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Barry Trotz puts option of dressing seven defensemen on the table

Barry Trotz puts option of dressing seven defensemen on the table

Karl Alzner has been out of the lineup since Game 2 of the Capitals’ first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Just who he will replace in the lineup when he is ready to return, however, has become a topic of debate as Nate Schmidt has played well in his place and the Caps need his speed against a quick Pittsburgh Penguins team.

RELATED: Trotz says Shattenkirk's play is 'mooring' Caps' third pair

It has been speculated recently that perhaps head coach Barry Trotz could elect to dress seven defensemen. That sounds like a drastic option, but it is one Trotz has experience with having utilized it at times as head coach of the Nashville Predators.

“I've done it before and done it very successfully,” Trotz said on Friday. “... I found in my previous life that I didn't have as many offensive weapons that gave me an opportunity to put an offensive weapon in there a little bit more often in a regular rotation.”

Dressing seven defensemen would mean only 11 forwards, but Trotz seems to only be utilizing that many anyway. Paul Carey skated only 5:40 in Game 2. He was playing in place of Brett Connolly who played 6:07, 5:34, 6:12 and 4:26 in his last four games.

Alzner is considered day-to-day and there’s no timetable for when he may be able to return. If he were able to play in Game 3 or 4, however, given that the Caps are facing a series deficit and seem to be in need of some sort of spark, perhaps shifting the lineup to seven defensemen could be just what the doctor ordered.

“I'm fine with the seven D,” Trotz said. “If we have to go there, we'll go there. As a coach, you have to mix and match a little bit. I don't have any problem with that.”

MORE CAPITALS: Barry Trotz commits to Braden Holtby for Game 3

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Barry Trotz says Kevin Shattenkirk's play is 'mooring' Caps' third pair

Barry Trotz says Kevin Shattenkirk's play is 'mooring' Caps' third pair

The list of players who need to play better for the Capitals to come back in their series with the Pittsburgh Penguin is a long one. At the top of the list, however, may be defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

A trade deadline acquisition, Shattenkirk was brought in to add balance and skill to the blue line. A year after bringing in depth defenseman Mike Weber with middling results, the Caps instead swung for the fences by bringing in a player with top four skill to plug into the power play and balance out the third pair with a right-handed shot.

RELATED: Barry Trotz commits to Braden Holtby for Game 3

The move does not seem to be having the desired results.

“[Shattenkirk’s] done some really good things offensively for us but at the same time, I think he's minus-7 in the playoffs so far,” Barry Trotz said on a conference call with the media on Sunday. “He's been mooring that third pairing for us.”

Shattenkirk’s minus-7 is a team low this postseason. Right behind him is his defensive partner, Brooks Orpik. Orpik’s minus-5 reflects just how much that third pair has been struggling, especially this series. Through two games against Pittsburgh, Shattenkirk is a minus-3 with no points.

Despite his struggles, however, Trotz said that he felt “comfortable” with the team's lines suggesting Shattenkirk will remain in the lineup. For now. Karl Alzner is still recovering from an upper-body injury, but Taylor Chorney is available should Trotz decide to make a move. While he may be a top-notch skater, however, there’s no question the ceiling is much higher for a player like Shattenkirk. He just has not been able to play at a level close to that ceiling yet.

“I think if you talked to Kevin he would admit that he could play better,” Trotz said. “I know he can play better and we'll talk to him and we'll make sure that he's better next game.”

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: A rough night for the Caps