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Boudreau Shuffles Lines and Pairings

In the wake of Saturday's 5-0 loss in Buffalo, Coach Bruce Boudreau unveiled a new-look Capitals' lineup at the morning skate here at Scotiabank Place today.

Alex Ovechkin is indeed back in the lineup and should be ready to go tonight against Dany Heatley and the Sens. Brent Johnson is scheduled to start in goal (though Boudreau said he has not made up his mind) and oppose Alex Auld. Also, Shaone Morrisonn (bruised side) and John Erskine (calf) are both healthy.

As for the shakeup, here's how the lines and pairings looked today:

Forwards
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov
Fleischmann-Nylander-Semin
Laich-Fedorov-Bradley
Brashear-Gordon-Clark

Defense
Morrisonn-Poti
Schultz-Green
Erskine-Jurcina

Scratches - Steckel and Fehr

The biggest move would seem to be Boudreau's decision to break up the defensive pairing of Green and Shaone Morrisonn, who, it's believed, have been together since Boudreau took over last November (when both have been healthy, that is).

Green and Morrisonn said Boudreau did not explain the change to them (yet) and later Boudreau declined to discuss his reasons for the move with the media, other than to say he was told recently that Green and Schultz have more points together than Green and Morrisonn have as a pair.

"It's like the forward lines," Morrisonn said. "We have a record that isn't outstanding. So maybe he wanted to shake things up here and see what happens. Maybe they wanted to change it up because we don't have last change here. I don't know what's going on."

Green added: "I'm going to keep play the same. Obviously not the same as last game. I don't know why. But obviously there's a reason Bruce thinks."

Other notes and quotes:

*As for Clark being dropped to the fourth line, Boudreau said it's not a work eithic issue, it's just the captain needs more time to find his game after missing most of last season.

"You can't say, 'Hey Chris Clark, work harder'," Boudreau said. "The reason he's captain of this team was because of his work ethic and his character and doing things other people weren't willing to do. That hasn't changed on iota. When you've missed 65 games with an injury that's taken the whole summer to rehab, and he wasn't sure was going to be ready for the first day of camp. It's difficult. He's just going to push through it and eventually become the Chris Clark you remember seeing.

*Asked about the effect Ovechkin's return will have, Boudreau said: "He likes playing here. He likes all the attention Canadians give to hockey. After missing a week, I wouldn't say he's going to play harder than he's played because he's played hard since Game 1. He just hasn't had too much luck around the net."

About Ovechkin's conditioning after the week off, Boudreau said: "You have to remember he never practiced last March and he still had a fabulous March. You look at him and he's in tremendous shape. All that being said, I'm sure he's ready to go. You know he's missed the game and he's missed the team."

Lastly, if you're a stat person, you'll like this one: The last four time times the Caps have been shutout (all under Boudreau) they've bounced back with a win.




By Tarik El-Bashir  |  November 4, 2008; 12:41 PM ET
 
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Comments

While I'm not sure about shuffling, I like several things about this line set.

Laich - Feds - BRADLEY? That's interesting as hell. Would have liked to see Fehr, but let's see what Bradley does with it. If he and Feds can make things happen ....

Mo/Green broken up. d n.n b (thumbs up for those of you not familiar with animeish emoticons). GOOD IDEA.

Fleischmann/Nylander/Semin. This looks familiar and was really effective. This doesn't look like a third line to me unless we're thinking of ourselves as having three legit scoring lines.

Dropping Clark to fourth line - not a bad idea either.

Let's see how it pans out.

Posted by: kittypawz | November 4, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I am happy to see Green/Mo broken up, hopefully it will provide a needed spark/change for the D.

I also like the Flash/Nylander/Semin line, although I don't get sratching steckel after he had a good game against the Preds (everyone sucked against buffalo and I didn't think he was any worse than the others)...and will Fehr ever get a chance? You'd think bruce would sit somebody who hasn't been performing and give him a chance, if nothing else to send a message.

Posted by: finnmeg | November 4, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

If Clark wasn't the Captain, and if benching the captain wouldn't cause such a stir, I would have preferred to see

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov
Fleischmann-Nylander-Semin
Laich-Fedorov-Fehr
Brashear-Gordon-Bradley

I think Fehr has played well in very limited ice time. I think Bradley is the man, but he's at home of the 4th line.

Posted by: SombreroGuy | November 4, 2008 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Going to the 4th line is almost like getting benched for Clark, imho

If he can't get his game going, the bench will be next.

Posted by: RongCapsFan | November 4, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Wasn't it Japer's that pointed out months ago that the highest point producing combo on ice together was 55 & 52? How the he@@ is Bruce only just now finding out about this?

Posted by: Steve_R | November 4, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

"Green and Morrisonn said Boudreau did not explain the change to them (yet) and later Boudreau declined to discuss his reasons for the move with the media, other than to say he was told recently that Green and Schultz have more points together than Green and Morrisonn have as a pair."

I'm much more concerned about combined +/- than I am points as a pair. We all know Green is going to get his points and neither Schultz nor Morrisonn is going to light the world on fire. I'm more concerned with who can better cover Green's a$$ in the defensive zone as he's a complete wreck on his own side of center ice.

Posted by: JBrooke4 | November 4, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

I like Bradley on the third line. Bradley is money.

It pains me that Steckel is scratched, but I'm happy with Gordon being in there. We have such rock solid 4th/5th line guys.

Posted by: _jordan | November 4, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Feds deserves the first line center?

Posted by: lylewimbledon | November 4, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

"The last four time times the Caps have been shutout (all under Boudreau) they've bounced back with a win."

Wow. I go to Tarik for my hockey inside information. Good pull.

Posted by: Section117 | November 4, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I don't know that I'd move Backstrom right now, lylewimbledon. If you watch him over the last several games (ignore Buffalo, everyone sucked moldy green donkeys), Backstrom is continuously getting better game after game. I think he's >

Posted by: kittypawz | November 4, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Get Fehr in the line-up; the teams needs a shake-up...bench Backstrom for a game and put Kozzie at center. Backstrom needs some motivations and maybe a benching would spark his game a bit.

Posted by: reesem37 | November 4, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Okay, that was annoying ><

I think he's > < close to a breakout, and the last thing you want to do to a guy like that is shuffle him around. Don't confuse him.

Posted by: kittypawz | November 4, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Morrisson looks teriible this year so far.

Posted by: fizhe | November 4, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

In agreement with both kittypawz and fizhe.

Posted by: _jordan | November 4, 2008 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Ottawa is not known as a tough team so why not sit Brash for a game and give Fehr a shot.....anyone know if he can play on the off wing....or maybe Clark on the off wing....

Posted by: PhilR | November 4, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

kitty

I agree with you- just how many games are you going to give him that chance until it starts to hurt the team?

Posted by: lylewimbledon | November 4, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Regardless, I think you will see a hungary Caps team tonight. Either that or a totally flat exhausted bunch from getting worked over by BB on Sunday.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | November 4, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

If Backstrom performed against Nashville the same way he performed against Chicago or Vancouver, I'd agree. But he didn't. He's finding his game, he's more and more visible, and he's more and more solid with every game he plays. He needs to shoot more - the poor man is a total mouse when it comes to going for broke - but he is coming into his own. It's a bit of a slow process, but I'm thinking he'll score tonight. Nothing scientific, understand - just a hunch.

Posted by: kittypawz | November 4, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, 19 was a monster against Nashville, which a lot of people of course didn't see because it wasn't on TV. Nicky will be fine sooner than we think probably. I'll wear my Tre Kronor jersey tonight to give him a boost, just in case.

Posted by: _jordan | November 4, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand why Fehr isn't playing. I agree with those that say he has looked good when he has been given the chance. Early in the season i understood the numbers thing, but no one is producing the numbers anyway. let us see what happens tonight after the way they played saturday

Posted by: Leeguru | November 4, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

"Green and Morrisonn said Boudreau did not explain the change to them (yet) and later Boudreau declined to discuss his reasons for the move with the media, other than to say Morrisonn won't be resigned at the end of the year, and Green needs to find his groove with other defensemen whether he likes it or not.

/fixed

Posted by: Section117 | November 4, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Kitty

I agree with you that he looks like he is starting to find his game. He should break out soon- hopefully. I think, also, that teams are figuring out how to play that first line. There is not much room out there for any of them...need to find a way to get more creative.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | November 4, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

"I'm going to keep playing the same."

That's NOT the objective, Green.

Posted by: Greg S. | November 4, 2008 2:11 PM | Report abuse

lyle: I see what you're saying, and you're right. They are. Their problem right now is that they can't just stop the first line and expect to win. I guess there's two schools of thought there:

(1) Get the first line scoring by shaking it up, which makes sense.
(2) let the opposing D eat their minutes against the top line and let Feds, Flash, Semin, Nylander, and god knows who all else find the back of the net. Let the other teams get comfortable -- it's kind of a mind-trap.

I'm just not sure that disrupting Backstrom now would do more good than harm, if that makes sense.

Posted by: kittypawz | November 4, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Brodeur out three to four months with elbow surgery.....bye-bye Devils!!!

Posted by: PhilR | November 4, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

In my opinion, Fedorov should be on the second line with Semin, he has outperformed Nylander through the first 10 games.

I hate seeing Fedorov on our third line, when he has been our best, highest scoring center, despite playing a handful of games on defence.

To be blunt, Backstrom has looked very bad; he is the one who should be centering the third line at this point.

Posted by: DrAdamson | November 4, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Weeks was pretty sharp for the Devils last night. He kept them in the game for the first half of it. Buffalo was really hammering them.

Posted by: Greg S. | November 4, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Do we get the Donald vs Chris Neil rematch tonight?

Posted by: lylewimbledon | November 4, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I like Steckel, but if it is between him and Gordo I think that Gordo has worked his way into the advantage for now. If I recall, he drew a couple of penalties against Buffalo (and seems to always battle hard) Besides he will forever have a special place in my heart for his goal against the Pens.

I love Matt Bradley and think his leadership is getting rewarded here. Having said that, I really liked the Brash, Steckel, Brads line in the playoffs. Against a team we want to wear out I would prefer a Brash, Gordo/Steckel, Brads line to putting Brads up in the third. Maybe this is just temporary until Clark gets back to form.

Posted by: Kim-3 | November 4, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: lylewimbledon | November 4, 2008 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: lylewimbledon | November 4, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

I think Donald's due for a dust-up. I would love to see him feed knuckles to Chris Neil again. That was one of my favorite fights ever.

Posted by: _jordan | November 4, 2008 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I am thinking that we have three scoring lines. The other teams will concentrate their D on shutting down Ovechkin - which has been effective so far this season - and that will leave the other two lines free to score goals. Sooner or later, they are going to shift their attention to Semin, which will leave Ovechkin open to score. It's a good strategy...

I also like splitting up Mo and Greenie. I think that will be good. Poti and Morrisonn, Greene and Schultz. Works for me.

I think leaving Bäckström where he is is just fine.

Posted by: irockthered | November 4, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

how the hell is ryan whitney on the all-star ballot for defensemen.

Posted by: _stevo | November 4, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Adamson:

Nylander has done what he does and Fedorov has done what he does -- I think they've been the most consistent on the team thus far -- you can't really say one is better than the other.

As for other stuff, I am perplexed as well to the apparent shunning of Fehr, whom Boudreau obviously likes from their time in Hershey. Let's get him some ice time, Boudreau!

Posted by: DrinkingPartner | November 4, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

The captain must contribute ON the ice during the game, meaning when Buf is beating you down, a hit, fight or goal is in order.

Clark needs a change, otherwise he's finished.
What captain watches a 5-0 beating and does nothing ?

Posted by: Cheef | November 4, 2008 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Hey Cap's fans visit:
http://capsstop.blogspot.com

Posted by: bagasome | November 4, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

BB should have scratched Clark, punishing two BETTER players will cause players to lose respect, over time that will cost him.

BB is getting sucked into politics, too bad for him.

Posted by: Cheef | November 4, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

@bagasome - lay off the URLs, buddy. If we want to look, we will. Post some real contributions here, and we might, but just advertising your blog gets really dull really quick.

Posted by: irockthered | November 4, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

@ bagasome,
Give it a rest, already!

Posted by: WCAPS1 | November 4, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

"Lastly, if you're a stat person, you'll like this one: The last four time times the Caps have been shutout (all under Boudreau) they've bounced back with a win."

Not quite. While it may hold true for the regular season, the last time the Caps were shut out (prior to the Buffalo beating) was in game 2 of the playoffs. They then lost games 3 and 4.

Posted by: twizzle | November 4, 2008 6:57 PM | Report abuse

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