Oates moves struggling Ovechkin to second line

Oates moves struggling Ovechkin to second line
January 1, 2014, 11:45 am
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Chris Neil tries to go high on Ovi, injures himself

News and notes as the Capitals spent New Year’s morning practicing at Kettler Capitals Iceplex:

New lines: What does a coach do when a team scores two goals on 85 shots in back-to-back losses?  He changes up his lines, of course.

Adam Oates shook up his top two forward lines for the Caps’ 11 a.m. practice, pulling Alex Ovechkin off the top line and putting him on right wing with center Mikhail Grabovski and left wing Eric Fehr.

Center Nicklas Backstrom and left wing Marcus Johansson remained together and were joined by right wing Troy Brouwer.

Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 30 goals, has gone four straight games without a point, his longest point-less streak since Nov. 12-21 in his final weeks under Bruce Boudreau.

The other lines at Wednesday’s practice had Marty Erat between Jason Chimera and Joel Ward; and Brooks Laich and Aaron Volpatti taking turns at left wing on a fourth line with centers Jay Beagle and Michael Latta, along with right wing Tom Wilson.

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Goalie shuffle: The Caps still have three goalies on their roster, with Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and Michal Neuvirth taking turns between the pipes. After back-to-back losses by Grubauer [5-2-2, 2.02, .938], look for Holtby [13-10-2, 3.00 .915] to get his first start since Dec. 21 when the Caps are back in action at home against Carolina.

Holtby was 8-3-1 with a 2.35 GAA and .933 save percentage in November, but went 1-2-1 with a 4.92 GAA and .863 save percentage in December.

Injury update: Defenseman Jack Hillen, who broke his tibial plateau in the Caps’ second game of the season on Oct.3, skated briefly before Wednesday’s practice.

“It’s actually better than I thought it would be,” Hillen said. “It’s a first step.”

In all likelihood Hillen is still months away from returning to game action. He said he would like to play for the Capitals this season.

Look ahead: The Caps’ firm hold on second place in the Metropolitan Division has become tenuous. The Flyers’ fourth win in a row on Tuesday moved them to within one point of the Caps. Both teams have played 40 games. The Caps hold a six-point lead on the Hurricanes, who visit D.C. on Thursday.