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At the Rink blog

Capitals rearrange lines in search of goals

Thursday, 01.02.2014 / 12:56 PM

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

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals put a combined 85 shots on goal in back-to-back games Sunday and Monday against the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators.

Though the Capitals had their most shots on goal over a two-game span since firing 91 total on March 8-10, 2010 (according to Elias Sports Bureau), they could only muster two goals in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Sabres and a 3-1 loss to the Senators.

Losses notwithstanding, coach Adam Oates said he was pleased with his team's output and even more so with the quality of shots taken, saying Wednesday "we had the most Grade As we've had."

Yet Oates and his players are keenly aware that an exorbitant amount of shots means little if they are not going in. Players said they need to make more of an effort to attack the net with vigor, making life for opposing goaltenders difficult and scoring dirty goals as a result.

"I think we have lots of opportunities to score goals," right wing Alex Ovechkin said. "Eighty-five shots in two games, it's a lot. Of course goalies have to make a stop, but two goals, I think we can create more traffic in front of the net, like how we played couple games ago before Christmas and we scored lots of goals."

Washington will look to manufacture offense against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday with a rearranged top-six forward group. Ovechkin will skate alongside left wing Eric Fehr and center Mikhail Grabovski, while left wing Marcus Johansson and right wing Troy Brouwer will flank center Nicklas Backstrom. It's the first time since late last season that Ovechkin and Backstrom, when healthy, were on separate lines.

The Hurricanes will be without goaltender Cam Ward and forward Riley Nash, both of whom sustained lower-body injuries against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Anton Khudobin will start in goal against the Capitals.

Carolina recalled forward Brett Sutter from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League to replace Nash.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles, acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, is expected to make his Hurricanes debut.

Here are the respective lineups for the Capitals and Hurricanes:

CAPITALS

Eric Fehr - Mikhail Grabovski - Alex Ovechkin

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Martin Erat - Joel Ward

Brooks Laich - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - Mike Green

John Erskine - Steve Oleksy

Philipp Grubauer

Braden Holtby

Scratched: Aaron Volpatti, Alexander Urbom, Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Michael Latta (lower body), Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau)

HURRICANES

Jeff Skinner - Eric Staal - Alexander Semin

Nathan Gerbe - Jordan Staal - Patrick Dwyer

Zach Boychuk - Manny Malhotra - Tuomo Ruutu

Drayson Bowman - Brett Sutter - Radek Dvorak

Andrej Sekera - Justin Faulk

John-Michael Liles - Ryan Murphy

Ron Hainsey - Brett Bellemore

Anton Khudobin

Justin Peters

Scratched: Mike Komisarek

Injured: Riley Nash (lower body), Jiri Tlusty (appendectomy), Jay Harrison (concussion), Joni Pitkanen (broken heel), Cam Ward (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