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Caps need supporting players to step up

by Corey Masisak
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Playing against the Boston Bruins can be tough enough at full strength, but the Washington Capitals will do so tonight without their three best players.

Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green are injured, and Alex Ovechkin will join them as spectators as he serves the first game of his three-game suspension for a charging incident with Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek during Sunday's game against the Penguins.

"I think when you lose top guys, you sort of go into survival mode," said Brooks Laich. "You want to be in close hockey games. You want to be right there at the end of the game where you have a chance to win. If you can, just get it to overtime and see what happens -- just try and survive it. They play a lot of minutes, but we're going to have to find a different way to win now."

The Capitals have played without Ovechkin in the past, and actually done a fine job without their franchise player and captain. Two seasons ago, Ovechkin missed 10 games because of injury and suspension, but Tomas Fleischmann filled in on the top line and scored a bunch of goals in the games Ovechkin missed.

Washington also has had some success without Green, but not having all three at the same time will be quite the challenge.

"It is tough," said Mathieu Perreault. "Those are your best players and we need them on the ice. At the same time, it is a good opportunity for guys to step up. We have confidence in our group here. Even without those guys, we can out-work and out-play other teams."

Perreault will center the Capitals' top line against the Bruins, flanked by Alexander Semin and Marcus Johansson. Perreault had a strong game against Pittsburgh on Sunday as he played on Ovechkin's line.

The Capitals will need members of their supporting cast to move into leading roles without the trio of stars for the next three games, which includes contests against Tampa Bay and Florida following tonight's game.

"It is an opportunity for other guys -- Matty Perreault and Marcus (Johansson) are going to get more minutes and they're excited about that," Laich said. "Other guys are going to get chances on the power play, but obviously those are three big guys for our team. You're never going to replace them, but you have to try and pick up some of the slack. You have to do that by committee."

Added Perreault: "Just last game I ended up playing over 16 minutes and it was a career high for me. Obviously when you get more minutes, you get more chances to score points. It is a good chance for me to show what I can do with more minutes."
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