Brett Connolly is set to make his Capitals debut Tuesday in the team's game against the Colorado Avalanche. A free agent signing in the offseason, Connolly was a healthy scratch the first two games.
For a 24-year-old forward selected 6th overall in the 2010 draft, being a healthy scratch is not where you would expect him to be at this point in his career. Connolly's early NHL tenure has been rocky thus far and he came to Washington hoping he could reignite his career and finally begin living up to his potential.
Despite being scratched in the team's first two games, Connolly has remained patient.
"We have a lot of guys here that can play," he said. "For me, I'm excited to get back. It's been a little while now. I'm excited, I'm going to play with two good players tonight."
Connolly skated in place of Zach Sanford on the third line at Tuesday's morning skate alongside Lars Eller and Justin Williams.
Sanford played the first two games in that spot after an impressive preseason in which he scored twice. Connolly, by contrast, struggled at times in the preseason and failed to score at all.
Despite the lack of production, head coach Barry Trotz was impressed with Connolly's play and his work ethic in practice. That made it important to him to get Connolly into the lineup sooner rather than later.
"[Connolly] had a real good camp," Trotz said. "It's that he just didn't find enough maybe a little production in the games, but I thought his work ethic and his diligence on the game was pretty good."
"You come into a new system and you want to get systems down pat," Connolly said. "I thought I played pretty well. I think for me, obviously you want to find the back of the net in preseason but at the end of the day it's the regular season now and I'm excited to get back out there."
Connolly will have his hands full, as will the rest of the team, facing the young stars on the Avalanche. Colorado enters this game 2-0 with impressive wins over the Dallas Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins.
"We're going to need all-in effort from all our lines," Trotz said.
With a loaded roster and high expectations, there will be no easing into the lineup. Connolly knows he needs to show he can contribute immediately for the Caps or he will end up back in the press box.
But he knew what he was signing up for when he came to Washington.
Said Connolly, "I'm excited to get back out there tonight and hopefully be a part of something special here."
MORE CAPITALS: MIKE GREEN SCORES FIRST CAREER HAT TRICK