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The Afternoon Narrative: Line Changes, Sid Skates and No Place Like Home?

Three things we’re talking about this afternoon when we’re talking about the Caps

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

1. After calling out his top line for their lackluster Game 4 performance (but not in reaction to it?), Barry Trotz looks to be shuffling his deck chairs, err, lines and defense pairings:

So, yeah, that’s Alex Ovechkin on the third line which, on its face, may seem crazy (unless you’re Tyler Dellow). But ask yourself where Ovechkin ranks among the team’s forwards in five-on-five play right now, couple it with a desire to create more offense overall (the bottom-six doesn’t have a single goal in the second round, and only Tom Wilson has potted one so far in the playoffs) while presenting some match-up difficulties and, well... guess we’ll see.

And how do the new lineys feel?

Counterpoint:

But wait! Maybe this isn’t a demotion after all...

On the back-end, pairing Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk is long overdue, and something Alan May suggested in the latest episode of Japers’ Rink Radio.

2. In what was perhaps a bit of a surprise this morning, Sidney Crosby (and Conor Sheary) were full participants in practice:

And if for some reason you’re wondering about it...

So will he or won’t he?

Oh, one last thing - any thoughts on the hit(s), Sid?

3. The Caps will look to avoid a third home loss in this series, something that’s actually happened to them more often than you’d think, most recently against Montreal in 2010. Prior to that, they dropped three on home ice against Tampa in 2003, Pittsburgh in 1996, New Jersey in 1988 and the Islanders in 1987.

In the Ovechkin Era, the Caps have gone 286-132-57 (a .602 win percentage) at home during the regular season (fifth-best in the League), but just 27-22 (.551) in the playoffs (15th in the NHL). Start that first sample in the first year of the span in which they made the playoffs and the Caps have gone 253-97-43 at home (.644) in the regular season, second-best in the League (behind only Pittsburgh).

No team has won more games on home ice over the last two regular seasons than the Caps (61), and yet they only have a 6-5 playoff record to show for it. This year, the Caps posted a League-best 32 wins at home... and are 2-3 on that sheet in the playoffs.

The Caps need a win on home ice to keep their season alive and send the series back to the building in which their season started. Easier said than done... but it should be easier done than it has been.