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Capitals to start Kuznetsov on fourth line

by Adam Vingan /

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov will make his highly anticipated NHL debut Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

The 21-year-old, Washington's first-round pick (No. 26) in the 2010 NHL Draft, will start on the fourth line with center Jay Beagle and right wing Tom Wilson.

Though the idea of slotting Kuznetsov in alongside center Nicklas Backstrom and right wing Alex Ovechkin certainly is tantalizing, coach Adam Oates said he wants to manage Kuznetsov's minutes as he acclimates himself to the NHL.

"I think it makes sense to start him on that line no matter what quite honestly, in fairness to the other guys," Oates said. "Obviously everybody's excited to see him, but for the team he's got to earn his stripes.

"I think starting him there and let him ease into the team and the system and not put him in a situation where he might make a mistake right off the hop and get off on the wrong foot, I think it makes sense to do it that way."

There is much hype surrounding Kuznetsov, widely considered one of the top prospects in the world. With that attention comes sizable expectations.

His new teammates, however, are trying not to make too much of his arrival.

"It's not like we traded for Wayne Gretzky in his prime," left wing Jason Chimera said. "He's a young kid; you can't put too much expectations on him. It's a big learning curve coming to the NHL, so hopefully he can help out.

"He's a skilled kid, he's a really good player, but expectations have got to be downplayed because everyone thinks he's the Second Coming, so you've got to really take it easy on the kid and not put too much pressure on him. He's got to play his game, and if he does I think he'll help us out."

Here are the projected lineups for the Penguins and Capitals:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Lee Stempniak

Jussi Jokinen - Evgeni Malkin - James Neal

Taylor Pyatt - Brandon Sutter - Joe Vitale

Tanner Glass - Marcel Goc - Craig Adams

Brooks Orpik - Olli Maatta

Rob Scuderi - Matt Niskanen

Simon Despres - Deryk Engelland

Jeff Zatkoff

Marc-Andre Fleury

Injured: Beau Bennett (wrist/hand), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), Brian Gibbons (lower body), Kris Letang (stroke), Paul Martin (hand), Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), Tomas Vokoun (blood clot)


Brooks Laich - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin

Dustin Penner - Marcus Johansson - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward

Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov - Mike Green

Jack Hillen - Connor Carrick

Jaroslav Halak

Braden Holtby

Scratched: Ryan Stoa, John Erskine

Injured: Mikhail Grabovski (left ankle), Aaron Volpatti (left shoulder)

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