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Backstrom's status creates uncertainty for Burakovsky


Backstrom's status creates uncertainty for Burakovsky

The injury to Nicklas Backstrom has perhaps had no greater impact on any one player on the Caps than it has on Andre Burakovsky. Backstrom's return will not just affect which line Burakovsky will play, but also which position.

With Backstrom expected to miss the first four to five game of the season, Burakovsky will begin the season at center on the second line. When Backstrom returns he will take back his place on the first line and Evgeny Kuznetsov will move back to the second.

But with Jay Beagle and Michael Latta expected to center the third and fourth lines respectively, what will happen to Burakovsky?

"I haven't really thought about that yet," Burakovsky said. "We take one game at a time."

Burakovsky entered his rookie season last year as a center as the team tried to develop both Kuznetsov and Burakovsky in the middle. The plan proved ambitious and Burakovsky was eventually moved back to wing. Now, Burakovsky is once again slated to start the season in the middle, but again, is expected to be moved back to wing.

RELATED: Capitals are improved, but will they win the Metro?

"I don't really know what's going to happen, but I'll probably move back to wing," Burakovsky said.

Brian MacLellan, who was adamant over the summer that he felt Burakovsky had the skills to be a great center, also conceded that moving Burakovsky was a likely outcome once Backstrom returns.

"I think we're going to keep the options open, but I would assume that's where he'd go," MacLellan told reporters on Tuesday.

Given Burakovsky's skill set and that the team clearly sees potential for him to be a center, the move may come as a surprise to some. The differences of the two positions and the responsibilities that come with each, however, requires a bit more development from the 20-year-old forward before he can really embrace a move to center full time.

When talking about the position, Burakovsky said "you have a lot more responsibility. You have to be a lot more patient in your own zone. You always got to help out the D in the middle and give them a support guy. It's a lot more responsibility."

The patience and responsibility that comes with the position is just not something Burakovksy's is ready for at this point.

"I think I like winger a little bit better because I'm a guy that likes speed," Burakovsky said. "I just want to take off with the puck and at center I just have to be a little bit more patient and slow it down a little."

You can't blame a 20-year-old for struggling to develop patience, but it's something he knows he needs to and can handle in the future.

When asked whether he sees himself as more of a wing or a center he said, "Right now, wing. Future, center."

But while there is every indication that Burakovsky will be moving back to wing, the point was stressed that no final decision had been made just yet.

"We didn't make any decisions about that yet, but had a little bit of a discussion with [head coach Barry] Trotz about it and we'll see," said Burakovsky.

"We'll probably deal with that at the time," Trotz said. "Let's just get Nick back."

MORE CAPITALS: Williams, Backstrom support crackdown on head shots

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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz


Why the suggested tweak to the goalie interference rule makes sense to Barry Trotz

Goalie interference has become one of the most controversial calls in hockey and that has led to the general managers calling for a tweak to the rules before the playoffs.

As the general managers wrapped up their meetings in Florida on Wednesday, they issued a recommendation to the league’s Board of Governors that the final decision for all coach’s challenges for goaltender interference come from the Situation Room in Toronto where a retired referee will be included in the process.

If approved, the change will be enacted for the start of the playoffs.

The issue with goalie interference is consistency. It is an inherently subjective call so on any given night, it is hard to know how the rule will be officiated. That is a problem considering these calls can take goals off the board. The hope is that by requiring that all calls be made by the Situation Room, it will bring more consistency.


The news was met by skepticism from Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer.

“I can't tell you right now at this point if that's going to change anything,” he said. “If they still communicate with the linesmen, I'm sure they do, but in the end it's a grey area and it's been a grey area for a bunch of years now.”

One issue with the change is that while the Situation Room will make the final call, it will not always have the same personnel for each game and the retired referee to be included will not always be the same individual. Saying the Situation Room will make the call sounds great, but if the calls are still being reviewed by different people every night, will that really lead to greater consistency?

Head coach Barry Trotz thinks so. He applauded the change Wednesday explaining that different factors can weigh on a referee when he is the one making the call.

“Some referees who are more established and more sure of themselves, they won't reverse their calls,” Trotz said. “They just almost say, that's the way I saw it and that's the way it is and live with it. Others get swayed by what they see or maybe the crowd or another coach or how the game is going. It's no different than the student marking their own papers. Let's have a non-emotional person who has no skin in the game and is not in an emotional environment to make those calls and I think you'll find it'll be more consistent.”


If the main issue of the goalie interference was the referees being made to judge their own calls, then yes, this new rule change will go a long way towards fixing the consistency problem.

But perhaps it is unreasonable to expect calls to ever be black and white on a play and a rule that never is.

“Every situation is different,” Grubauer said. “There's no situation that's the same. Did he get bumped in? Was it intentional? Was the goalie intentional making contact? All points they have to look at and it happens so fast. I hope it's going to get better and I hope they will get a foundation down for it.”