Martin Erat moves to Caps' second line
It appears as though Adam Oates’ patience with a struggling offense has worn out.
With his team off to a 2-5-0 start and coming off a 2-0 shutout loss to the New York Rangers, Oates kept the Caps’ top line intact but juggled his bottom nine forwards.
As a result, this is how the Caps’ forward lines looked today at Kettler and could loo when they return to action Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets:
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Marty Erat – Brooks Laich – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mikhail Grabovski – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Jay Beagle – Eric Fehr/Tom Wilson
To summarize, Laich moves from left wing back to a familiar role at center, while Grabovski drops from the second line to the third. Eric Fehr slides from second-line center to fourth-line right wing.
Erat, who has no points through seven games, benefits the most from the switches, jumping from the fourth line, where he was averaging a career-low 8:46 minutes a game, to the second line.
Volpatti also gets a promotion and may see his first game action of the season after being a healthy scratch in each of the Caps’ first seven games.
Although it’s early to say, the odd-man out in this equation appears be Wilson, who has no points, is a minus-2 and has a team-high 14 penalty minutes, including two fighting majors. Wilson, 19, has averaged 6:41 of ice time.
If the Capitals’ plan is to keep Wilson as a fourth liner, they could make the difficult decision to send him back to the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL. If Wilson plays in more than nine NHL games with the Caps, he would burn up the first year of his three-year entry-level contract.
As for the defensive pairings, they were jumbled on Friday, but here’s how they may look:
Nate Schultz – Mike Green
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
John Erskine/Alex Urbom – Steve Oleksy