Evgeny Kuznetsov

Quick Links

Bullet dodged: Evgeny Kuznetsov avoids major injury after scare in Florida

Bullet dodged: Evgeny Kuznetsov avoids major injury after scare in Florida

The Caps got some welcome news Tuesday as Evgeny Kuznetsov practiced fully, showing no ill-effects of the injury he suffered in Florida.

Kuznetsov left Thursday’s 4-2 victory at BB&T Center in the third period after suffering what appeared to be a left leg strain of some sort.

The-25-year-old first line center did not go into specifics about the injury, but he took his normal spot in the lineup—between Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson—and afterward confirmed that he’s ready to suit up against the Flyers on Wednesday night.

“I feel good,” Kuznetsov said. “I can’t really say much about [the injury] last game. But overall, it feels pretty good today.”

He added: “It’s the magic hands of our trainers. They did a great job. It’s nothing serious; it’s just little things.”

RELATED: HERE'S WHY THE CAPS SHOULD MAKE A MOVE AT THE TRADE DEADLINE

As bad as the injury looked at the time, Coach Barry Trotz was hopeful it was not serious but said Saturday that he wouldn’t know for sure until Kuzy got through a full practice.

That hurdle has now been successfully cleared.

“He got strung out a little bit there, stepped on a guy’s foot there and got strung out,” Trotz said. “We talked when we left Florida—Kuzy’s a good pro—he said if he felt it was worse the next day he was going to fly back to Washington” rather than spending the all-star break in Miami with his family.

Trotz continued: “He was in constant contact with our trainer. Our trainer was in contact with me at the All-Star Game. So, you have to trust the player, and I trust Kuzy and obviously he’s fine. So he’s good to go tomorrow.”

MORE CAPITALS: WHAT DO THE CAPS DO FOR THE SUPER BOWL?

In nine games this month, Kuznetsov has a goal and five assists, including two against the Panthers prior to leaving the contest. Overall, he’s second on the team behind Alex Ovechkin in points with 45 (13 goals, 32 assists).

Check out the latest episode of the Capitals Extra Podcast!

Quick Links

Barry Trotz wants Evgeny Kuznetsov to prove him wrong every night

kuznetsov_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Barry Trotz wants Evgeny Kuznetsov to prove him wrong every night

There’s a reason why the Caps were willing to give Evgeny Kuznetsov an eight-year contract worth $62.4 million. He is one of the most talented players in the entire NHL, capable of making incredible plays and taking over games.

But we haven’t seen him do much of that over the past few games.

“You always want to be better and you always want to play better,” Kuznetsov said following Tuesday’s practice. “You want to get your team a win every time, get them more chances. But sometimes, it's just not going well. You just have to work through those periods and if you're going to keep working hard it will be back for sure.”

Kuznetsov has only one goal in 12 games and four points in his last six. For most players, four points in six games would hardly qualify as a slump, but Kuznetsov is not most players.

RELATED: RETURNING FROM A BYE IS HARDER THAN YOU THINK

“I think when Kuzy is really skating and he's got a real high battle mentality, then he's going to be productive and he's going to be the best player on the ice,” Barry Trotz said to reporters Wednesday. “I think he is almost every time he has that attitude.”

The mentality is clearly a major factor in Kuznetsov finding that extra gear and one thing that certainly seems to be affecting that is penalties. In just eight games in the month of January, he has taken six minor penalties. Those penalties lead to prolonged stretches in which he does not see the ice.

Kuznetsov admitted it can be difficult to get back into the game after those stretches.

“That's always tough,” he said. “We have to work through that because sometimes we get penalty and we've got those situations when you have to play when you not play five, six minutes, it is tough for me.”

Kuznetsov is averaging 18:12 of ice time in January, his lowest of any month this season (18:50 in October, 19:17 in November, 18:43 in December) as he struggles to find his game. But giving Kuznetsov less ice time may also be by design from Trotz, a challenge to his player who needs something to light that competitive fire that will see him take his game back to the next level.

“When he's got a chip on his shoulder or he's got something to prove either against an opposition player or a team or maybe I haven't been using him as much as he'd like and he's going to get my attention, he gets a little chip on his shoulder,” Trotz said. “He doesn't say anything, you can see it in his play. And when he does, he literally can take games over.

“If he can do it every night, I'd love that. I hope if he wants to prove me wrong every night, I hope he does.”

RELATED: LESS ICE TIME DOES NOT MEAN TROTZ IS MAD AT VRANA

Quick Links

Evgeny Kuznetsov suits up at goalie, takes on Dmitry Orlov after practice

Evgeny Kuznetsov suits up at goalie, takes on Dmitry Orlov after practice

When you’re in first place and you don’t play a game for another three days, you can afford to have some fun.

On Thursday after practice with Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer already off the ice, a third goalie emerged from the locker room to take shots from his teammates.

That goalie was Evgeny Kuznetsov.

RELATED: CAPS AND PENGUINS ARE HEADED IN DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS, YET THEY HAVE THE SAME ODDS TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP

If you’re picturing Kuznetsov just standing in the crease after practice messing around with his teammates, that’s not what happened. Kuznetsov was in full goalie pads. He had the mask, glove, stick, the leg pads, everything.

You csn see more in the video above.

“We've got some goalies on the team,” Kuznetsov said when asked where he got the equipment. “This is their old gear. Still pretty nice.”

Kuznetsov took shots from several teammates, but primarily from Dmitry Orlov and Grubauer.

Grubauer called it “time for payback on Kuzy always ripping shots high.”

“The goalies can shoot hard,” Kuznetsov said. “I wasn't expect at first the top cheese.”

How did all of this come about? Kuznetsov had been talking about the possibility for a while and, with time after practice and a day off tomorrow, he finally asked permission from Barry Trotz.

Trotz admitted his first reaction was, “Why?” But he finally acquiesced on one condition.

“I said, do not get hurt. Do not get hurt. But they were all chuckling. We let them have fun.”

“Sometimes you have to just relax,” Kuznetsov said. “Those 20 minutes give us lots of positive emotion for sure.”

MORE CAPITALS: BARRY TROTZ HAS A PLAN TO GET T.J. OSHIE GOING AGAIN

While it was all in good fun, there were some stakes on the line between Kuznetsov and Orlov.

“We have a challenge and we play not for fun,” Kuznetsov said. “He lose twice so he got to get better.”

Kuznetsov admitted Orlov was not going 100-percent at him which seems obvious. The guy who scored this goal should be able to beat Kuznetsov without a problem. For his part, Kuznetsov also threw some shade saying, “I picked not the toughest opponent.”

So what was the bet?

“Yeah, that's our business,” Kuznetsov said. “But it will taste better for sure.”