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Barry Trotz makes clear Nate Schmidt remains the Caps’ No. 7 defenseman

Barry Trotz makes clear Nate Schmidt remains the Caps’ No. 7 defenseman

Nate Schmidt made Barry Trotz’s lineup decision tougher with his recent play, but not tough enough to stay in the lineup.

After serving a two-game suspension, Kevin Shattenkirk will play in Thursday’s game against the Nashville Predators. That was not unexpected, but Trotz did hint after Tuesday’s game that perhaps Schmidt could stay in the lineup saying, “We do have a little bit of an interesting scenario here. [Schmidt] stepped in and is making our decisions tougher.”

As the team took to the ice for morning skate Thursday, however, the pairs returned to what they were before Shattenkirk’s suspension.

Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik – Kevin Shattenkirk

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Following the skate, Trotz made very clear the team’s defensive depth chart.

“Our top six are what you're going to see tonight. That's our top six. Nate is seven and what I said is he played very well and made some decisions tougher. And that's his job as a player. He's in that seven hole and that's perfect.”

The Caps snapped a four-game losing streak on Tuesday with a win over the Minnesota Wild in a game in which Nate Schmidt scored. With the Caps back in the win column, some wondered if that meant Schmdit may get another game in Shattenkirk’s place.

But that was never going to happen.

The Caps showed what bringing left-right balance to each defensive pairs meant to them by trading Zach Sanford, a first-round pick and a conditional pick in order to acquire Shattenkirk. That made it unlikely that Schmidt, a left-handed shot, would stay in the lineup over Shattenkirk, a right-handed shot.

“When you make trades you make yourself deeper,” Trotz said. “[Genearl manager Brian MacLellan] did that to make us deeper and give us a better chance and Nate has been in that sort of six hole all year. Shattenkirk, we didn't get him to be the seventh. Those are our six and [Schmidt’s] seventh.”

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Capitals fight off comeback attempt for narrow win over lowly Avalanche

Capitals fight off comeback attempt for narrow win over lowly Avalanche

Final score: Washington Capitals 5, Colorado Avalanche 3

How it happened: John Carlson opened up the scoring by finishing off an odd-man rush in the first period. Mikko Rantanen responded as the Caps got caught puck watching in their own zone, but Jay Beagle tipped in a Kevin Shattenkirk shot just 37 seconds later. Washington established control in the second period with goals from Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov to make it 4-1, but Matt Nieto added a goal before the end of the frame. Nathan MacKinnon dropped jaws with his goal in the third to pull Colorado within one, but Lars Eller put the finishing touch on the win with an empty-net goal late.

What it means: Washington has won six straight games and seven of its last eight. They now have a five-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets and a seven-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metropolitan Division.

Goals

Caps goal: John Carlson (power play) from Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov at 4:00 in the 1st period. Three Avalanche got caught deep in the Caps’ zone on a shorthanded opportunity opening them up for the counter attack from Washington. Justin Williams went up to Burakovsky, who went cross-ice to Kuznetsov who dropped it back to the trailing Carlson. Carlson then wristed it home. Caps 1, Avalanche 0

Avalanche goal: Mikko Rantanen from Sven Andrighetto and Nathan MacKinnon at 11:11 in the 1st. MacKinnon took it into the zone and faced a wall of three Caps and dropped the pass back to Rantanen. The Caps defense got caught watching as no one stepped up to him leaving Rantanen plenty of time to get the shot off and score. Caps 1, Avalanche 1

Caps goal: Jay Beagle from Kevin Shattenkirk and Tom Wilson at 11:48 in the 1st. A centering attempt from Wilson was deflected back to the blue line where Shattenkirk unleashed a blistering slap shot. Beagle managed to get a piece of the puck and deflect it in. Caps 2, Avalanche 1

Caps goal: Marcus Johansson (power play) from Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Oshie at 4:57 in the 2nd. Good things happen when you shoot. Shattenkirk had the puck at the blue line on the power play and wristed one at the net. Oshie got a piece of it and it bounced off of Johansson and in the net. Caps 3, Avalanche 1

Caps goal: Evgeny Kuznetsov from Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson at 11:03 in the 2nd. Justin Williams sent the breakout pass into the neutral zone where Johansson pounced on it. He fought off Nieto on his way to the net and backhanded a pass to Kuznetsov who scored. Caps 4, Avalanche 1

Avalanche goal: Matt Nieto from Rene Bourque and Mikhail Grigorenko at 13:50 in the 2nd. With the puck in the offensive zone, Dmitry Orlov pinched too far into the attack leaving the Caps exposed after a turnover from Williams. That started a two-on-one with Grigorenko leading the way. Matt Niskanen slid to block the pass, but Grigorenko curled around him with the backhand and passed it over to Nieto for the goal. Caps 4, Avalanche 2

Avalanche goal: Nathan MacKinnon from Sven Andrighetto and Tyson Barre at 4:29 in the 3rd. MacKinnon had the goal of the game as he broke the puck out of his own zone, turned Orlov inside-out with the deke and threaded the needle between him and Niskanen, then tucked the puck into the net. Caps 4, Avalanche 3

Caps goal: Lars Eller (empty net) from Daniel Winnik at 18:38 in the 3rd. Caps 5, Avalanche 3

3 stars

1. Kevin Shattenkirk: It doesn't look like any more adjustment is necessary. Shattenkirk looks right at home with the Caps, especially playing the point on the power play.

2. Nathan MacKinnon: MacKinnon had the goal of the night in the third period as he deked and dangled his way through Orlov and Niskanen for the goal. He also added an assist with a drop-back pass to Rantanen in the first.

3. Marcus Johansson: Johansson earned a goal with the strong net-front presence, then added an assist on a fantastic individual effort to fight off Nieto and set up Kuznetsov.

Look ahead: The Caps continue their road trip with a game in Arizona on Friday. Then they head to Columbus for a pivotal Metropolitan matchup with the Blue Jackets. They wrap-up the trip in Toronto on Tuesday and then return home for the quick turnaround with the New York Rangers on Wednesday.

Tell us what you think: There was going to be an adjustment period for Shattenkirk when he was acquired at the trade deadline. He now has 11 points in 13 games with the Caps. Do you think he has settled in with this new team or do you think he still needs more time to learn?

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Capitals beard guy unleashes epic new look at Avalanche game

Capitals beard guy unleashes epic new look at Avalanche game

By now, you’ve probably seen the phenomenal “8” beard of the Capitals beard guy. His name is Eric Brooks and his beard is multi-talented.

Brooks moved to Denver from Rockville, Md. and now graces Caps-Avalanche games with the presence of his beard as he first did in 2013 when he unveiled the 8. He unveiled a new design for Wednesday’s game and stole the show.

Check it out in the video above.

Molded to perfection Brooks managed to style his beard into a white “CAPS” leaving people like me with barely a five o’clock shadow with some serious beard envy.

Never stop being you, Brooks.

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