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Capitals could make changes for Game 3

Following loss, coach Barry Trotz says he 'may tweak something' against Maple Leafs

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he is contemplating several lineup adjustments in preparing for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference First Round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Monday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports 2, CSN-DC).

"Maybe we may tweak something," Trotz said Sunday. "Yeah, we might do that."

Toronto tied the best-of-7 series 1-1 with a 4-3 double-overtime win Saturday at Verizon Center. 


[RELATED: Complete Maple Leafs vs. Capitals series covereage]


A likely change involves splitting left wing Alex Ovechkin and center Nicklas Backstrom, who played on the same line for most of the regular season.

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock has sent center Nazem Kadri against Backstrom's line in the first two games of the series and expects to continue that matchup.

Ovechkin could be flipped to a line with center Evgeny Kuznetsov, potentially getting him away from Kadri, who has limited the Capitals' top line to one even-strength point through two games. Backstrom scored the game-tying goal in the third period of Game 2 at 5-on-5.

"[Babcock's] going to have the matchups in Toronto, so we'll see who they want against him," Trotz said. "I think [Babcock] will probably stay with the same game plan that he's tried to do here with Kadri on Backstrom. We may move things around, we may not. We're meeting now and going through a lot of the stuff from [Saturday]. We'll have a good game plan and the guys will be ready for tomorrow."

Kuznetsov improved his defensive game significantly throughout the regular season, and Trotz said he's been impressed by his work so far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Changes to defensive pairings seem less likely, since Trotz wants to see more out of his forward group specifically to get the better of the matchups.

"But [Kuznetsov] and his game, he's created quite a few opportunities for us," Trotz said. "I think he's skating extremely well. He's pushed their [defensemen] back a lot. He had a regroup last night, I think it was in the first overtime period, first two minutes he cut through their [defense] and almost finished it right there. I like the way he's really moving right now."

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Trotz said he doesn't see the series being tied as a setback.

"We've responded all year to any adversity we've had this year," Trotz said. "We'll get things corrected, we'll be better. It's more of a marathon than a sprint and there's no easy games in the playoffs and there will be adjustments. We're going to get up to Toronto and reset and I'm looking for forwards to be better than they were last night."

The Capitals are expecting an electric environment in Toronto for the first playoff game at Air Canada Centre since May 12, 2013, but hope to seize home-ice advantage back from the Maple Leafs.

"They won a game in our building, so the series is on," Trotz said. "It's on. This is a Toronto team who has played very well in our building. We got to go play well in their building."

That may be harder to do if Toronto defenseman Nikita Zaitsev is able to play in Game 3. Zaitsev has missed the first two games of the series because of an upper-body injury sustained in the final game of the regular season but skated Sunday for the second straight day. Babcock said Zaitsev's availability is to be determined.

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