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At the Rink: Sharks at Capitals

by Adam Vingan / NHL.com

ARLINGTON, Va. -- In grouping together forwards Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Joel Ward, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz pictured an industrious trio that, among other things, could stymie the opposition’s most potent skaters.

Calling them a shutdown line, though, will be met with slight resistance.

"Regardless of who we're playing against or matched up against, I think the thing is to get on the offensive side," Ward said. "I don't know about that defensive stuff, whatever people keep talking about. But if you're playing offense the majority of the time you don't have to be playing any defense. The focus is just to get on the other side of the blue line and try to make plays."

Ward has a point. He scored a career-high 24 goals last season, while Chimera contributed a personal-best 42 points. Laich is a three-time 20-goal scorer.

The big-bodied veterans' straightforward style is difficult to contend with, especially when anchored along the boards in the offensive zone.

"We feel we just play the right way," Laich said. "We don't cheat, there's no risk in our game. Everything is north-south; there's no uncertainty. It's tough for other teams to play against, so we're not going out thinking defense. We're going out thinking playing the right way and doing that will get rewarded. And also doing that we won't give up any chances-against."

Through two games Trotz primarily has deployed that line outside of the offensive zone. All three players enter the Capitals game against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday with a 41.2 offensive-zone start percentage, the lowest among Washington skaters, according to behindthenet.ca.

In them, Trotz sees a responsible line that he can depend on in all situations.

"They've been playing against the one-, two- and three-level lines since I've put them together," Trotz said. "I think they're as good a two-way line as there is in the League. They all should be 40-plus-point guys or in that range, and at the same time be a line that I can put out late in games, I can put out when I need an offensive push, just going head-to-head against the top lines if I want to avoid something.

"They're all veterans and they've all scored at a decent rate, so I expect a lot from that line."

Here are the projected lineups:

SHARKS

Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto

Tye McGinn - Tommy Wingels - Chris Tierney

Adam Burish - Andrew Desjardins - John Scott

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Scott Hannan - Jason Demers

Mirco Mueller - Brent Burns

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Matt Irwin

Injured: Tyler Kennedy (upper body), James Sheppard (knee), Mike Brown (upper body), Raffi Torres (knee)

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Eric Fehr

Marcus Johansson - Andre Burakovsky - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Brooks Laich - Joel Ward

Liam O'Brien - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Michael Latta

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt - Mike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Chris Brown, Jack Hillen, John Erskine

Injured: Tom Wilson (fractured left fibula), Jay Beagle (upper body), Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist)

Status report: Brown will not play during the Sharks' five-game road trip because of an upper-body injury sustained Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets. Scott should make his season debut in Brown's place. … Hannan will be playing in his 1,000th NHL game. … Niemi is 4-0-2 with a 1.77 goals-against average and .936 save percentage against Washington.

Who’s hot: Marleau leads the Sharks with four points; he has one goal and one assist in each of their first two games. … Niemi and Stalock have combined to make 64 saves in San Jose's two shutouts. The Sharks are one of six teams since 1943-44 to record back-to-back shutouts to open a season, according to Elias Sports Bureau. … Ovechkin scored twice in the first period in a 4-0 victory against the Boston Bruins on Saturday. He has 11 career multigoal first periods, the most of any active player, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

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