In the midst of his team’s first three-game losing streak since early February, Capitals head coach switched things up at practice on Wednesday when he reunited center Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the top line, along with left wing Matt Hendricks.
The change came after Tuesday night’s 4-0 shutout loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, who moved 10 points ahead of the Capitals in the Southeast Division standings. The two teams meet again Thursday night in Raleigh.
Ovechkin has been in a scoring slump since netting a hat trick against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 23. In the eight games since then Ovechkin has one goal and five assists. He had no shots on goal Tuesday night.
Marcus Johansson, who played left wing with Mike Ribeiro and Ovechkin in Tuesday night’s loss, has been dropped to a second line, where he’s centering left wing Eric Fehr and right wing Troy Brouwer, who has two goals in his last eight games.
Mike Ribeiro, who is without a point and is a minus-6 in his last three games, was dropped to a third line with Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. Mathieu Perreault alternated at left wing with Chimera, who has gone 25 games without a goal, matching the longest stretch of his career.
The Caps’ fourth line had Jay Beagle between Wojtek Wolski and Joey Crabb, with Aaron Volpatti alternating with Wolski.
The Caps’ defense pairings remained the same at practice, with Karl Alzner and Tomas Kundratek, Jeff Schultz with John Carlson, and Cameron Schilling and Steve Oleksy.
The big decision for Oates is whether he goes back to Braden Holtby, who has lost two straight starts, allowing six goals, or turn to Michal Neuvirth, who has won just one of his first six appearances [1-4-1].
On the brighter side, Mike Green [groin], Brooks Laich [groin] and Tom Poti [upper body] all practiced with the team. All three are being listed as day-to-day.