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Posted at 1:04 PM ET, 01/ 7/2011

Bruce Boudreau looking to spark Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom

By Katie Carrera

As is always the case with Coach Bruce Boudreau's line tinkering, we'll have to see how long any particular combination lasts -- whether a shift or a game -- but the latest tweaks are an effort to spark the Capitals' star players, particularly Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Ovechkin "and Nicky are both in slumps so I'm trying to get them away from each other," Boudreau said. "I think Marcus [Johansson] is playing pretty well, so maybe that will work."

If you missed it in the previous post, Washington's top two lines in practice Friday were Semin-Backstsrom-Knuble and Laich-Johansson-Ovechkin.

Over the past 20 games, Ovechkin has just four goals (including one into an empty net against Montreal on Dec. 28) and he has just 14 in the first 41 games of the season. Meantime, Backstrom hasn't scored in the past 15 contests. While the Capitals have found a way to win even with some of their traditionally biggest offensive producers slumping, Washington wants to get them back on track and over the past several weeks Boudreau has tried anything he can think of.


"We've got a pretty good record but in the end your best players have got to be your best players," Boudreau said. "We'd like to get [all the primary scorers] back on track, so you try different things to get them on track. Like a parent scolding their child. Sometimes you pat them on the back and say everything's alright, sometimes you kick them in the butt. Sometimes you take away ice time, you give ice time, you give responsibility, you take away responsibility until you find out whatever works. It's our job to find that Achilles' heel."

For at least the start on Saturday, the latest experiment will be to see if separating Ovechkin from Backstrom and placing the usual left winger on the right side and Semin with the No. 1 center can jump start either player. ...

After practice, Mathieu Perreault said that he doesn't expect to face the Panthers on Saturday after undergoing surgery on his broken nose Wednesday. The procedure made it a little easier to breathe, although the center said he's still having some difficulty taking a breath.

The pain has also subsided for the most part Perreault said, but his nose is loose, which he demonstrated to reporters. Let's just say it moved side to side the way a bobble-head doll does. If Perreault is indeed out tomorrow, it might be an opportunity for D.J. King to get back in the lineup. King, who has not played since Dec. 6 against Toronto and has been on the injured reserve list for most of the past month, skated with Matt Hendricks and David Steckel in one variation of the fourth line at practice.

By Katie Carrera  | January 7, 2011; 1:04 PM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Bruce Boudreau, Nicklas Backstrom  
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Next: Capitals' Marcus Johansson growing more confident

Comments

free DJK!!!

Posted by: _stevo | January 7, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Regarding centers:

We have a lot of centers right now in juniors and other places...so which one will come over next season?

I have LOVED what I have seen from Eakin, but it is unclear if he is physically mature enough to play against the gigantic men that make up the NHL.

Kuznetsov (I know he has his KHL contract) looked great in the Junior WC, but he seems like he might be a streaky player like Semin...He would also have to adjust to the smaller rink. He is a bigger guy in height, but needs to put on weight.

I think the Caps should get a veteran C with one year left on his contract. Pick Eakin or Kuznetsov to develop for the season.

That leaves Backie in the first line, New Center sharing time with prospect for 2nd line duty, MoJo for third/fourth line.

Posted by: capscoach | January 7, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I would like to see Kuznetsov, Orlov and Eakin all finish this season in Hershey and start next year there as well. I am not a big fan of rushing kids into the NHL. I think that if MaJo were a Red Wings' draftee, he would be in the AHL this year. He is with the Caps due to the failure of GMGM to get a veteran center to serve as a bridge to the future, IMO, and that is not in the best long term interest of MaJo or the team. Kids should be brought along so that they experience success as they learn.

I think Orlov is the closest to being ready for NHL play. He is the strongest of the three, makes good decisions with the puck, and doesn't seem to get beaten much 1-on-1. He also has the skill and shot to play the point on the PP, which I think would translate fairly quickly to the NHL. For all of them, I would be patient, see how they do at Hershey, and bring them up when they show they are ready.

And, yes, a veteran center to carry the Caps through this season and next would be ideal.

Posted by: zmega | January 7, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

It makes me laugh that people think DJ King will help this team! He couldn't skate faster than a turtle! The issue is Ove, Semin and Bakstrom. Ove and Bakstrom can get things going but Semin needs to be dealt. They will overpay if they resign him and with Evgeny Kuznetsov getting into the mix in a year (everything I've heard is that this kid is the next Malkin) then they don't need Semin. 28 does not want and WILL NEVER play team hockey...it's all about him. Get rid of him!!! he's pulling any line he is on down.

Posted by: joshu1 | January 7, 2011 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't agree with the Malkin comparison. Malkin is a freak, given his size, strength, and skill. I don't know who you could compare Malkin to - maybe Joe Thornton? I can't imagine Kuznetsov as ever being that big.

The Caps Kids played great in Buffalo, but let's not start making the Hall of Fame statues for them just yet. I think it is reasonable to project them all to be NHL regulars, and anything beyond that would be great but should not be assumed.

Posted by: zmega | January 7, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Given the makeup of the D and Offense, it's likely that Kuznetsov, Orlov and Eakin will all get 1 full season in the AHL... Kuznetsov will get a taste but there's no rush for these kids.

Posted by: FrankM73 | January 7, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

@joshu

Did you watch DJK on the Blues ? Seemed to skate well there. All of the Midwest teams fear him, including the Boogeyman in NY. Orr says he's one of the best in the business.

Again, another "rock the redder" who has never witnessed an "all out war" against a Patrick Div. foe in the playoffs. Guys like King keep guys like Schultz in one piece. Wake up !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 7, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

@joshu

Did you watch DJK on the Blues ? Seemed to skate well there. All of the Midwest teams fear him, including the Boogeyman in NY. Orr says he's one of the best in the business.

Again, another "rock the redder" who has never witnessed an "all out war" against a Patrick Div. foe in the playoffs. Guys like King keep guys like Schultz in one piece. Wake up !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 7, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

@joshu

Did you watch DJK on the Blues ? Seemed to skate well there. All of the Midwest teams fear him, including the Boogeyman in NY. Orr says he's one of the best in the business.

Again, another "rock the redder" who has never witnessed an "all out war" against a Patrick Div. foe in the playoffs. Guys like King keep guys like Schultz in one piece. Wake up !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 7, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

@zmega

Eakin is Dale Hunter and doesn't need the "mamby pamby" time in Hershey. Bring him in as soon as possible to remind Backstrom that the center position is supposed to be play with GRIT and GRACE.

Backstrom did not get "mamby pamby" time in Hershey. He had a look on his face like somebody just shot his mom most nights. He needed it. Eakin is a beast. He's Canadian.(Don't care they collapsed.) Get him in here as soon as his juniors obligation is up. The guy already plays playoff hockey every night. He's much needed grit to a the softest line up in the NHL.

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 7, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

@steveo

I agree ! Free DJK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 7, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Hunterforcoach posted thrice...that means he's totally cereal. =)

@joshu1
And as for your Semin comments, just inane sir.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | January 7, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Arnott would be nice but I just think its doubtful. Look to teams that GMGM has done trades with in the past. And as crazy as it sounds with his comments about our team previously, tominsocal's dreams may come true and RJ Umberger could be coming our way. Just a gut feeling.

Posted by: ThePat | January 7, 2011 1:42 PM


@ThPat:

Please not Umberger! Sure he's a tough guy and a decent player, but IMHO hockey people have long memories. His remarks in the press about the Caps--accurate or not--would make him a cancer in the locker room if he came here. Either that, or he'd spend the whole season in the press box tying up salary cap space (with #89, hahaha).

And for what?

Say what you will about GMGM, but I somehow doubt that he's is the kind of guy to deliberately blow salary cap space just to park some guy in the press box for spite. Even if he were, he knows there's too much at stake to ever allow another Nylander redux.

Posted by: Rhino40 | January 7, 2011 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"If Perreault is indeed out tomorrow, it might be an opportunity for D.J. King to get back in the lineup. King, who has not played since Dec. 6 against Toronto and has been on the injured reserve list for most of the past month"


So exactly when did DJK come off IR? Or is he still on it and the team can remove him at any point now?

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 7, 2011 3:19 PM | Report abuse

So exactly when did DJK come off IR? Or is he still on it and the team can remove him at any point now?

Posted by: vermontcaps

I think he is still on IR but will be removed a few hours before game time(assuming he is playing).

Posted by: sgm3 | January 7, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

HunterFC, have you seen Eakin in person or have you watched him play? What telescope are you using to make him look like he is Dale Hunter's size? Have you seen any physical play from him that is like Dale Hunter? The kid is quick, has some skill, and plays hard. I think he has a future in the NHL. But let's not get totally ridiculous.

Posted by: zmega | January 7, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I can't deal with this for almost 2 months, only on deadline day to see GMGM bring in Joe Schmo from team ____, who was an okay center before he broke every bone in his body 2 years ago, but BB thinks there is still potential there. I spent all last summer peering out of the cave just waiting for the big signing, only to see DJK and Hendricks added. Don't misread me, Hendricks has been a good guy to have, but my point is GMGM never made the moves the team needed after the Montreal heartbreak. I'm just going to enjoy the games and hope for the best!

Posted by: kcbrichmond | January 7, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

@ Hunterforcoach

Are we really going to get in a, "I've been a Caps fan longer than you!" argument? Come on......Trust me, I've been a fan and at games since the early 80s and have seen plenty of Patrick Division games. IT WAS A DIFFERENT GAME THEN! It was slower...period end of story. There is a reason Dking hasn't gotten on the ice this year....he's not that good. Concentrate on things that could actually help this team win. DJ King certainly isn't one of them.

Posted by: joshu1 | January 7, 2011 4:45 PM | Report abuse

@ SeminAllOverTheIce
How can my comments about Semin be that off track? Have you watched him over the last three years? He disappears for weeks on end...look at the stats! What has he done in the Playoffs when it matters? Did you watch last year??? Where was he? He was a non-factor. He's got to lead the league in penalties in the offense zone. I'm not saying bench him...if he's on the team I suppose you have to play him, but I am saying trade him!

Posted by: joshu1 | January 7, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see Ovie is playing on the RW with Laich on the LW. Not sure why BB didn't just switch Laich and Knuble as the chemistry of the first line has been absent most of the season. With Laich, the Caps have another decent puckhandler and passer along with Johannsen. Teams know that Knuble is not very good in the open ice and won't be setting up anyone on his line. Laich should be able to free up some space for Ovechkin and hopefully get him untracked.

The same goes for playing Backstrom with Semin. Hopefully, separating the top two guys gives them a spark. The Big 3 have been in a collective slump for almost since the beginning of December, a good 15 games.

Posted by: wizfan89 | January 7, 2011 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Eakin is Dale Hunter and doesn't need the "mamby pamby" time in Hershey. Bring him in as soon as possible to remind Backstrom that the center position is supposed to be play with GRIT and GRACE.
---------------------------------

You are a little over the top to say the lease and I bet even Dale Hunter himself thinks so as well.

You think Dale only has players who play like the old #32 playing for him with the London Knights? The answer is NO because he's smart enough to know you need balance in order to win at any level.

Posted by: joek443 | January 7, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

lease = least

I've also heard Dale say very nice things about Larry Murphy, how all the forwards just loved to be on the ice with Murphy because of his great passing ability.

Hunter also said Carlson who played for him in London reminded him of Murphy.

Somehow I don't think Murphy was your favorite player when he played for the Caps.

Posted by: joek443 | January 7, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

For the people talking about Kuznetsov, he still has another year on his contract is Russia. He won't be a Cap until 2012-13 at the earliest.

I'm all for Bruce experimenting with the 1st two lines, but he really should be doing that same kind of tinkering with the power play units. That's really where the production is most lacking, and where the big guns will find their spark (or not).

Posted by: Hatfield223 | January 8, 2011 5:00 AM | Report abuse

I like the line combinations they put together for the Penguins game before the Winter Classic. They didn't end up using them for the whole game but against most teams it would probably work really well.

Posted by: Stu_c | January 8, 2011 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Comparison of Kuznetsov to Malkin is more then fair. That's exactly who he reminds me of in terms of his style and size. Remember, he's just a kid. He'll fill out. I've watched Malkin at this age & Kuznetsov is very similar to him. However, at his age Malkin was a PPG player in the RSL. Kuznetsov is still a bit player for his KHL team, although it has to be said that IMO the KHL is a better league than the RSL was due to influx of pretty good foreign players.

Posted by: ranndino | January 8, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

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