kuzya-media

Photo: John Walton

Per The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera, the Washington Capitals’ brand new toy, Evgeny Kuznetsov, will make his NHL debut tonight on the Capitals’ fourth line tonight. As we discussed on the podcast, that’s probably the smart thing to do.

Here are Adam Oates’ full lines from Katie:

(Laich)-Backstrom-Ovi
Penner-Johansson-Brouwer
Chimera-Fehr-Ward
Kuznetsov-Beagle-Wilson

Brooks Laich will be a game-time decision. He is still not feeling 100% and did not participate in the morning skate. Aaron Volpatti (long-term injured reserve) filled in on the top line this morning.

Jaroslav Halak appears to be the starting goalie, ready to take his second consecutive start as Holtby rides the pine. Expect Oates to switch up goalies for Tuesday.

Oates seems to intend to ease Kuznetsov into big-league play. On the fourth line, Kuznetsov will get light ice time and against weaker competition. That’ll give him time to prove himself, learn the system, and assimilate himself without the burdens of being on a marquee scoring line.

It also gives Oates the flexibility to adjust lines without demoting the rookie. It’s unlikely Kuznetsov will spend the rest of the season on the fourth line, but in the meantime, Tom Wilson‘s linemates are about to get a whole lot better.

We’ll add video of Oates’ presser once it’s available.

2PM Update: Here you go.

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  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    For those of you who thought Kuznetsov would start on the first line, I’m afraid I have some bad news:

    https://24.media.tumblr.com/f2e6ef3ba0b1a1f0fd2ca75092ed8f5a/tumblr_mz3imkqLk51qayzsjo1_r1_400.gif

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    To be honest though, this is the right decision. If he plays well, give him a promotion. Start him off slow. Do not put pressure on him. This also should make the fourth line dangerous. Wilson + Kuzya? Hoooooo boy.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett
  • DashingDave314

    At least Tom Wilson has sort of been freed and allowed the privilege to play with something resembling talented linemates.

  • Freedoooom

    That’s a joke FYI for everyone… Pronman has always been high on Kuznetsov.

  • Jack Conness

    I mean, no real surprise here. It will be nice seeing him and Wilson playing together. I hope they are on the 2nd line with Grabo in the future.

  • Freedoooom

    In other news, another Capitals Canadian can’t just say something nice about Kuznetsov

    https://twitter.com/AdamVingan/status/443044158086057984

  • Shaun Phillips

    Assuming they get any ice-time to do anything with.

  • Nathan Olmstead

    I think that easing him into the lineup and the system is logical. The idea of ‘making him earn his stripes’ really worries me, though. It’s been an issue with Oates before, with players like Erat and Neuvirth. I hope that this was just an in the moment comment, and not an actual ideology of the team. I sense some resentment towards him from some of the other veteran players, too.

    At least our 4th line looks more like a 2nd or 3rd line now.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I love it.

  • d99gr81

    That’s a wuss coaching decision. Oates is now worried about upsetting other players? Where was that when he pissed off Erat, Neuvy and Orlov???

  • Sara

    He and Wilson may compliment each other well. Kuzya has excellent puck handling/goal scoring ability. Wilson’s natural ability to protect might serve well with him. I’d like to see them excel and both be moved up!

  • Nathan Olmstead

    Haha. We basically commented the same thing. Whoops.

  • DashingDave314

    To be dangerous, they have to actually get playing time.

  • d99gr81

    for a wopping 6 minutes! Whopty doo… its gutless coach not wanting to upset veteran guys? Like whom? Laich? Laich has sucked all year until recently. Kuznetsov should b eplaying on line with ovie and Nikki if they truly want to protect him while giving him chance to succeed.

  • d99gr81

    Its another Gutless Oates move.

  • DashingDave314

    No, they should be letting him adjust to the NHL. If this isn’t a full-time thing like it currently is with Tom Wilson, I’m fine with it. But if Oates is burning a year of Kuzy’s ELC for 17 games of a 4th liner, I’ll be handing out torches and pitchforks.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com Ian Oland

    To be fair, that’s pretty hilarious.

  • d99gr81

    The coaches job is to put the best lines together for the team to win… period. So tired of oates OCD line combos all year. ITs dumb if you want to win you put talent on the ice with a chance to succeed not SUCKseed…

  • Cthulu’s Alarm Clock

    I’m sure reality will come crashing down on my optimism about 8-9 hours from now, but is anyone else as happy as I am to finally see Kuznetsov’s name on the projected lines for a game?

  • Scott Mallon

    this is annoying. put a top line scorer on the fourth line because apparently he’s got to earn it in the middle of a damn playoff race. we need all the scoring we can get right now. what would be fair to the other guys is to get them some wins as a coach by playing your top point producers on your point producing lines. i swear if he toils with kuznetsov at fourth line for more than one game I’m going to lose my mind.

  • d99gr81

    Do you think they started out Kessel on 4th line? Malkin? Ovie? hell no they didn’t. Not Saying Kuznetsov is any of these guys but hes a high end prospect like they were. If its for more than one game like you I will lose my mind…

  • bggb

    Eh. depends on context and conversation. It’s a valid point, especially if the question was something dumb like, “do you think Kuzya can carry you to the playoffs?”

  • DashingDave314

    Kuznetsov is not a Malkin or a Kessel. Sorry if that’s bursting your bubble. Both of them also had training camps to get adjusted to their respective team’s system. Throwing a player who has zero NHL games of experience and zero training camps of experience onto the first or second line would more than likely end very badly. I rarely agree with Oates, but for once, he’s doing the right thing.

  • Ben Reed

    “in fairness to the other guys” –> I think this is the key point.

  • d99gr81

    DID you read where I said I am not saying he is them but he is a HIGH END prospect…

  • Shaun Phillips

    He can earn those top line minutes playing 4th line minutes just like Wilson did, right?

  • Ben Reed

    I don’t see how having a meritocracy is a bad ideology. “In fairness to the other guys,” as Oates says, makes sense. He has the rest of the locker room to think about, too.

  • Matt Lauer

    In addition, Volpatti should play next to Nicky and Ovi and we should package Latta, Schmidt, Wilson, and Kuznetsov in a trade for Joe Corvo.

  • d99gr81

    Have to be on the ice to be able to do anything… that’s the problem with this. Wilson gets 6 minutes if hes lucky… how’s Kuznetsov supposed to do anything with that? Oates is a wuss…

  • GreatN8

    In fairness to the other guys, if they were getting the job done the Caps wouldn’t be on the outside of the playoffs looking in…

  • Shaun Phillips

    And hope they get the minutes to reflect it.

  • Bilal

    I don’t know why people are going apeshit over this. No, I don’t think Kuzya should be on the fourth line for the rest of the season, but this is just one game. He’ll get used to the NHL that way. Putting him on the top line will not only lessen the time for him to adjust, but it will also pressure him (even though I don’t think he cares about the pressure). Plus this will help Wilson a lot, as he’ll finally get good linemates.

  • Diller M

    Top line scorer? Based on what criteria? Good prospect yes, all the tools yes, but hes not a top line scorer until he proves it in the only league that matters. Keep in mind that Wolski out scored Kuzya in the KHL this year, before you damn Oates for starting him on the fourth line.

  • DashingDave314

    Yes, I did. Did you read where I said that almost every top prospect at least has a training camp of experience before making their NHL debut? Kuznetsov doesn’t even have that going for him. He knows nothing about the Capitals’ system and the Capitals know nothing about how Kuznetsov’s talents and skills will translate in the NHL.

    I’d like to see them use him on power plays. Kuzy will make guys pay if they want to shadow Ovi and ignore him.

  • Diller M

    Lets think about this logically, the first line has been good the last few games, with maybe the exception of the (second) Boston game. The 2nd line has been together for a few games and is developing. The third is untouchable, that only leaves the fourth. This is also the line THAT NEEDS THE MOST POSESSION HELP! So if Kuzya is good and the line improves you will see the ice time increase and we can roll four balanced lines. If he is GREAT (or Laich is terrible) you will see him move up into the top two lines. Good decision in my mind.

  • d99gr81

    Its not like Kuznetsov has been playing in juniors against kids… hes been playing in the KHL against men much more experienced… the KHL is not a joke. But Oates is a joke…

  • Matt Jackson

    Don’t know why some of you expected him to play on the top 2 lines tonight. Yesterday was his first day in America… Hes never played a minute in the NHL, On smaller ice, or in Oates system. He SHOULD start on the 4th line untill he gets comfortable, we don’t even really know what we have. Chimera said it best. It’s not like we signed Wayne Gretsky in his prime

  • d99gr81

    Team needs to win not give someone better for Wilson to play his whopping 6 minutes a game with,…

  • Hockey mom

    Maybe it will put some pressure on some of the other guys to start performing better, too…Lack of discipline and sloppy/lackadaisical play have hurt this team on several occasions…If Kuzya has the talent and the skills, give him a couple of games to show it and then if warranted, give him “The Jeffersons” treatment…Moving on up!!

    It just stinks that some of our “should be producers” (based on pay) are really the ones who should be on the 4th line.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    Agreed. I don’t really wanna see him against elite defensemen just yet either. At least get him past the jet lag. Sheesh.

  • JH

    What’s Halak’s record vs. the Penguins?

  • Eric Stoutamyer

    I like it. Wilson and Beagle like the ruff stuff in the corners. Kuzy is a great skater and can open space. If Wilson crashes the net I will bet you that Kuzy will get him the puck. Plus with Wilson on the ice the other team may not want to mess with Kuzy. This guy hasn’t proved anything at the NHL level. I have been watching KHL games for years now just to see him play. He has all the tools to be great. Give him time. I will say this though. The next two games could make or break this season. Beat the Pens both, or 1-1 will boost this team . Loose both could be a disaster.

  • JH

    The fourth line will scoar tonight. #thebank

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    http://www.extraskater.com/players/dashboard?players=708,37,148,28,432,38#player-usage-chart If Kuzya-Beagle-Wilson go up against the Pens depth, they could have some fun.

  • riggorules

    “In fairness to the other guys” … I think that’s telling and worrying from Oates. My hunch is that burying Erat had a lot to do with showing loyalty to mainstays Laich and Brouwer over a newcomer. I don’t see what “fairness” has to do with anything when you’re scrapping to make the playoffs.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    Just 4 games.
    .916 Sv% on 97 shots.

  • OlietheGoalie

    I’m waiting for a goon to take his first shot at Kuzzy. Taking bets on who decks that player in retaliation first: Wilson, Ovi, or Erskine.

  • riggorules

    Which was followed by a defending Kuzya against hype: “You’ve got to really take it easy on the kid and not put too much pressure on him.”

  • Graham Dumas

    That would be soooooooooooooo money.

  • riggorules

    Which if I recall is wayyyy better than Holtby’s (I know, small sample size)

  • riggorules

    Wilson: taking an instigator major which allows the Pens to capitalize on the league’s No. 1 PP and relegates Kuzya to the bench because the lines are all out of whack. I’ve got to lose my pessimism.

  • DashingDave314

    All 3 at once.

  • d99gr81

    its been three days… jet lag? Really? lol he’s been playing in the KHL where they have long distance flight regularly. lol He doesn’t have jet lag. id youwatch the press conference with him? Hes dying to play…

  • Sara

    I really think Oates is just letting him get adjusted. His entire life changed in a matter of a couple days- the travel/move, the climate change, etc…Even though he’s a professional and he’s ready to play it might be a smart move by Oates just to give his body a couple more days to adjust before throwing him in full force. The last thing we need to do is end up with a sick/injured player right out of the gate because his body is fatigued. It’s different then picking up another NHL player and having them fall right into place. (That’s my hope anyway…I really don’t think Oates will leave him there long.)

  • d99gr81

    I am more concerned with Oates comments… Earn stripes? Oates is now worried about upsetting other players after he had no problem pissing off Erat, Orlov and Neuvy… True team players should never be upset with a stud prospect coming in to make this team better. Oates and his OCD line combos is running this team into the ground…

  • d99gr81

    They will have to do it with about 6 shifts of ice time… what a joke..

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    .874 on 119 shots.

    yeesh.

  • yv

    I don’t know how many times Kuzya will have puck on his blade playing with Wilson and Beagle unless he will retrieve it by himself. At the same time, Wilson and Beagle’d be ready on getting quality scoring chances.

    How about this remarkable phrase from D. Sutter via PHT’ Yerdon:

    “When it comes to Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter, he’s usually viewed as a coach who will opt to have his team defend the puck at all costs, even at possible detriment to his offense.

    In speaking about new acquisition Marian Gaborik with Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal, he turns that notion on its ear with his thoughts on what he feels the NHL is like now.

    “The game’s changed. They think there’s defending in today’s game. Nah, it’s how much you have the puck. Teams that play around in their own zone they they’re defending but they’re generally getting scored on or taking face-offs and they need a goalie to stand on his head if that’s the way they play,” said Sutter.

  • Randy Lahey

    When is Grabovski coming back? I want to see him centering ward and chimera again….Then I think we can make the push

  • Jonathan Kenny

    To be dangerous they have to not take stupid penalties and be able to play defense.

  • Myan

    Glad to see him in the lineup and 4th line is actually a really smart decision by Oates…let’s ease him into the North American game. Now let’s just keep our fingers crossed that Oates gives the 4th line more than 8 minutes tonight.

  • Jack Conness

    That’s what I’m saying. Next year, I’d love to see

    Penner-Backstrom-Ovi
    Kuznetsov-Grabovski-Wilson

    Keep MoJo, Wardo, and Chimera and then build from there.

  • Myan

    Well it’s true! Kuyza finally coming over is a great thing but let’s not get ahead ourselves and assume that he’s going to save our season and take our team from where it is now to one that can go far in the playoffs.

  • Priscilla Villanueva

    He will play. Just not with elite players on his first day with one team practice under his belt after after a 20 hour flight against one of the league’s best teams when the team needs points. This isn’t the Kuzya show.

  • MuzzMuzzington

    Agreed, watching a lot of Kuzya highlights, he holds the puck for a long time. Can’t do that as much in the NHL. Plus, this gives him a chance to build some chemistry with Wilsy. I’m hoping they will mesh well and bring out the best of each other in the offensive zone.

  • Graham Dumas

    If only that were possible to do under the current contract structure… If I’m not mistaken, we’d need to buy out Laich, sell Brouw for cheap, and perhaps waive Volpatti?

    Also, you’ve got the problem then of MoJo on the 3rd line, which I think is not optimal.

    What I would maybe suggest is a change of approach by Oates (HA!) to the lines: even up the playing time a bit, and use at least lines 1-3 as near-equals.

    Mojo-Back-OV
    Penner-Grabo-Fehr (I think these guys could be really dangerous with a good play-maker like Grabo)
    Kuzya-Laich(?)-Wilson (ideally a better center than 21 here)
    Wardo-???-Chimera (4th line in name only)

  • kyle boyd

    Glad they’re starting slow with him, hope people can temper expectations a bit. not only his he adjusting to the NA game, he’s being used on the left wing (as expected). throughout his career he’s played RW and C, but never LW. not a terribly hard change but change nonetheless.

  • Clint Petty

    When are you guys going to add Kuzya to the RMNB tagline on the header!?

  • RT23

    As much as I can’t wait to see him with top 6 linemates, I think a game or 2 or 3 in the bottom 6 makes sense. He needs to get acclimated. Teammates and coaches need to get a better idea of his skills and tendencies. Give a nod toward him earning a promotion. And if some Pens want to delivery that “welcome to the NHL” check, I actually wouldn’t mind Wilson playing the enforcer in that case.

    I hope they do arrange a few overlap shifts that would give him a little ice time with 8-19 or even 90-20. And let’s remember that Oates has a tendency to tinker with his lines to start the 3rd so the wait could be very short.

    I’m actually more concerned about not getting a look at Penner with 8-19. I hope they are at least trying that at practice. Is there any timeline for Grabbo’s return?

  • Jonah

    Looks like Penner won’t be the only person known for pancakes…

  • Chris Cerullo

    Completely fine with this unless this becomes a Wilson 2.0 situation.

  • selftitled85

    Maybe this will lead to the 4th line getting more action then what they have been.

  • JenniferH

    *sigh* I really, really wanted Holtby to start when Kuzya played his first game. Is sad. :( Ah well.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    No timeline.

  • Guest

  • Shaun Phillips

    Based on what we’ve seen from Mojo the past few seasons, I don’t think 3C with 2 good forechecking guys (Wardo/Chimmer) is a bad thing. He has the offensive ability to set those guys up. Fehr is the big question mark in my mind; he’s too good of a sniper to be 3/4 line, but assuming Wilson and Kuzy move to top 6, think Fehr’s the odd man out (assuming Caps keep Penner).

  • Shaun Phillips

    Ditto. I think Oates used the same line on Wilson earlier this year but hasn’t given him any opportunity to earn more time.

  • JH

    Um, I don’t think a Russian is going to find that very complimentary.

  • Diller M

    How is ward beagle chimmer not the third line in that situation? Would you give the rookies more ice time then the guys who have dominated possesion all season? That’s basically what Oates did with the addition of Grabo who gives him more flexiblity

  • Graham Dumas

    So your suggested lines are:

    Penner-Backs-OV
    Kuzya-Grabo-Wilson
    Wardo-Mojo-Chimmer
    TBD

    Did I get that right? Certainly not the worst lines in the world, though Wardo/Chimmer’s production seems likely to decline next season.

  • Graham Dumas

    Wardo-Beags-Chimmer would be a great 3rd line, for sure. I’m actually not advocating their demotion to classic 4th line status (goon minutes)–if you want to flip my suggestion and up the Kuzya-et al. 4th line’s ice time to equal the 3rd line, that’s fine, too.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    puck drop

  • William

    http://i.imgur.com/KWl6pqT.jpg

    Must post my favourite meme

  • Shaun Phillips

    Yup. If the potatoes start to drop off, you can always mix it up with Fehr or Brouwer replacing one of them alongside Mojo. Ditto for the 2nd line as that’s a lot of youth on a top line (but want to see it tried). 4C Beagle or Laich with whoever is rounding out the roster. Almost a 3a/b line setup (no need to have such a disparity in ice-time with the skill that could be out there).

    If Penner is gone, I think Fehr moves back into the top 6 (either him or Kuzy top line).

    I always like when lines are structured a bit like I did NES Hockey: a skinny guy, an avg guy, and another avg/heavy guy.

  • Harry Taint

    Your charts are dumb.

  • Graham Dumas

    Guess you get a kick out of japer’s 8-bit lines, then, eh?

  • Shaun Phillips

    Lol. I’d never seen those before. Those are great, although I would change a few guys (no way Wilson is a skinny guy or Orlov a fat guy).

  • d99gr81

    Swap Penner and Kuznetsov

  • Shaun Phillips

    Nah. With his individual skill and vision, Ovi can act as a second playmaker on that line while Penner gets in the dirty areas. We haven’t seen what Wilson can do in terms of playmaking yet and we don’t know how dirty Kuzya is willing to get, so I’d rather have two known playmakers on that 2nd line and a known mucker on the 1st.

  • HunterVT

    “Team needs to win…”

    Which is exactly why they’re starting a guy who has never played an NHL game (and has minimal experience on the small ice) on the 4th line. Let him get his feet wet before he logs big minutes, I’ve seen no indication that the plan is to keep him on the bottom line for the rest of the season.

  • d99gr81

    Penner is not playing on the first line and he wont… he’s too slow. He will continue on the second. Cant get in front of the net when your 2 feet behind ovie and nikki… Penner wont be here next year anyway..

  • d99gr81

    No way in hell Fehr goes top six he will be lucky to even get in next years line up… Fehr sucks especially at center.

  • Jonah

    i agree that Kuzya should be playing 4th line minutes for now because he needs to get adjusted. if this goes on well into next week on the other hand… i will offer up my house as a staging ground for the riots (pitchforks, signs, bonfires not included)

  • Jonah

    i haven’t seen anything from penner yet that would look like he is valuable to the team or to oates. i have a feeling that he will end up walking in july

  • Jonah

    more of a 3A and 3B lineup?

  • Graham Dumas

    Yeah, or even 2a, B, and ,C