mikhail Grabovski, among the top-five goal-scorers in the League, have combined for seven, but only two have come at even-strength. The rest of the Capitals' top six -- Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer -- have combined for one power-play goal and none at even strength.

Defenseman Connor Carrick, a healthy scratch Thursday, has the other.

Oates, however, has kept the faith that his offense eventually will come around, which has boosted the confidence of his players.

"It means a lot knowing that he's got confidence in us, that it's going to come through," Brouwer told NHL.com. "Sometimes you're going to go through lulls. It [stinks] that it's right at the beginning of the season and we're not scoring 5-on-5 goals, but our power play's making sure that we're staying in games, our penalty kill's been good.

"As a result, he's got faith that things are going to work out and it's good for us players because we get comfortable. He's had to have seen some opportunities where we've had [chances] to score and reasons why he's keeping us together."

Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Hurricanes:

CAPITALS

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Brooks Laich - Mikhail Grabovski - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward

Martin Erat - Michael Latta - Tom Wilson

Mike Green - Karl Alzner

John Erskine - John Carlson

Alexander Urbom - Steve Oleksy

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Aaron Volpatti, Jay Beagle, Connor Carrick

Injured: Jack Hillen (tibial plateau fracture)

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer

Jeff Skinner - Riley Nash - Radek Dvorak

Drayson Bowman - Elias Lindholm - Brett Sutter

Justin Faulk - Andrej Sekera

Ron Hainsey - Brett Bellemore

Ryan Murphy - Jay Harrison

Anton Khudobin

Cam Ward

Scratched: Mike Komisarek, Kevin Westgarth

Injured: Joni Pitkanen (heel), Tim Gleason (concussion), Tuomo Ruutu (lower body)

It's hard to walk into that locker room and look those guys in the eye when they've played -- clearly, that was our best game we've played in the series -- and I thought we deserved a better fate tonight.

— Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on his team's 3-2 loss to the Canadiens in Game 3 on Sunday