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

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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.