Second Line Shuffle
One of the biggest questions facing the Capitals entering training camp is the same one they find themselves grappling with six weeks into the season: who is going to center the second line?
Tonight, Brooks Laich gets his shot against the struggling Atlanta Thrashers.
Laich, 23, will go from a part-time checking line winger to a scoring line role as he shifts to his natural position. He'll play between Matt Pettinger and Richard Zednik.
"It's a great opportunity to prove myself," Laich said after the morning skate. "This is something I wanted to get a shot at in training camp. But with opportunity comes the pressure to produce."
Laich, who has been a healthy scratch eight times this season, is scoreless in 12 games. He is also tied with Ben Clymer for a team-worst minus-7.
The job Laich inherits has been a revolving door, with Kris Beech and Jakub Klepis also getting a chance.
(Beech will be a healthy scratch against the Thrashers; Klepis will move to the fourth line with enforcer Donald Brashear and grinder Boyd Gordon.)
Second line production (or lack thereof) has been a sore subject for the Capitals, who desperately need another scoring unit to take some of the defensive heat off of Alex Ovechkin's line. It's also a problem that will likely go away next season with the arrival of Nicklas Backstrom, the club's fourth overall pick in June. Backstrom elected to play one more season in Sweden.
"We're putting Brooks in a more offensive role," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "We've given Beech and Klepis some time. Laich is the only guy we haven't given a shot. We're going to give him a chance and see what's there."
On the injury front, Dainius Zubrus, Steve Eminger and Chris Clark will return to the lineup for the Caps. Alexander Semin (shoulder) is out.
Olie Kolzig is expected to face Johan Hedberg in goal.
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