Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers Preview: Keys to the Game

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Capitals are hoping to rebound from Monday night’s loss against the Vancouver Canucks, a task made more difficult with the absence of Alex Ovechkin. Leading the team in scoring at both even strength and on the power play, Ovechkin is a dominating offensive force for the Caps. An undisclosed upper-body injury has forced the star winger out of Washington’s lineup tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers, and he is currently listed as day-to-day.

Without Ovechkin, the Capitals face additional pressure to score. As a result, coach Adam Oates has shifted his lines yet again. Per The Washington Post, Marcus Johansson is now centering the second line with Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich. Eric Fehr’s return to the wing will be alongside Martin Erat and Nicklas Backstrom on the first line. The third line remains unchanged.

While defenseman Dmitry Orlov and center Michael Latta have been called up from Hershey, only the latter will be playing. Latta will center the fourth line, leaving Jay Beagle as a healthy scratch yet again. Braden Holtby will likely start tonight’s game, which should be easier given their opponent – but also more challenging, due to Ovechkin being out of the lineup.

In some ways, playing without Ovechkin could be beneficial for the Capitals. That’s not to say his injury should be celebrated, but the Caps are being forced to make sudden readjustments to their game. Without their primary scoring threat, other members of the team must compensate for his absence offensively. Washington has struggled all season to score at even strength, and the second line – even with a healthy Laich – has been disappointing thus far.

The Capitals cannot continue to count out their less talented players and rely on Ovechkin to score goals. Jason Chimera’s recent scoring surge – following a lackluster 2012-13 season, no less – indicates that with strong play and puck luck, Washington can establish itself offensively with a focused mindset. Though the Flyers may be in last place in the Metropolitan Division, the Caps cannot go into tonight believing they’re playing a throwaway game. Hopefully, with the addition of two points, the Capitals can maintain this mentality even after Ovechkin returns.

Topics: Washington Capitals

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