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With the Caps scuffling, Coach Barry Trotz shook things up Friday

With the Caps scuffling, Coach Barry Trotz shook things up Friday

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.:

Johansson-Backstrom-Oshie

Ovechkin-Kuznetsov-Wilson

Connolly-Eller-Williams

Winnik-Beagle-Vrana

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.

RELATED: CAPS STILL FACE QUESTIONS ABOUT LAST YEAR

“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.

MORE CAPITALS: Q&A - ARE THE CAPITALS REPEATING THEMSELVES?

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Trotz: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for the Caps

Trotz: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for the Caps

CHICAGO—As excited as Barry Trotz was about retaining T.J. Oshie’s goal production, he was just as pleased to keep all the intangibles the 30-year-old brings to Washington's lineup. 

“For us, that was the highest priority,” Trotz said of re-signing Oshie. “Obviously, Osh means a lot to us.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps locked up the high-scoring winger to an eight-year, $46 million contract extension. 

“I think it sends a great message to not only our team [but] our fans,” Trotz said. “You see what Osh did the last two years. He’s a big part of our culture, a big part of our success.”

RELATED: Caps made 'a couple of good' offers but to keep Schmidt

Oshie has put up back-to-back career highs in goals, scoring 26 in 2015-16 and 33 last season. He’s also a lead-by-example type who plays bigger than his 6-foot, 189-pounds.

“He’s a guy that brings energy,” Trotz said. “He’s a guy that consistently brings a high compete level, a high execution level and a relentless attitude. That’s Osh.”

The Caps now have four of their top-6 forwards from last season under contract, with Oshie joining Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. Restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov, meantime, is expected to re-sign, while Andre Burakovsky figures to round out the top two lines. Burakovsky is also a restricted free agent.

“We knew we were going to lose some guys,” Trotz said. “We still feel we’re going to be a high-scoring team. Obviously Osh had a career year last year. We’re hoping that he can build on that and have other people step in and fill some roles.”

MORE CAPITALS: MacLellan: Caps likely done signing own UFAs

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MacLellan: Caps made 'a couple of good' offers but lost Schmidt to Vegas anyway

MacLellan: Caps made 'a couple of good' offers but lost Schmidt to Vegas anyway

CHICAGO—The Caps tried to work out a side deal with Las Vegas ahead of Wednesday’s expansion draft but were unable to dissuade the Golden Knights from ultimately plucking a player off their roster, GM Brian MacLellan said. 
 
Vegas, of course, selected Nate Schmidt, a 25-year-old defenseman whom Washington left exposed. The Caps had Schmidt penciled into a top-4 role for next season.   
 
“We made a couple of good offers, I think,” MacLellan said Friday night at United Center, where the NHL was hosting the entry draft. “I think they just liked Schmidt.”

RELATED: MacLellan: Caps likely done signing own UFAs
 
MacLellan said Vegas’ asking price was “a couple of assets” but he declined to be specific. 
 
“I think in the end, they really like Schmidt,” MacLellan said. “At one point, we thought they were taking [backup goaltender Philipp] Grubauer. They probably were making a choice down to the end, and they ended up choosing Schmidt.”
 
The loss of Schmidt leaves the Caps with a hole on the blue line that they haven't quite figured out how to fill just yet, MacLellan said. 
 
The Caps currently have four defensemen—Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Brooks Orpik and Taylor Chorney—under contract for next season. Restricted free agent Dmitry Orlov, meanwhile, is expected to re-sign. But that still leaves Washington one short of three full pairs, and that doesn't factor in the need for a quality seventh so they've got some work to do.

“We have a job opening,” MacLellan said. “We’re going to look at [our] young guys, look at free agents, maybe the trade market. We’ll see. We’ll pursue all avenues and see what we can come up with.”

MORE CAPITALS: Oshie signs long-term deal to stay in D.C.

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