ARLINGTON, Va. -- As Joel Ward warmed up ahead of the Washington Capitals' game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday, the right wing turned to linemate Jason Chimera and told him he was feeling pretty good.
"You know, I feel pretty good today too," Chimera responded.
The pair combined for four goals and three assists, including Ward's first career hat trick, in Washington's 7-0 victory.
Along with center Mikhail Grabovski, who had three assists, the Capitals' third line has been their most productive over the past two weeks. Since joining forces Oct. 19 against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chimera, Grabovski and Ward have combined for 10 goals and 22 points at even-strength.
"We've just been rolling," Ward said. "[Chimera] has been flying and has been getting some big goals for us. [Grabovski] makes good plays, got a great shot and he's got a good stick."
Chimera and Ward, who have been regular linemates since the latter arrived in Washington before the 2011-12 season, are like-minded players, burly wings who play a simple, north-south game and are most comfortable battling along the boards and in front of the net. That has allowed their line to wear down opponents with grueling, cycle-heavy offensive-zone shifts.
Enter Grabovski, whose strong two-way play and natural playmaking ability have complemented Chimera and Ward exceptionally well.
"He likes to carry the puck," said Chimera, whose four-game goal streak is the longest of his 723-game career. "He's one of those guys who lugs the [puck] and me and Wardo don't like to lug it too much. We like to get down in their zone and kind of create plays that way.
"It's a nice complement when a guy can do that for us, do the bulk of work coming up the ice, and we try to do the bulk of work when coming in the zone. I think it works out well for all of us because he gets it up in there and we kind of do the work down there, so it's nice."
After a month of consistent play, the third line is finally bearing the fruits of their labor. With five goals, Chimera has surpassed his scoring output from last season, and Ward is nearly there, two goals behind last year's eight.
"I think they've got confidence, that's probably the biggest thing, and they know where to put the puck and support each other," coach Adam Oates said. "Chimera and Ward have been playing with each other for a while. Shift after shift, they are willing to do the same exact thing. Sometimes it doesn't work, but the very next shift you go right back in there, put it in the same spot and maybe they break down and you get a chance."
Here are the projected lineups for Washington and the Florida Panthers:
Notes: Ovechkin fully participated in Washington's optional morning skate and "felt a little better today," according to Oates. But he is not quite ready to return from the upper-body injury sustained during a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. Oates hopes Ovechkin will be able to return Tuesday against the New York Islanders.
Who will start in goal for the Capitals will be a game-time decision. Braden Holtby earned a 30-save shutout Friday against the Flyers, but was involved in a skirmish with Ray Emery during the teams' third-period melee.
|Back to top|