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Barry Trotz gives honest assessment of Kevin Shattenkirk

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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.”

RELATED: BACKSTROM ENDS GOAL DROUGHT MUCH TO THE DELIGHT OF HIS TEAMMATES

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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Barry Trotz explains why returning from a bye week is harder than you think

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Barry Trotz explains why returning from a bye week is harder than you think

The biggest storyline surrounding the Capitals coming out of the bye week is how much the team seems to hate lengthy breaks.

By now you probably have heard Washington has lost three straight out of the bye. In addition to that, there have been three stretches this season in which the Caps have had to wait at least five days for their next contest. They lost two of those three games and they did so in decisive fashion.

Caps played Oct. 21, lost next game on Oct. 26 at Vancouver 6-2
Caps played Nov. 25, lost next game on Nov. 30 vs. Los Angeles 5-2
Caps played Jan. 2, won next game vs. St. Louis 4-3 in overtime

This also is not a new problem. Coming out of the bye week last season, Washington lost its first two games back and then went on to lose eight of 14 before they finally got back on track.

RELATED: WHERE DO THE CAPS LAND IN THE LATEST NHL POWER RANKINGS?

But why? Aren’t breaks in the schedule a good thing? After all, the bye week was negotiated for by the Players’ Association.

On Tuesday after practice, Barry Trotz tried to explain the difficulties of returning from the bye.

“The best way I can describe it is it's not different than someone going on a 2-week vacation. You come back to work and the first couple days, not really productive, right?

“You know how it is, when you get back, it's hard to get back in that routine.”

The bye week in hockey is different than what we see in football. In addition to no games, the players do not even practice. They do not get the benefit of a having a week of practice before the next game like in the NFL.

This year in Washington’s case, the Caps did not even get a chance to practice before returning to game action as they were forced to cancel practice the day before their game in New Jersey due to travel issues.

“You lose a little bit of that edge, a little bit of that sharpness,” Trotz said. “You lose a little bit of everything and then when it's over 20 guys, then all of a sudden it's difficult.”

Evgeny Kuznetsov also noted how the team struggles in January and February as an additional explanation.

“Physically we're pretty good and emotionally we're pretty good,” he said. “It's just those moments. If you look at the last 3 years I've been here, it's every year the same [expletive], same time. Always those 10-15 games in late January, early February it's always been wasn't great for us.”

MORE CAPITALS: TROTZ LIKES WHAT VRANA BRINGS EVEN IF THE ICE TIME ISN'T THERE

You do often hear about the “dog days” of a season when it suddenly becomes hard for teams to stay motivated every single night with half the season still to go. Now add in a bye week and you can understand why it may be hard for the players to ramp up the intensity level.

The added obstacle for Washington is they now face another break with the All-Star Game. Thursday’s game in Florida will be the team’s only game in a nine-day period.

With the Metropolitan Division standings as tight as they are, the Caps likely cannot afford another stretch of eight losses in 14 games like they suffered last year.

It’s interesting to see a team struggle after having too much time off. It’s a problem most people reading this probably wish they had. But it’s one that’s not quite as easy to overcome as you may think.

“I just think from the last couple years with the breaks in it, you understand that it's not just, hey you had a break, you should be fresh when you go on the ice,” Trotz said. “Unless you've played the game, it's hard to explain to people.”

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

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NHL Power Rankings: The Caps are singing the bye week blues

A Capitals team that struggles after lengthy breaks is now indeed struggling after its return from the bye week. Since returning on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, the Caps have lost three straight games including two at home with only two points to show for their efforts.

Heading into the bye, Washington looked like one of the top teams in the NHL with 14 wins in 19 games. Now, they have taken a step back and are working at returning to the level they were playing just a week ago.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS HERE

Oh, and to make matters worse, the Caps do not play again until Thursday and then are off for the All-Star break.

It's Jan. 22 and Washington has only two more games this month. Even if they do figure things out on Thursday against the Florida Panthers, they will have to figure it out all over again when they return from the All-Star break on Jan. 31 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

So where do the Caps rank after their recent slide and how far could they fall if they do not right the ship? Find out here in this week's NHL Power Rankings!