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Barry Trotz gives honest assessment of Kevin Shattenkirk

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USA TODAY Sports

Barry Trotz gives honest assessment of Kevin Shattenkirk

For 19 regular season games and 13 playoff games, the nation's capital was the home of defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The highly skilled defenseman was acquired by the Capitals during the 2017 trade deadline to help bolster the team’s defensive unit.

Shattenkirk’s time in Washington received mixed reviews. The Capitals fell in the second round of the playoffs to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Shattenkirk, despite being seen as the top prize of the trade deadline, ended up playing primarily on the Caps’ third pairing.

With Shattenkirk back in town on Friday as a member of the New York Rangers, Barry Trotz was asked Thursday about why the acquisition did not seem to work out for the Caps.

“I think it takes a little bit of adjustment,” Trotz said to the media after practice.

“We play a little different from some teams. It worked in areas that we wanted. He helped our power play. He made it more dangerous and that. I think everybody thought of him as a 1-2 and he really wasn't. He was a little lower. I think it worked out OK. I think he had a patch during the one series where it wasn't really good. I think he regained it and scored a big goal for us in Pitt. I just think, yeah, the first playoff series wasn't, that's what you remember. It sticks out. But I think overall he was fine.”

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The Rangers were also practicing at Kettler on Thursday which gave Shattenkirk an opportunity to respond to Trotz’s evaluation.

“It doesn't sit well with you,” he said. “It's nothing that you enjoy hearing, but I think there's a lot of people who probably think that about me and I like to use that in my favor and try to use that as something to just keep me boosted and prove people wrong.”

Shattenkirk signed a four-year $26.6 million contract with the Rangers in the offseason. Even with a deal that carries a $6.65 million cap hit, it is still believed to be somewhat of a hometown discount considering the New York native had offers for more money and longer term on the table.

Despite his new contract, however, Shattenkirk does not even play on the top pairing on his new team. Instead, he skates alongside Brady Skjei on the second pairing behind Ryan McDonagh and Nick Holden.

So perhaps it is hard to argue with Trotz’s point.

Shattenkirk’s offensive skills are undeniable and he already has five goals and 20 points in 27 games for his new team. His defensive acumen, however, is what is frequently called into question.

MORE CAPITALS: LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE CAPS' WIN OVER CHICAGO

When asked if he felt he was a top-pair player, Shattenkirk said, “I think I'm working towards it. I think there's a lot more room for me to grow. I think that I have to handle those top-end matchups a little bit better and when I get those opportunities, I really have to make sure that I make them count.

“I know we have a guy like Ryan McDonagh is a good example for me, someone who I try to watch and the way that he handles players like the Ovechkins and the Backstroms and the Crosbys, that's something that I'm still working towards. I don't think I'm there yet, but I think I can get there.”

Ultimately, you are worth what teams are willing to pay you. His worth to the Rangers is just over $26 million. Whether that makes him a No. 1 or 2 defenseman, that’s up to Shattenkirk to prove.

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With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

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With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

With Andre Burakovsky out for the remainder of the first round at least, someone will have to replace him in the top six. Originally, it looked like Jakub Vrana was the man for the job. Based on Game 4, however, it now looks like Chandler Stephenson is the "next man up" for the Caps.

While Vrana may have top-six skill and a high ceiling, it was Stephenson who stepped into the second-line role on Thursday playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Stephenson finished with two shots on goal in 17:28 of ice time. Vrana, meanwhile, played for only 6:40.

On Friday, Barry Trotz praised Stephenson's hockey IQ for allowing him to adjust to the top-six in a complementary role.

"[Stephenson's] an intelligent player," Trotz said. "He played with [Backstrom] a lot [Thursday]. If you talk with the real top-end guys, he has the ability to think like a top-end guy in terms of play with them. He’s a very intelligent player. He skates extremely well. He’s got some strength to his game. He can complement people. I think his ability to play those different roles and his hockey IQ when you play with those skill guys, he plays more of a give-and-go game than an individual game. When you play with those high skill guys, you’re able to compliment them very well."

Stephenson has spent the majority of the season on the fourth line. He was drafted as a natural center, but has played primarily wing since coming to the NHL. The ability to play both positions gives Stephenson more versatility than most forwards which Trotz credits for helping him see the game so well.

"The great thing about Chandler is he’s played multiple positions over the years. I think it’s allowed him to play a fourth-line role and with high-skill guys. At center-ice, you distribute the puck a little more.  He’s turning into a well-rounded player for us."

On the surface, having Stephenson on the fourth line over Vrana makes little sense. Vrana is highly skilled and has great speed, but he is also prone to giving up turnovers and his production can be inconsistent. Trotz has clearly put a premium on responsible play this postseason which gives Stephenson the edge.

But Game 4 was only one game. If you are going to get top-six minutes, Stephenson will be expected to produce offensively as well. Despite the limited ice time he has gotten, Vrana has shown he can have a major impact on games. In Game 1, he set up the team's only 5-on-5 goal and drew a penalty. In Game 3, he drew two penalties in less than two minutes, giving Washington a two-man advantage.

Stephenson had a fantastic game in Game 4 when he was given the chance to play in the top-six. The next step will be finding a way to have a bigger impact on the game.

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Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 5 Capitals vs. Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Alex Ovechkin said the Caps would return to Washington with a tied series. The Caps captain is a man of his word as the Caps won both Game 3 and Game 4 to even up the series at two games apiece.

John Tortorella had no answers after seeing his Columbus Blue Jackets fall in Game 4, but he will have to figure things out quickly as the series shifts back to Washington for a pivotal Game 5.

The Caps return home with two straight wins and all the momentum. There's just one problem: No one seemingly can win at home.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 5

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 3:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC.

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 on NBC Sports' live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 5 on Saturday, April 21 at 3:00 p.m. ET in Washington. The series is tied 2-2.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 5 will be broadcast on NBC. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 2:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 2:30 p.m. Tune back to NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 6:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

2:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
2:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
3:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Blue Jackets on NBC
5:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
6:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 5 is available to stream live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Jakub Vrana -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE