News and notes from today’s morning skate at Kettler as the Capitals [30-27-10, 70 points] face the Vancouver Canucks [30-28-10, points] tonight at Verizon Center [7 p.m., CSN+]:
Who’s in goal: Jaroslav Halak [25-11-4, 2.24, .917] will make his fourth straight start for the Caps. In nine career games against the Canucks he is 4-3-1 with a 2.12 GAA, .932 save percentage and one shutout. The Canucks are expected to go with rookie Eddie Lack [11-12-4, 2.28, .918].
Laich update: Left wing Brooks Laich skated on his own before practice and is expected to play on a top line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin tonight.
No Kesler: The Canucks will be without gritty center Ryan Kesler, who is expected to miss the next several weeks with a knee sprain.
Defensive shuffle: The Caps have decided to shake up their defensive pairings, moving Jack Hillen onto a second pairing with Mike Green, and dropping Dmitry Orlov onto a third pairing with Connor Carrick. The switch was actually made in the second period of the Caps’ 2-0 loss in Pittsburgh Tuesday night.
“We thought Pittsburgh was all over us and we weren’t getting out of our end,” Oates said. “It got us a little momentum.”
Hillen, 28, will be playing in his fifth straight game since returning from a broken right leg.
“I just need to keep playing steady and let Greenie do his thing,” Hillen said.
Green, 28, is a minus-7 in his last five games and minus-15 for the season.
“We’ve got to be able to make those passes even if there’s a guy in front of you,” Green said about the Caps’ trouble getting up the ice. “If we can break out of our own end easier we’ll be better off.
“We need to want that puck. Sometimes we’re just skating routes and going through he motions at times. We’ve got to really have that urgency to want that puck and move it forward.”
Tough starts: The Caps were outshot 26-12 in the first two periods against the Penguins Tuesday night and have been outscored 6-1 during their current 1-4-1 slide. The Caps are now 9-19-7 when allowing the first goal.
“It’s tough when you’re down 1-0 to create momentum,” Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said. “We’ve got to be the team that sets the tone and sets the pace of the game because we’ve got a lot of quick forwards in here.
“We need to get in on the forecheck, create some excitement in our own building, create some good buzz, and that’s going to help us out.”
Capitals Projected Lineup
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
Jack Hillen – Mike Green
Dmitry Orlov – Connor Carrick
Jaroslav Halak [starter] – Braden Holtby
Canucks Projected Lineup
Alex Burrows - Henrik Sedin – Nicklas Jensen
Chris Higgins – Shawn Matthias - Jannik Hansen
David Booth – Brad Richardson – Zack Kassian
Tom Sestitio – Jordan Schroeder – Yannick Weber
Dan Hamhuis – Christopher Tanev
Alex Edler – Kevin Bieksa
Ryan Stanton – Jason Garrison
Eddie Lack [starter] – Jacob Markstrom