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Capitals shuffle lineup in hopes of creating offense

by Adam Vingan /

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals will sport a vastly different look when they take the ice Saturday at Verizon Center against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

After only scoring eight even-strength goals through seven games and losing three of four during a season-long five-game homestand, coach Adam Oates, who had been patient despite his team's offensive struggles, rearranged his forward lines and defensive pairings.

"I know we talk a lot about chemistry and that's important," Oates said following practice Friday. "I just felt that a couple guys weren't playing good enough for the minutes they're getting, and they need to know that."

The first line of Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin remains intact, but the other three lines have undergone some sort of makeover.

Martin Erat will see his first top-six action of the season after averaging less than nine minutes per game on the fourth line, joining the second line with Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer. Mikhail Grabovski will center the third line and Eric Fehr will play in the middle on the fourth line. 

Aaron Volpatti will make his season debut, replacing Jay Beagle on the fourth line, with Fehr and Tom Wilson.

"Maybe a little bit," Volpatti said when asked if playing for the first time since Sept. 28 will provide more of a challenge. "The [preseason's] long but it's been a couple weeks. You stay pretty sharp practicing every day and stuff. Obviously games are different, but it hasn't been a concern to me."

On defense, John Carlson and Karl Alzner will be reunited after being separated early last season. Rookie Nate Schmidt will skate alongside Mike Green, and Alexander Urbom and Steve Oleksy will be paired together.

John Erskine will miss his fourth straight game with what the Capitals are calling an upper-body injury, but Oates said he hopes the rugged defenseman will return at some point during the team's upcoming five-game road trip, which begins Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.

Here are the lineups the Capitals and visiting Blue Jackets likely will use Saturday:


Cam Atkinson - Artem Anisimov - Marian Gaborik

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Mark Letestu

Blake Comeau - Ryan Johansen - R.J. Umberger

Ryan Craig - Derek MacKenzie - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - Jack Johnson

Nikita Nikitin - David Savard

James Wisniewski - Ryan Murray

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Dalton Prout, Jack Skille

Injured: Nathan Horton (shoulder), Matt Calvert (abdominal), Nick Foligno (personal reasons), Cody Bass (broken thumb)


Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Martin Erat - Brooks Laich - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Mikhail Grabovski - Joel Ward

Aaron Volpatti - Eric Fehr - Tom Wilson

Nate Schmidt - Mike Green

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Alexander Urbom - Steve Oleksy

Braden Holtby

Michal Neuvirth

Scratched: Jay Beagle

Injured: John Erskine (upper body), Jack Hillen (fractured tibial plateau)

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