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Injuries remain a problem for the Caps and there is no real end in sight just yet

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Injuries remain a problem for the Caps and there is no real end in sight just yet

The injury news wasn’t all that positive—or definitive— on Tuesday, as the Caps began preparing for their November slate of games.

The Capitals have just two games this week, a Thursday home game against the New York Islanders and a Saturday road game against the Boston Bruins,

RELATED: SOCCER MENTALITY IS INVADING THE NHL

Here’s the rundown:

  • Winger Brett Connolly, who has missed the past two games with an upper body injury, did not participate in the team’s first practice since returning from their Western Canada trip. “He’s still day-to-day,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ll see where he is tomorrow. Don’t know if he’ll be able to skate tomorrow.”
     
  • Defenseman Matt Niskanen (upper body) is eligible to return from long-term injured reserve next Tuesday in Buffalo, however, it’s unclear if that will happen. He’s been skating on his own at Kettler Capitals Iceplex but Trotz indicated that he’s still a step or two away from being cleared to rejoin his teammates. “I think that’ll be really the doctors assessing it,” Trotz said. “They’ll probably take a few more pictures and go from there.”
     
  • Forward Tyler Graovac (upper body) has missed the past five games and also was not on the ice. He remains week-to-week and Trotz said he did not have an update to share at this time.
     
  • Trotz wasn’t asked about Andre Burakovsky, but we already know he won’t return before December. He’s recovering from a broken thumb that required surgery.
     

RELATED: UPDATED NHL POWER RANKINGS

So, yeah, the injury news wasn't great for a team that couldn’t really afford to lose anyone.

But if there is a bit of a silver lining, it’s that Connolly is still classified as day-to-day and Trotz sounded sorta hopeful that we’ll see him back on the ice sooner rather than later.

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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!

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

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Think Jakub Vrana's ice time shows Barry Trotz was unhappy with his play? Think again

It was a bit of a surprise to see Jakub Vrana in the lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers. On Saturday in practice, Barry Trotz mixed his lines up and it appeared that Vrana would be the odd-man out. On Sunday, however, when the team took to the ice for warmups prior to the game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vrana lined up on the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly.

Did the near scratch spark Vrana to more production? Not exactly.

RELATED: HERE'S WHY THE CAPS LOST TO PHILADELPHIA

Vrana played a career-low 6:25 against the Flyers. He had zero shot attempts or hits. There were only two stats on his stat line from the final box score: One giveaway and one drawn penalty.

Despite that, Trotz was complimentary of the 21-year-old forward following the game.

"What I like about Jake, he competed," Trotz said. "I know he doesn't have the minutes tonight, but he competed and that's what the message was. I met with him this morning and a little bit on the ice the other day and I just said the skill doesn't come out unless that level of desperation and compete is there night in, night out and then you'll have production. He didn't get a lot of ice time, but I was happy with his effort."

Trotz said Vrana's ice time was low because he the team was "hard matching" later in the game against Philadelphia. It was not because of how he played.

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But ultimately, the key is to get Vrana producing again and the fourth line is not the best place to spark that. Vrana has only one point in his last 12 games which is why it seemed to make sense that he would be a healthy scratch on Sunday. For a player with his offensive skill, it is harder for him to make an impact on that back line given the limited minutes and the more defensive role. Ultimately he has to play in the top-nine in order to reach his potential on a game by game basis.

If Trotz wanted to spark more compete and more effort from Vrana, the move to the fourth line may have done the trick. But did he play well enough to warrant moving back into the top-nine? That's the ultimate question.