Evgeny Kuznetsov is learning quickly that performing on the big stage has its perks.
The morning after recording his first three NHL assists, all in the same game, Kuznetsov was elevated from the Capitals’ fourth line to their second, practicing on Saturday with center Casey Wellman and right wing Troy Brouwer.
Ironically, Kuznetsov saw less ice time in Friday night’s 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks [9:58] than he did in his first two NHL games [10:22 and 14:52 against the Penguins].
To make room for Kuznetsov, left wing Dustin Penner [no goals on nine shots in six games] was dropped to a fourth line with center Jay Beagle and right wing Tom Wilson.
The fact Wellman replaced Marcus Johansson on the second line – and Johansson was moved to top-line left wing with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin – is a strong indicator the Caps will be without Brooks Laich on Sunday when they face the Maple Leafs.
Here's how the Caps' forwards are likely to look for that game.
Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Alex Ovechkin
Evgeny Kuznetsov - Casey Wellman - Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera - Eric Fehr - Joel Ward
Dustin Penner - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson
More to come...