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Capitals' top line has had revolving cast at right wing

by Adam Vingan

PHILADELPHIA -- During the Washington Capitals pre-game line rushes against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, Andre Burakovsky skated with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, completing the Capitals first line.

Coach Barry Trotz ultimately scratched Burakovsky after deciding Washington was in need of a jump-start, inserting Jay Beagle into the starting lineup instead. Beagle's stint on the line was short-lived; Marcus Johansson replaced him after two shifts and a holding penalty, remaining there for the rest of Washington’s 3-2 loss.

"I think we weren't sharp at all," said Backstrom, who was held without a point after having seven in his previous four games. "It doesn't matter who plays with us, to be honest with you."

That sort of top-line turnover has been prevalent with the Capitals this season. Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 38 goals, and Backstrom, whose 64 points place him in a tie with Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane for the League's scoring lead, have started games with eight different forwards.

"I don't know if it's ideal or not, but all I know is [Backstrom] and [Ovechkin] are almost one-two in League scoring," Trotz said. "They've had a multitude of different people there and I think they're capable of playing with a lot of people and it's worked out. You take their point totals 5-on-5, it's up there with the best in the League.

"Is it ideal? I don't know if it is or not. Probably not, but I think at the same time it does make you a little more alert of what you're playing with and who. Sometimes you go stale the other way too."

Trotz has typically assigned players to skate with Ovechkin and Backstrom based on matchups. When in need of a physical presence or deterrent, Tom Wilson is called upon. Beagle's defensive-mindedness lends itself to lead-protecting situations. Burakovsky accentuates Ovechkin and Backstrom's skill with offensive talent of his own. Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer and Jason Chimera have also received first-line ice time.

Production from that position has been scant, even with the plethora of options. The eight forwards have six 5-on-5 goals among them while skating with Ovechkin and Backstrom, who have combined for 28, according to

With one week until the NHL Trade Deadline on March 2 at 3 p.m. ET, the Capitals have limited time to acquire a first-line caliber forward if they choose to pursue one. An upgrade would arguably be welcome, but the Capitals seem prepared to continue as is.

"It's been working all year," Trotz said. "This is where we're at, so we just keep going."

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