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At the Rink: Panthers at Capitals

Galiev takes place of suspended Ovechkin on top line

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

PANTHERS (29-15-5) at CAPITALS (35-8-4)


WASHINGTON -- Without the services of captain Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals turn to Stanislav Galiev on the top line Tuesday against the Florida Panthers at Verizon Center.

Galiev has worked hard to make a mark this season, so while Ovechkin serves a one-game suspension, the 24-year old forward finally has a chance to prove himself. In 13 games with the Capitals this season, Galiev has two assists.

Galiev will play with T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin's usual linemates. Coach Barry Trotz said he didn't want to tinker with the other three lines and Galiev's skill set made him a logical choice for the top line.

"It's a good opportunity for me and try to play my game," Galiev said. "They're going to give me good plays, I'm going to try to make plays too."

The Capitals announced Wednesday that Ovechkin had a lower-body injury and would not play in the 2016 Honda NHL All-Star Game, and he was suspended for one game as is mandated by the League. Trotz said Monday that Ovechkin is healthy and will play Thursday against the New York Islanders.

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant coached Galiev for three years in Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Galiev credits Gallant with helping him adjust to playing the North American style of hockey.

"He's a guy that can step up and play in a role like that," Gallant said of Galiev playing on the Capitals top line. "Nobody's going to replace Ovechkin tonight, but this kid's a good hockey player. And good for him; he'll get the chance to play with some top guys and probably play some power play. That's the type of player he was in junior for me for three years and obviously in the American League too."

Each team will start its backup goalie: Al Montoya for the Panthers and Philipp Grubauer for the Capitals.

Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik practiced for the first time since Dec. 7. He did not participate in drills and said there is no timetable for his return. Orpik hasn't played since Nov. 10 because of a lower-body injury.

"From the beginning I thought it was something that was just going to kind of go away after a certain amount of time and just kind of play through it," Orpik said. "Obviously that wasn't happening, so you just kind of had to take a different course of action. They told me eight weeks, and you just kind of trust that they're going to be right about that. After kind of missing that first month and then kind of having to back off it completely, I definitely wasn't going to rush things a second time and miss more time or compound it even more. It's frustrating being patient, but I think you know it's the best thing for you."

Here are the projected lineups:

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr
Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Reilly Smith
Quinton Howden - Nick Bjugstad - Logan Shaw
Corban Knight - Derek MacKenzie - Shawn Thornton

Brian Campbell - Erik Gudbranson
Dmitry Kulikov - Aaron Ekblad
Steven Kampfer - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo
Al Montoya

Injured: Willie Mitchell (lower body), Dave Bolland (lower body)
Scratched: Brandon Pirri
Stanislav Galiev - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Jason Chimera - Mike Richards - Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich - Zach Sill - Michael Latta

Matt Niskanen - Karl Alzner
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov- Taylor Chorney

Philipp Grubauer
Braden Holtby

Injured: Brooks Orpik (lower body), Jay Beagle (upper body), Marcus Johansson (upper body)
Scratched: none
Suspended: Alex Ovechkin

Status update: Pirri will sit for a fourth consecutive game. Gallant said he didn't want to change the lineup since the Panthers are playing well and said Pirri could get back in if that changes. Mitchell has resumed skating but there is no date set for his return.

Who's hot: Kuznetsov has eight points in his past three games. Burakovsky has five points in his past three games. … Jokinen has four points in three games. Campbell has five points in his past four games.

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