The Capitals won’t be happy about it. I could probably use stronger language than that to describe general manager George McPhee’s reaction to Nicklas Backstrom’s one-game suspension for cross-checking Boston’s Rich Peverley. Remember, this is the same organization that was furious over Alex Ovechkin’s three-game suspension in January. But the fact is they won’t have Backstrom, their star center, the man who scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Bruins. He will miss Game 4 with his team down 2-1 in the series and facing a pivotal game.

So who plays? Well, you can shift Mathieu Perreault back to the No. 2 center role he played while Backstrom was out with his concussion for 40 games. You’d assume Brooks Laich stays on the top line with Jay Beagle on the third line again. That leaves an opening on the fourth line. Keith Aucoin could shift over from left wing. Matt Hendricks can play that position, too. Veteran Jeff Halpern would be a natural fit, but he has been a healthy scratch since March 23. That’s 10 games without playing. Do you really throw him back into the mix in the midst of a playoff series? He did face the Bruins while playing for Montreal last spring in the postseason. Whoever takes that spot, you could certainly see the return of veteran winger Mike Knuble, an on-and-off scratch the second half of the season who hasn’t played since April 5 – the second-to-last game of the regular season.

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