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#CapsWings Skate Shavings: New Digs In Detroit

Caps get first look at Little Caesars Arena with line tweaks aimed at increasing scoring as Beagle suits up for 400

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / WashingtonCaps.com

The Detroit Red Wings began their NHL existence in 1926, playing their home games on the other side of the river in Windsor, Ontario's Border Cities Arena. A year later, the Wings (still known as the Detroit Cougars; they later became the Detroit Falcons) moved into The Olympia, where they played until the middle of the 1979-80 season when they moved into Joe Louis Arena.

Video: Two-Man Advantage | October 20

Tonight, the Caps supply the opposition for Detroit's third home game at brand new Little Caesars Arena, the Wings' new downtown home.

"We had a little bit of time after we did our scout this morning," says Caps coach Barry Trotz. "I popped out on the concourse. They did a really nice job, I mean awesome. It's top shelf. I remember in the bowels of The Joe, the coaches' room my first year, I think we were in the bathroom with the long urinal in there and all that, so it's a big upgrade.

"For me, I like the old buildings, and I love the new buildings, too. But it's more about the people than it is about anything else. We could play outside if we had to; it's about the people."
Video: Barry Trotz Pregame | October 20
Secondary Scoring - Washington has scored a grand total of 22 goals in its seven games to date this season, but the Caps have scored only twice in their last two games, and they come into Friday's game against the Wings on the heels of a 2-0 shutout loss to Toronto on Tuesday.

Nineteen of those 22 tallies have come off the sticks of just four different top four forwards for the Capitals. Alex Ovechkin has nine. T.J. Oshie has five, Nicklas Backstrom has three and Jakub Vrana has two. The remainder of the roster has combined to contribute just three goals in seven games. 

As they go into tonight's game with the Wings, the Caps have made tweaks to three of their four forward lines. Alex Chiasson draws back into the lineup in place of Nathan Walker on the fourth line, and Tom Wilson and Andre Burakovsky have also swapped spots, Wilson moving up to the left side of a line with Backstrom and Oshie and Burakovsky sliding into the right side of a line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly.

"Let's get some pucks and get to the net and give a little more presence on that line," says Trotz of placing Wilson on the Backstrom line. "Not that they don't have it, but I think he can create some space for them and I'm hoping to spread our offense.

"We need some offense from our bottom six. We talk about our top six, but we've got four guys who are high in the scoring race, and after that it falls off. So we need production through our lineup. We were successful in that way last year. We're going to need everybody to step up. We're going to have to get our defensive game and our offensive game just balanced out a little bit, and if we do that, then we'll be fine. If we don't then it will be a struggle." 

The Connolly-Eller-Burakovsky trio was an extremely effective one for Washington throughout much of the 2016-17 season. The unit came back together for Thursday's practice at Kettler before the Caps departed for Detroit. 

"We're very comfortable playing with each other," says Eller, "and there is some chemistry there that we know is there. I think we felt some of it already on the rushes here in practice - created a couple of good chances. It feels really natural playing with Conno and Burky."
Video: Rinkside Update | Jay Beagle
The 400 Club - Way back on Feb. 11, 2009, Caps center Jay Beagle made his NHL debut for the Capitals in a game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, the NHL's oldest arena. Tonight in Detroit at the league's newest barn, Beagle will skate in his 400th career NHL game. 

"Obviously just the excitement of the first, and having it be at Madison Square Garden, that was real special," recounts Beagle of his NHL debut in 2009. "I just remember the nerves and the excitement, and the first shift I almost scored. It was all downhill from there." 

That Beagle played even one game in the NHL would have been a worthy achievement, but he has parlayed a summer camp invitation from more than a decade ago into an AHL contract, then an NHL contract and now an NHL career. A self-made player who has improved incrementally every season that he has been in the league, Beagle is now the third longest tenured member of the team, trailing only Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

"When you put it like that," says Beagle, "time flies. You don't want to reflect on it too much, because you're still in it. I'm not really a guy who knows a lot of things like that, stats-wise. But when you say that, it really makes you think. It's just been awesome. It's been a blessing being here and to be here this long. I never would have thought that. 

"I've always lived my life one day at a time. I don't really ever look too far ahead. I've never been a guy who got too anxious or excited about a certain thing in the future, because I don't know what the future holds. So it's kind of cool to look back at it and to be able to be in this place and with this organization for as long as I have. The word that comes to mind is 'blessed.' I'm blessed to be here, and blessed to be playing this game as long as I have.

"My whole life, I just loved to play hockey. I obviously had a dream to play in the NHL like every kid in Canada, but it wasn't something that was really a reality until I got the shot to come here on that summer camp tryout.

"So I try not to take anything for granted, and it's good to reflect on that because it reminds you - sometimes you think this [being in the NHL] is the norm. And this isn't the norm." 
Video: Braden Holtby Pregame | October 20
In The Nets - Starting a weekend set of back-to-back games, the Caps will go with Braden Holtby in net tonight against the Wings in Detroit, which means Philipp Grubauer gets the nod when the Capitals stop at home to host the Florida Panthers on Saturday night. 

Holtby stopped 28 of 29 shots in Tuesday's 2-0 loss to the Leafs, his most recent start. He is 3-2 in his five starts this season with a 2.19 GAA and a .931 save pct. Lifetime against the Red Wings, Holtby is 8-2-1 with a shutout, a 1.87 GAA and a .929 save pct.

Detroit will counter with Petr Mrazek against the Capitals in Friday's game. He came on in relief of Jimmy Howard late in the first period of Detroit's most recent game, a 6-3 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Wednesday. Mrazek stopped 19 of 21 shots he faced over the final 43:53 that night. On the season, he is 1-2 with a 2.98 GAA and a .900 save pct.

During his career against the Capitals, Mrazek is 2-3-1 with a shutout, a 2.18 GAA and a .925 save pct.

All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Caps and the Red Wings to look on Friday night when they take to the ice at Little Caesars Arena for the first of their three meetings this season:

WASHINGTON

Forwards


43-Wilson, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie

8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 13-Vrana

10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 65-Burakovsky

25-Smith-Pelly, 83-Beagle, 39-Chiasson

Defensemen

29-Djoos, 74-Carlson

9-Orlov, 4-Chorney

44-Orpik, 22-Bowey

Goaltenders

70-Holtby

31-Grubauer

Scratches

55-Ness

79-Walker

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