Jussi Jokinen, Marcus Johansson,Troy Brouwer

Photo: AP

With just a few days left before a trade deadline, managers around the NHL are comparing their teams to the rest of the league and looking for the pieces needed for a playoff run. With the new playoff format, it’s especially important to overmatch the division rivals you are likely to face early in the postseason.

The Caps, despite sitting just fourth in the Metropolitan division, keep up with the teams above them in most statistical categories. But there is one area in which they are struggling: the second line.

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The Washington Capitals arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday ahead of their Sunday matinee with the Flyers. As of 11:30 PM, things in the team’s hotel were going fine.

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Photo: Stephen Dunn

While his overall possession still needs some improving, Evgeny Kuznetsov has been putting up points and delivering juicy apples since the All-Star Break ended. On Saturday Kuznetsov did it again against the defending champion Kings.

With Jake Muzzin playing him perfectly, Kuznetsov tossed the puck over Muzzin’s stick and back to himself. He carved hard to the middle of the ice where he found an Alex Ovechkin open and waiting.

All Ovi needed was a few inches of space to beat Jonathan Quick for his 34th goal of the year and the 456th of his career.

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I want to start by saying I genuinely like Barry Trotz. I think he’s a good man and a good coach. He’s brought with him to Washington some of the brightest minds in hockey, he’s reversed a decline in the organization, and he’s helped Alex Ovechkin become a more complete player. I don’t think Trotz has gotten enough credit for that. He is exactly what fans wanted last summer: an experienced head coach.

But now that we’re more than halfway through the season, I see some worrying trends in this organization that reach all the way down to the AHL level.

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Right on the nose!

Evgeny Kuznetsov got high-sticked by Michael Del Zotto during a power play late in the second period. The impact was so violent that it almost ripped off Kuzy’s helmet.

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Troy Brouwer just used some hustle to create one of the most unlikely goals of the season. After a turnover in the offensive zone, Brouwer dove and reached out with his stick. Brouwer managed to steal the puck from a Ducks player and sweep it back into the zone before it crossed the blue line, which would have put his team offsides.

The puck went right to Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuzy and Jason Chimera raced against Ilya Bryzgalov on a two-on-none. The Russian winger passed to Ice Cheetah, who buried it in Bryz’s five-hole.

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Twenty-nine-year-old forward Troy Brouwer is celebrating his 500th career game on Tuesday. No better way to commemorate the milestone than scoring a memorable goal against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

Plus, this is a good excuse to share the ridiculous signs from the Brouwer Rangers.

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Why does he look like he’s playing Diablo in his sweatpants? (Photo: @Nail10_1993

I wasn’t the only one impressed by Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s shootout move. Tuesday night after the lowly Edmonton Oilers defeated the Caps 5-4, Nail Yakupov, the first overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, tweeted his friend and fellow countryman.

Fedor was nice enough to translate their entire exchange, which surprisingly had nothing to do with late night filings and Ivan Drago.

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Even though Evgeny Kuznetsov is goalless in his last 12 games and scoreless in his last seven, he’s been dangerous lately every time he’s had the puck on his stick. On Wednesday night, the Capitals’ debonair dangler deked Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth onto his rear and scored a most beautiful shootout goal.

(Someone had to do some paralyzing since Matt Hendricks didn’t get an attempt.)

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Photo: Frederick Breedon

Last night, as I wrote about Alex Ovechkin fulfilling the birthday wish of a five-year-old at practice, I noticed something in the bottom left corner of Chuck Gormley’s photo. (My crazy art school eagle eyes see all the pixels.) It was a glove, and that glove had a special inscription.

I fired up the RMNB Enhancing Machine.

Turns out it’s Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s glove and it is stitched with the name KUZY. Take a look.

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