If the Capitals are going to rediscover what it feels like to win hockey games they will first need to rediscover their offense.
Held to just one goal in their last two games, the Caps will go into tonight’s crucial game against the Carolina Hurricanes with a whole new look up front.
Center Nicklas Backstrom has been reunited with Alex Ovechkin on the top line, along with left wing Matt Hendricks.
Marcus Johansson, who played left wing with Mike Ribeiro and Ovechkin in Tuesday night’s 4-0 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. Chimera, who has gone 25 games without a goal, matching the longest stretch of his career.
The Caps’ fourth line is expected to have Jay Beagle between Wojtek Wolski and Joey Crabb.
“Just trying to find a little chemistry,” Caps coach Adam Oates said. “Sometimes you get a little flat and you’re looking for a spark. We can throw another wrinkle at them.”
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 recorded no shots on goal Tuesday night.
“I think we have great chemistry with [Backstrom] and Mike, as well,” Ovechkin said. “With Backy I play almost all my career in NHL. It's not gonna be question like we have chemistry or not.”
Ovechkin said it’s up to guys like him, Backstrom and Ribeiro to re-ignite the Capitals’ offense, which ranks 11th in the Eastern Conference in goals with 76.
“We have more ice time than everybody,” Ovechkin said. “We have the trust from our coaching staff and we have to use it. We have to give them back.”
Chimera has taken 51 shots this season but is still looking for his first goal. He had a career-high of 20 last season.
“I’ve got to look at myself,” he said. “You’ve got to make your own breaks. Me and Wardo play a simple game and Ribs is a great overall player and can find anyone.”
Chimera has never gone 26 games without a goal. He was asked if it might be time to switch up his pre-game routine.
“Light some incense?” he asked. “Drive backwards down the highway? I don’t know. I’ve never been through a stretch like this in my career. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t, but you’ve got to make them go in. I’m a believer in that. You’ve got to finish.
“When our third and fourth line scores it helps our team tremendously. That’s what’s been lacking. Everybody puts pressure on Ovi and Backy and those guys, but when we’re not scoring it doesn’t help anyone.”