Martin Erat moves to Caps' second line
A few weeks ago defenseman Nate Schmidt was trying to get adjusted to his first training camp as a member of the Hershey Bears.
Tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets [7 p.m., CSN] he’ll be playing alongside Mike Green on the Capitals’ top defense pairing.
“It feels pretty good,” said Schmidt, 22, who was signed out of the University of Minnesota last spring. “I’m just trying to go out there and play my game. I’m excited about playing with Mike.”
Capitals coach Adam Oates and assistant Calle Johansson decided to switch up the defensive pairs in the third period of the Caps’ 2-0 loss to the Rangers Wednesday night.
In addition to Schmidt playing with Green, Karl Alzner will be reunited with John Carlson tonight. The two played together for three seasons before getting split up last season, when Alzner was placed with Green.
“It’s not worth getting too upset about it,” Alzner said. “It’s not just the D that’s the issue. There’s a different issue as well.”
Like convincing the forwards to come all the way back to the defensive zone to begin breakouts?
“Yes,” Alzner said. “We don’t have the structure. We’re so excited to turn the puck over and play offense that we’re forgetting about our [defensive] responsibilities. We have to remember to make that our No. 1 priority over going all out on offense.”
Up front the Caps will have a new look, with Brooks Laich centering a new second line with Marty Erat and Troy Brouwer; Mikhail Grabovski dropping to a third line; and Aaron Volpatti getting his first game of the season on a fourth line with Eric Fehr and Tom Wilson.
“I’m staying ready and hope to make the most of it tonight,” Volpatti said. “[Sitting] gets tough at times. You’ve got to put things in perspective sometimes and try to stay positive, especially around the guys. I’ve done that and I want to take advantage of playing.”
Be on the lookout for Volpatti to match up against Columbus tough guy Jared Boll, who leads the Jackets with 12 penalty minutes.
If Saturday’s morning skates are an accurate indication, here are the projected lineups for both teams tonight:
Marcus Johansson – Nicklas Backstrom – Alex Ovechkin
Marty Erat – Brooks Laich – Troy Brouwer
Jason Chimera – Mikhail Grabovski – Joel Ward
Aaron Volpatti – Eric Fehr – Tom Wilson
Nate Schmidt – Mike Green
Karl Alzner – John Carlson
Alex Urbom – Steve Oleksy
Braden Holtby [starter] – Michal Neuvirth
Cam Atkinson – Arten Anisimov – Marian Gaborik
Boone Jenner- Brandon Dubinsky – Mark Letestu
Blake Comeau – Ryan Johansen – R.J. Umberger
Ryan Craig – Derek MacKenzie – Jared Boll
Fedor Tyutin – Jack Johnson
Nikita Nikitin- David Savard
James Wisniewski – Ryan Murray
Sergei Bobrovsky [starter] – Curtis McElhinney