ChimeraGoal

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Last season, Adam Oates tried to reinvent Eric Fehr. Instead of being an auxiliary winger, Oates turned Fehr into a checking line center. Actual hockey isn’t NHL 15, so the role was uneasy for Fehr. Center is a  greater responsibility than being a scoring winger, offensively and defensively. Pivots are, perhaps, a little smarter than the rest of us. Fehr never quite settled into the position and bounced around the lineup and the press box under Oates. He did, however, find success with Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, inspiring a cult following for the line.

This season, it looked like Barry Trotz put an end to the Eric Fehr 3C experiment, placing the Manitoban on the top trio with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. After Tuesday’s histrionic 6-5 loss to San Jose, Trotz’s shifted his lineup. Fehr was back with Ward and Chimera. On Thursday, the line was Washington’s best. While they only registered one of Washington’s five goals — and it was barely even a goal — the trio shut down the opposition and earned praise from Trotz. Against the Panthers, the third line was again inspired. Chimera had a myriad of chances while scoring Washington’s lone goal of the night. It was set up by a brilliant pass from the corner from Fehr.

“With that line, I think that Fehrsie’s got really good hockey IQ,” Trotz said. “He can read off those two guys.”

“That whole line’s been really good the last couple games,” he added.

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After the Capitals were defeated by the Sharks, head coach Barry Trotz switched up his forward lines for Thursday night. Eric Fehr, the one true love of hockey bloggers, was moved off the first line and reunited with forever linemates Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. It paid off with a 6-2 win. The new third trio was Washington’s best all night.

It looked as if they weren’t going to come away with anything to show for it against the Devils, but that’s when Cory Schineder capped off his awful night with a gift.

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BurakovskyFirstGoal

Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Two summers ago, Andre Burakovsky came to Capitals Development Camp as a skinny but skilled winger a few years away from the NHL. He made friends with Tom Wilson, about 11 months his senior, and the Canadian introduced him to life in North American and the “cinnamon rollers” that come with it.

Wilson made the Caps roster as a 19-year-old three months later, playing in every one of the team’s 82 games but barely getting on the ice. He registered 15 times more penalty minutes than points. Connor Carrick, another 19-year-old, also made the team out of camp. Though Carrick impressed early with manifest skill, he struggled as the season went on. Thanks to the Caps barren defense, Carrick was playing minutes he wasn’t ready for. Like Wilson, Carrick was ill-served by his rookie experience.

“It’s tough for a young kid,” new Caps GM Brian MacLellan said in his introductory press conference, admitting the team should have handled the players differently.

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Wilson speaking to reporters last month. (Photo credit: Amanda Bowen)

After Sunday’s final preseason game, Barry Trotz said the team’s lineup was all but set. No matter what, it will be temporary. While Mike Green and Michael Latta seem likely play Thursday, Jay Beagle and Aaron Volpatti will have to wait longer to come back from injury. Adding to the myriad wounded Capitals, Dmitry Orlov and Tom Wilson may not be back for a while after breaking various things during the summer.

Orlov broke his wrist this summer while playing for Russia. The Capitals insisted Orlov would likely be ready in September or October, but now his return date has been pushed back. Same for Wilson, who broke his fibula this summer in what the player termed a “freak accident.”

Last month, Barry Trotz said Wilson might be back by opening night, but the Capitals’ Senior Editor and Content Strategist Mike Vogel tweeted on Sunday that he does not expect either Orlov or Wilson to be ready until sometime in November, approximately six months after Orlov’s surgery. Wilson’s agent wouldn’t commit to a return date but agrees Wilson is weeks away.

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

With the final preseason game in the books for the Capitals, the team’s opening night line-up is shaping up: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Eric Fehr will be on the top line. Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky, and Troy Brouwer will man the second. Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich, and Joel Ward will be on the third. The fourth line looks set, though scrappy free-agree invitee Liam O’Brien looks to have earned his way into a contract with Hershey or a two-way deal. Michael Latta, though, appears ready to play alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Chris Brown on the fourth line. That might change when Jay Beagle comes back from injury.

“That would be a question for Mac[Lellan],” Trotz said of O’Brien. “He’s been as good as anybody especially in that role.”

“He’s a player that demanded to be noticed,” the coach added.

19-year-old rookie Andre Burakovsky appears to have also made the team, beating top prospect Kuznetsov to center the team’s second line. At least initially.

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Photo: Amanda Bowen

For the past year, Washington Capitals season ticket reps have been pushing guaranteed Winter Classic tickets as a main selling point of full- and partial-season plans. Last night, the team has released more information on how exactly that’s going to work.

Plan holders have been offered assigned seats, which they can take or leave. They are not able to pick their own location as has been done in previous Winter Classics. Prices range from $79 to $349 per ticket, plus $19 in fees ($9 for a service and administrative fee and $10 shipping and handling).

Here is the seating chart:

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CapsLockerRoom (2 of 5)

Photos by Chris Gordon.

In the last couple days, we’ve made a lot of Barry Trotz’s new tough, tiring training camp. The outlook is part of a trend of forced seriousness as Trotz and Brian MacLellan look to turn the Caps from underachievers to a spring success story. Trotz’s psychological makeover manifested itself in the latest way Sunday, when the players stepped into the team’s new locker room at Verizon Center for the first time. In additional to new stalls, the room features a large version of the team’s secondary logo on the floor, which was roped off. “Don’t step on the logo,” members of the media were warned by a team spokesman upon entering the room.

“I think there’s a pride we should have in our organization,” Trotz said. “It’s about what’s on the front of the jersey, not what’s on the back of the jersey. What’s on the front of the jersey is very important and should be a little sacred. Plus it makes the room look great.”

“Few things are sacred now in sport and I want our logo to be something that we’re very proud of,” he concluded.

Here are some photos of the new room.

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Caps Install New Hat Trick Displays at Verizon Center (Photos)

HatTrickDisplay (2 of 4)

Photos by Chris Gordon.

This season, the Capitals are celebrating their 40th anniversary. Since they weren’t able to raise any Eastern Conference Regular Season Champion banners last year, the team decided to add a new installation outside section 111 honoring the hat tricks in franchise history. The exhibition, in a neat touch, includes displays of headwear collected after 13 hat tricks at Verizon Center since 2008. Most of those, naturally, come from Alex Ovechkin, with cameos from Nicklas Backstrom and Troy Brouwer and departed Caps Alexander Semin and Mathieu Perreault. There’s currently space for three more hat tricks. How quickly those get filled will depend on whether teams keep leaving Ovi wide open at the near circle.

Below, take a look at some photos.

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CapsTrainingCampDay2 (6 of 10)

Photo: Chris Gordon.

Day two of Capitals training camp was Saturday, and the team continued the tough pace set by Barry Trotz on Friday. Each of the three group of players spent about an hour and the half on the ice, focusing on drills designed to simulate game situations and learn the system. With the first preseason game just hours away, three groups of Caps battled along the boards for loose pucks and charged at the net. Unlike previous regimes, Trotz is throwing the players into the fire quickly.

“This is the one day we had to prepare to play tomorrow,” the coach told reporters. “We tried to get a lot of stuff in that was situational.”

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Caps Fanfest Final Scrimmage (17 of 26)

Photos by Chris Gordon.

On Saturday, the Washington Capitals held their annual Fanfest at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Hundreds of Caps fans packed into the practice rink to see Riley Barber’s Team White defeat Andre Burakovsky’s Team Red 7-4. Before the action, Ted Leonsis presented a $105,000 check to TAPS, a non-profit organization that provides comfort and care for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one who died while serving in the military. There also was the equipment sale (okay, who grabbed all of the Kuznetsov sticks?) and autograph signings with Barry Trotz and all of the prospects. New Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen also met with the media for the first time.

All in all, it was a fun day — like have you seen our Twitter pics? Below, check out my photos from the day, and in the comments let us know what your favorite moment was. (Also, please, someone give Ian one of the Kuznetsov sticks.)

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