Andre Burakovsky was considered a key piece of the Capitals offense this year, but a thumb injury in late October forced him out of the lineup until Dec. 8.
But just because he is healthy does not mean he is back to game speed yet and that is evident in his stats. In four games since he has returned, Burakovsky has only one point to show for it, an assist against the Colorado Avalanche.
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“Stops and starting and turning feels, I think when I'm skating, I feel like it's a little bit odd,” Burakovsky said after practice on Friday. “But I think stickhandling and passing and shooting is coming back. I had a couple good looks [Thursday against the Boston Bruins], it's just some bad luck. Just sometimes when I skate I can feel like it's still a little bit different.”
When a player misses six weeks like Burakovsky did, he has two hurdles to clear before he is truly “100-percent.” First, he must get healthy. Second, and one aspect that many forget is the process of getting back into game speed.
Burakovsky has done the first part, but he is still working on the second.
“Just like any player coming back, they're not going to be 100-percent all the time in the whole thought process, the whole game process,” Barry Trotz said. “He's missed six weeks. He's in great shape, he's worked hard, he's done all that but it's just getting the timing. You've been skating and working with guys and haven't had six weeks of people tracking you down, leaning on you, putting pressure on your stick and the puck and all that. Those plays are a little harder to make because you haven't had that for six weeks.”
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For a player like Burakovsky who wants to produce points, that process can get frustrating. He’s back in the lineup and getting minutes, but not points as he continues to get back up to speed.
“Obviously, I'm trying not to get frustrated, but I'm just a player that's really hard on myself,” he said. “When things aren't going 100-percent the right way, I'm getting hard on myself. I'm trying not to think too much about it, just trying to do all the right things.”
It’s all just part of the process for a player who needs to realize that being healthy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re 100-percent.