Welcome |Account|Sign Out 
NEW! SIGN IN WITH YOUR SOCIAL PROFILE
OR
Username or EmailPassword
 
2014 NHL Draft
SHARE
At the Rink blog

Ovechkin, Backstrom reunited against Rangers

Sunday, 01.19.2014 / 1:59 PM

By Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Share with your Friends


2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Ovechkin, Backstrom reunited against Rangers

NEW YORK -- After losing 10 of their past 13 games, the Washington Capitals arrived at Madison Square Garden for their morning skate facing a sobering reality. After at least sharing second place in the Metropolitan Division for much of the season, the team woke up Sunday in fifth.

That slide by the Capitals has inspired some drastic line juggling by coach Adam Oates, who will reunite his top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson against the New York Rangers. One of the most potent offensive duos in the League, Ovechkin and Backstrom were split up Friday in a 5-1 road loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. In the closing moments of the game against Columbus, the top line was reunited by Oates.

"I was rotating through the lines and I put them together just because we had a penalty and they all didn't kill," Oates said after the morning skate Sunday. "So I got them out there together. It was instant how well they know each other."

The line was arguably the NHL's best last season, when Ovechkin scored 23 goals in his final 23 games on his way to winning the Hart Trophy as League MVP for the third time. In Columbus, Backstrom was paired with Eric Fehr and Troy Brouwer while Ovechkin skated alongside Brooks Laich and Mikhail Grabovski. With that experiment done for the time being, Washington's reunited top line is hoping to snap the team out of its slump.

"We didn't play good before so we switched up. Let's try it again today. Hopefully we'll be better this time," Backstrom said. "We've got to bounce back from the other night. That was not good from our side. This is a really big game for us. The Rangers are ahead of us in the division. We need these points."

Oates' most drastic move may have been with his third line. After playing the entire season together on arguably the Capitals' most consistent line, Jason Chimera and Joel Ward will be split up when Chimera is moved to the second line to play with Grabovski and Brouwer.

"When you're not scoring 5-on-5 you have to do something, you have to split someone up. You have to spread people out and try to create new chemistry that way," Chimera said. "Most of the guys have been here for a while now. It's not like you're playing with a totally different guy. You're familiar with how everyone plays."

That promotion is mostly a tactical move to combat New York's speed up front, so Chimera and Ward could be reunited in the near future.

"Sometimes you're just looking for a spark on the team. Just trying to find matchups. We're just looking for a little speed," Oates said. "They've got [Carl] Hagelin and [Chris] Kreider, two really fast guys. So we're going to throw some speed right back at them."

Philipp Grubauer will start for Washington after being pulled early in the second period against Columbus. He will go against Henrik Lundqvist, who participated in an optional Rangers skate Sunday. The Rangers have won five of their past six games and have no changes in their lineup.

Here are the projected lineups for the Capitals and Rangers:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Marcus Johansson

Jason Chimera - Mikhail Grabovski - Troy Brouwer

Martin Erat - Brooks Laich - Joel Ward

Eric Fehr - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Mike Green - Dmitry Orlov

John Erskine - Connor Carrick

Philipp Grubauer

Braden Holtby

Scratched: Aaron Volpatti, Steve Oleksy, Michal Neuvirth

Injured: Jack Hillen (tibia surgery)

RANGERS

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash

Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan

Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Daniel Carcillo - Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Anton Stralman - Marc Staal

John Moore - Michael Del Zotto

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Justin Falk

Injured: Derek Dorsett (broken fibula)

Quote of the Day

What we expected is what we got. Very mature young individual that's focused. He is on the right track. He's not only a great hockey individual, but he's a good person off the ice. He seemed to take a leadership role with this group right off the hop and ran away with it, and was vocal, was respectful, was everything it takes to be a Panther. His future looks bright.

— Florida Panthers director of player development Brian Skrudland on defenseman Aaron Ekblad's performance at development camp