With his team mired in an offensive funk, Barry Trotz did something he’s avoided for months: the Capitals’ head coach changed up his forward lines.
Here’s how the combinations looked during practice on Friday in El Segundo, Calif.:
The highlights included Alex Ovechkin being dropped from the first line to the second, Wilson being promoted from the fourth line to the second and Williams moving from the second line to the third.
Why the drastic changes? Well, the NHL-best Caps have scored just 22 goals since returning from the bye week 10 games ago (2.2 goals per game). In the 10 games prior to that five-day hiatus, T.J. Oshie and Co. scored 43 goals (4.3 per).
Overall, Washington has lost two games in a row and is just 5-4-1 since the bye.
Trotz told reporters that he hopes the moves stir some “interest” amongst the forwards.
“I think we’ve gone a little stale,” Trotz said. “Sometimes a little change [and] you’ll get a little spark. Sometimes you get a new linemate or a couple of new linemates, so there’s a little more communication. You're working through stuff rather than just going through it. So, hopefully, that will spark a little bit of interest and production.”
Although he didn’t single out anyone, a quick glance at the game logs reveal the players Trotz is attempting to jumpstart. Ovechkin has no goals in the last eight games and just one in the last 12. Justin Williams has no goals in the last six games and just one in the last 13 games. Meantime, Lars Eller has just one point in the last eight games, while Evgeny Kuznetsov has one in the last four.
On Saturday, Washington faces Los Angeles at Staples Center. The Kings are clinging to their playoff lives while the Caps will be looking to avoid losing three straight games in regulation for the first time since Feb. 2015.
Will the new lines do the trick? It’s worked in the past, Trotz noted.
“What I’ve learned with this group is we move them around and they sort of find their way a little bit,” he said. “And then you can always go back to the old reliable lines, and at some point, we’ll probably do that. But right now we need a little spark and a little interest and a little more production 5-on-5.”
The defense pairs were unchanged.
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