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Capitals' Trotz separates longtime linemates Ovechkin, Backstrom

Sergei Belski / USA TODAY Sports

Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz decided to shuffle his lines in a big way in advance of Wednesday's game against the Detroit Red Wings.

His first step was separating longtime linemates Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom.

In practice Tuesday, rookie center Andre Burakovsky replaced Backstrom on the first line with Ovechkin on his left and Joel Ward to the right. Backstrom dropped to the second line between Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer, while Evgeny Kuznetsov - relegated to the fourth line to start the season - was bumped up to third line between left wing Jason Chimera and right wing Eric Fehr.

“We need some balance in our scoring,” Trotz explained to Chuck Gormley of CSN. “We’re getting it from our bottom six (forwards). We need a little more consistency from our top six, game in and game out.”

To wit, Ovechkin has been held without a goal on seven shots in his last four games after scoring five goals on 24 shots in his first four games.

True to form, Trotz has been preaching defensive accountability, and Backstrom suggested that perhaps he and Ovechkin are caught in an adjustment period.

“I think we’ve been playing really well defensively, but maybe it hasn’t clicked offensively as we would like,” Backstrom said. “Maybe that’s what (Trotz) is thinking. Switch it up and get a couple new looks."

The pair has seen a great measure of offensive success together over the years, but the additions of Burakovsky and Kuznetsov allow for different looks across the board. What remains to be seen is how long they'll be apart.

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