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Top dog: Beagle to Caps first line, Penner down to fourth

Mar 18, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT

Jay Beagle Getty Images

Jay Beagle isn’t exactly a household name in the NHL, but now he’s Alex Ovechkin‘s new first line center. At least according to what coach Adam Oates has done in practice recently that is.

As Katie Carrera of The Washington Post shares, injuries to Brooks Laich and Mikhail Grabovski are forcing Oates to make some moves, and moving Beagle up to the top line is a curious one, but an opportunity he’s looking to take advantage of.

“It’s obviously what every player wants. I want to take this opportunity and I want to run with it,” Beagle said.  “You want to do the best you can not only for yourself , but for your team. We’re making a playoff push every point is so important, everyone is important.”

For the record, Beagle has two goals and seven points this season and has been mostly a fourth line center averaging 10:29 of ice time.

The playoff push is the thing here (they’re two points behind the New York Rangers for the second wild card) and Beagle getting top line duty isn’t the only curious move. Check out the lines they used in practice yesterday.

Nicklas Backstrom working with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Troy Brouwer seems like a way to balance out scoring amongst the top lines, but what’s up with Dustin Penner on the fourth line?

We’ve seen him demoted like this before with the Los Angeles Kings, but when he was picked up by the Caps at the trade deadline it was expected he’d be the left wing on Ovechkin’s line. Now he’s riding with AHL call-up Casey Wellman and rookie Tom Wilson.

If the moves work and the Caps come away with wins against L.A. and Anaheim, Oates will look like a genius. If not, this starts to look like a throwback to when Dale Hunter was running the show.

  1. btlpper68 - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    Everyone was acting like he was good in ana, well when you play with perry and getzlaf you going to get some points and your +\- is guna go through the roof, and now he’s back to the 4 line

    • jpelle82 - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:22 AM

      i dont think they even have line assignments unless your name is ward or chimera. they need to fire oates right along with mcphee

    • echech88 - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:26 AM

      Yup. He was also getting healthy scratched some nights to allow other wings to play so 4th line shouldn’t be that surprising.

      The guy is super skilled and has the tools to be great but he doesn’t bring it every night which is really frustrating.

    • c9castine - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      yeah, anaheim knew. a lot of others knew. somehow mcphee didn’t.

  2. newjerseydevilsfanpuckcollection - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Now that was something I would have never imagined. Beagle as a first line centre???

    Unfortunately they are hurting in that department (and so is Detroit)…but you don’t see someone like Tootoo jumping in that role to take over centre.

    • storminator16 - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      Bad Coaching 101 = Play a guy outside of his natural role, even when his role is obviously defined by the player’s skill set. Oates thinks he is a coaching genius but this will be his down fall.

      • storminator16 - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:30 AM

        I’m speaking about Jay Beagle, btw. As for Penner, I don’t what his deal is. He just doesn’t seem like he wants to be a hockey player, and that’s fine as well. I just wish he realized how good he can be and give the game more than what he’s been giving.

  3. ibieiniid - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    i watch a lot of Caps games. just about every one, in fact, but I still don’t hear/read Beagle’s name without thinking of his poor decision to tangle with Aaron Asham:

    • ibieiniid - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      also, lol @ the ticker in the pre-play picture of this video. Neuvy out with an injury. surprising.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      yeah beagle kinda retired his boxing gloves after what was a very short fighting career, i dont recall him dropping them since. beagle was asham’s fighting dream come true.

      • c9castine - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        in that sense asham did him a favor. let him know real quick if he was going to be in this league it wouldn’t be for fighting.

    • c9castine - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      any time i see that guy playing i clap silently in my head for the fact that he didn’t tuck his tail and run from hockey after this poor decision…

      probably the cleanest knockout in the game of hockey in a long time.

      • ibieiniid - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:17 PM

        lol. Beagle. tuck his tail. (i assume that was intended)

      • c9castine - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        haha…it actually wasn’t. must have been a subconscious pun. my brain couldn’t help itself.

    • babykaby - Mar 19, 2014 at 4:04 AM

      Dumfeld, always an idiot.

      • ibieiniid - Mar 19, 2014 at 8:09 AM

        what?

  4. stcrowe - Mar 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM

    Everybody knows that Snoopy, the World Famous Hockey Player, was the best Beagle ever to play the game..

  5. patthehockeyfan - Mar 18, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    Odd. While Beagle’s play has improved, Penner made a fantastic no-look pass for an assist Sunday. I don’t get the 4th line demotion.

    What Oates should do is move up Kuznetsov to the first line. This guy has special written all over him. Let’s see what he can really do.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 18, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      once the caps lose a couple more games and drop 6-8 points out of the 8th spot I would expect to see kuznetsov and wilson to start to get more minutes. wilson currently averages 7:24 per game…which is dumb in my opinion as far as development goes. i dont know if kuznetsov bumps johansen yet but there’s no reason he shouldnt see 2nd line minutes regularly.

  6. joey4id - Mar 18, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    This team clearly lacks an identity, and forging that identity can only be achieved with the proper on ice personnel. The coach needs to make sure he can get the players to buy into his system. Ex: Avs have grown so much with Roy, but they grew because the players have character. How many coaches will have to be fired in Washington before the ownership and fans understand that solving the problem needs to start in the locker room?

  7. govtminion - Mar 18, 2014 at 11:52 AM

    It feels like this is ‘coaching by dartboard’ right now for the Caps- throw guys together at random and see if it sticks. That’s alarming.

    They’ve had injuries, no question- just like the rest of the NHL- but if you’re in mid-March and still scrambling to figure out chemistry between players, the way most teams did back in training camp… it’s time to pack it in for the season. The talk around here is still how dangerous this team will be when the playoffs start, but… I just don’t see how they’ll even get in at this point, when they’re still not able to put together a solid top line.

    I want to like Adam Oates, but… might be time to look for yet another head coach who actually knows how to develop young talent- and find another GM to look for it.

    • jpelle82 - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM

      they havent hired an established coach since ron wilson… they need to stop trying to find that minor league guy who can hopefully translate to the nhl and just get a coach that knows what he’s doing and has dealt with an nhl locker room and schedule before.

  8. wtfkwp - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    This is a pattern for Penner. Except for some stretches with the Ducks’ top line, Penner only seems to show up with regularity in the playoffs–if then.

    • wtfkwp - Mar 18, 2014 at 12:33 PM

      I’m assuming Penner will figure out how to break out his game against the Kings. It fits his MO.

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