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Christian Djoos has added a few pounds, hopes to gain a bit more as Caps camp nears

Christian Djoos has added a few pounds, hopes to gain a bit more as Caps camp nears

Christian Djoos hit the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Friday morning, joining about a dozen veterans and prospects for the team’s informal practices.

Although training camp doesn’t begin until Sept. 15, players have been trickling back into town in recent weeks for a variety of reasons. Djoos’ reason for showing up early isn’t a hard one to figure out: The opportunity of lifetime is in front of him, and he wants to make sure he’s as prepared as possible.

“It’s a good chance for us,” he said, referring to all of the youngsters who'll be angling for an NHL job later this month. “We just got to make the best of it and take the chance. This year there's a bigger chance for us to play. We're happy about that.”

RELATED: WHO WOULD  MAKE THE CAPS ALL-TIME ROSTER?

When Djoos arrived a year ago, the Caps did not have an opening on the blue line. This year there’s a couple of ‘Help Wanted’ signs, if you count the spare, and Djoos has as good a chance as any prospect of earning a full-time job.

“I’m going to come ready to camp and see what happens,” the soft spoken Swede said after the 75-minute session, which included Braden Holtby, John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Jonas Siegenthaler, Connor Hobbs, Lucas Johansen, Vitek Vanecek and Devils’ forward Marcus Johansson.

No one questions Djoos’ skill or ability to produce points from the backend. In fact, he ranked third in the AHL in points by a defenseman last season, racking up 58 (13 goals, 45 assists) in just 66 games.

What no one knows about Djoos, however, is whether his body can stand up to the rigors of the NHL.

Djoos was listed by the Caps last season at 6-0, 164 pounds. He told reporters on Friday that he’s bulked up to 168 pounds and hopes to continue to add weight in the coming weeks. To put that into perspective, consider this: Even if he got up to 170, that would still leave him as the lightest defenseman on the roster…by a lot. Taylor Chorney was the lightest last year at 191.

“For sure, I need to get bigger,” he said. “We’re working on it every day here in the gym and back home over the summer. It feels good, getting bigger and stronger.”

The Capitals have him on a high calorie diet that requires him to eat much more than other players.

“You just got to eat everything almost,” he said. “Not the bad stuff but you gotta eat all the time. Just trying to do that every day.”

He then cracked: “I just got to keep eating, keep eating, work out, then maybe one day just explode and gain some pounds.”

Djoos said he’s learned to compensate for his slight build while playing in Hershey the past two years.   

“You kind of have to, especially over here with the smaller rink,” he said dodging big hits. “It’s faster. You got to move your head, look over your shoulder all the time. Of course, you get hit sometimes [but] that’s part of the game.”

Where exactly Djoos fits into the Caps’ plans is TBD. But considering the season he had last year, the team’s need to replace a puck-moving defenseman and the fact that he’d need to clear waivers in order to return to Hershey, there’s a good chance he’ll at least start the season in Washington.

“They want to see me keep playing the game as I did in Hershey,” Djoos said, asked what the coaching staff has told him. “Move the puck good. Good first pass. And still do what we’re going to do in the defensive zone, too. Just got to do the same things and step up a little bit, be a little bit better.”

MORE CAPS: HOW IMPORTANT IS TOM WILSON TO THE CAPITALS?

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Was Evgeny Kuznetsov even trying to shoot on his game-tying goal?

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Was Evgeny Kuznetsov even trying to shoot on his game-tying goal?

What is the one knock on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s game?

You know what it is. Everybody say it with me now: He needs to shoot the puck more.

It’s no secret what fans want the talented Russian forward to do.

They yell it from the stands of Capital One Arena or when they watching the TV braodcast at home.

Heck, Barry Trotz has talked about it to the media before.

That’s what made Saturday’s win over the Anaheim Ducks so refreshing.

With Washington down 2-1 in the third, Jakub Vrana found Kuznetsov in the slot and he buried it into the net behind Ducks goalie John Gibson. He even had Tom Wilson on the back door to pass to, but he chose instead to shoot the puck. That shows that he…wait, what’s that?

“I think Kuzy was, on his goal, I think he was trying to make one more pass,” Trotz said after the game.

No way. This is just the head coach being tongue-in-cheek, right?

Watch the replay and see for yourself:

RELATED: 5 REASONS THE CAPS BEAT THE DUCKS

Oh. Yeah, that was definitely a pass.

Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano reaches in to try and get his stick in the way of the shot and the puck deflects off his stick and into the net. If you watch, however, the puck was never intended to go on net. Instead, Kuznetsov was trying to get it to Wilson on the back door.

CAPS EXTRA PODCAST: GAME 34 VS. DUCKS

At this moment, Kuznetsov still has the puck on his stick, but the blade of the stick is not facing the goal. It is facing Wilson.

The fact that he has not yet released the puck at this point means he’s not aiming for the goal.

While aiming at Wilson, Cogliano’s stick gets in the way and deflects it on net.

Could Kuznetsov have gotten that puck to Wilson? Defenseman Kevin Bieksa is in the passing lane, but if anyone could thread that needle, it’s Kuznetsov. The point , however, is that passing here is the wrong decision.

Kuznetsov has the opportunity to shoot from a high-danger area. Wilson would have had a layup if Kuznetsov had gotten him the puck, but trying to pass through Bieksa is a much more difficult play. If you already have the puck in a high-danger area with an opportunity to shoot, you need to take that opportunity.

The bad news is Kuznetsov was trying to pass up a scoring chance for a more difficult play to set up a teammate. The good news is that it didn't matter. Cogliano’s effort to try to defend the shot ended up putting the puck into the back of the net thus saving Kuznetsov from making the wrong decision.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but there’s still a lesson here for Kuznetsov on why shooting the puck is the better option.

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Ducks

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Ducks

This game was not going the Caps' way through two periods. Everything changed in the final frame, however, as the Capitals rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force overtime. Alex Ovechkin did the rest in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally for the win.

Braden Holtby  holding the goal line late in the second (about 4:10 left)

Washington trailed 2-0 in the second and the Ducks were looking for more late. A shot from Derek Grant on the left went wide and hit off the backboards right to Dennis Rasmussen who tried to stuff the puck on Holtby's right. Holtby dove to cover the goal line. Critically, his goal stick stuck out past the post and neither Rasmussen nor Logan Shaw could get the puck past the stick to get the puck to the front and stuff it in. Once the puck finally did squirt free into the crease, Hotlby gloved it. A 3-0 deficit may have been lights out for Washington.

RELATED: SEE TARIK'S 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-DUCKS

Nicklas Backstrom's early third period goal

Trying to overcome a two-goal deficit in one period is a daunting task. Every second that ticks by makes your comeback bid harder. The fact that Nicklas Backstrom was able to strike just over three minutes into the third period was absolutely critical. Backstrom was able to net a rebound off of an Alex Ovechkin shot just over three minutes into the third period. The Caps went from a two-goal deficit to trailing by one with 17 minutes remaining. Suddenly, that mountain they had to climb did not seem so high.

A lucky tip or a veteran call?

If you've been yelling for Evgeny Kuznetsov to shoot the puck more, you were probably pleased with his third period goal to tie the game at two. With Tom Wilson open on the backdoor, Kuznetsov chose to call his own number and fired a shot past Gibson. Or did he? Was Kuznetsov trying to pass that puck? Take a look at the replay.

Just at the last second, Andrew Cogliano hits either the puck or the stick of Kuznetsov. Whether he meant to pass and it was a lucky break or he was thinking shot the whole way, it worked out for the Caps.

WATCH: ALEX OVECHKIN'S OVERTIME WINNER OVER ANAHEIM

Braden Holtby's two early saves on Rickard Rakell in overtime

Rakell wanted the Ducks to win this game. Less than a minute into overtime, he had a lane to shoot on Holtby. Holtby made the initial save, but the rebound bounced to the faceoff circle. Both of the trailing players in red skated past. Holtby took a step forward to try to clear the puck from danger, but then saw Rakell had a step on him to collect his own rebound. He stopped, then kicked out the pad to make an incredible save to deny Rakell again about 10 feet out of the crease.

Alex Ovechkin's bullet

Sometimes when you play against a player like Ovechkin, there's nothing you can do. At the end of his shift, Ovechkin elected to carry the puck into the offensive zone rather than passing it off to change up. He was forced to the boards by Brandon Montour and decided just to tee-up the mini slap shot. When you're the greatest goal scorer of a generation, however, even a shot from the top of the faceoff circle near the boards is a dangerous shot.