FLYERS (17-19-7) at CAPITALS (23-11-8)
TV: NBCSN, TVA SPORTS, SN1
ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals have employed a wing-by-committee approach on their first line under coach Barry Trotz.
When in need of physicality, Tom Wilson plays right wing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Trotz has turned to Jay Beagle on the right side to provide two-way responsibility. In four games between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1 Trotz used four different first-line wings: Eric Fehr, Wilson, Jason Chimera (played on the left side and Ovechkin moved to right wing) and Beagle.
Lately Andre Burakovsky has assumed right wing alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom. Against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday they will play together for the sixth straight game.
"He makes plays," Trotz said of Burakovsky. "He's pretty creative. Definitely he's done a pretty good job. His wall play has gotten better as the whole year's gone on. He's been pretty creative. He can make those high-skill plays like [Backstrom] can; maybe not to that extent yet, but the high-skill plays that he can make to [Backstrom or Ovechkin], so far so good. He skates very well for a young man."
The Capitals intend to develop Burakovsky into a center, though Trotz recently said that he may have been too ambitious in trying to convert Burakovsky and forward Evgeny Kuznetsov simultaneously. That undertaking has been suspended temporarily.
Upon being promoted to the first line, Burakovsky said that he, Ovechkin and Backstrom could be dangerous offensively. In the past five games they have been Washington's best possession forwards, with 5-on-5 Corsi-for percentages ranging from 52.5 to 54.9, according to war-on-ice.com.
"We've been OK, I think, but we could still get better," said Backstrom, who said better forechecking is the line's most necessary area of improvement. "New combinations, it takes a couple games to get used to. I think we've had some good looks but we've got to be more consistent. We've got to play the same way as we should every time."
They have two 5-on-5 goals among the three of them in the past five games, but they have created scoring chances.
"We are a threat for the other team all the time," Burakovsky said. "We've got chances all the time; we've just got to score. We're a line that's got to produce. We've got to score goals."
The Flyers, who defeated the Capitals 3-2 in overtime in Philadelphia last week, will start Rob Zepp in goal. With Steve Mason sidelined by a lower-body injury, Zepp made 21 saves in the Flyers' 7-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday.
"He won last game," Flyers coach Craig Berube said. "I liked the way he looked. That's all. There's no deep thought; just decided to play him."
Goaltender Ray Emery's recent performances against Washington may have factored into Berube's choice as well. In Emery's previous four games against the Capitals he is 0-3-0 with a 5.95 goals-against average.
Here are the projected lineups:
Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
Michael Raffl - Scott Laughton - Wayne Simmonds
R.J. Umberger - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Vincent Lecavalier
Mark Streit - Andrew MacDonald
Michael Del Zotto - Nick Schultz
Luke Schenn - Carlo Colaiacovo
Scratched: Zac Rinaldo
Injured: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots), Nicklas Grossmann (upper body), Braydon Coburn (lower body), Steve Mason (lower body)
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Andre Burakovsky
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Troy Brouwer
Brooks Laich - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Jason Chimera - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen
Jack Hillen - Mike Green
Scratched: Michael Latta, Aaron Volpatti, Steve Oleksy
Injured: Nate Schmidt (scapular fracture), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)
Status report: Coburn will miss four weeks because of a lower-body injury sustained against the Lightning on Monday. Colaiacovo will replace him, playing his first game since Nov. 19.
Who's hot: Voracek and Giroux, each among the top four scorers in the NHL, have been productive in recent games against the Capitals. Voracek has seven goals and nine points in his past five games against Washington. Giroux has 12 goals and 21 points in his past 15. … Ovechkin has seven goals in his past nine games.