Adjusting to a new team is always difficult, but when much of that team is missing, including the head coach, that can make it even more challenging. That's the position Lars Eller finds himself in to start camp with the Washington Capitals.
So far, however, Eller seems unfazed by it all.
“It’s very different, in a good way," Eller said. "It’s new inspiration for me. New faces, new everything. I think this change comes at a good time for me and I’m really excited to get started. I feel really energized.”
Despite the challenges Eller faces in camp of adjusting to his new teammates, change is just what the doctor ordered for the Danish forward.
Eller went to Montreal as part of a trade that saw playoff hero Jaroslav Halak shipped to St. Louis. That put him into a position in which he had to win over an often unforgiving Montreal fan base. Doing so proved difficult especially as head coach Michel Therrien moved Eller all throughout his lineup. Eller cycled from line to line and from center to winger and was never able to cement his role on the team.
In Washington, Eller will not face the same scrutiny he faced in Montreal. Most importantly, the Caps offer him something he never had in Montreal: A defined role.
"I think my role is going to be be a strong third line center and being able to play both ends of the ice but bring some offense to the third line," Eller said. "I think the best teams in the league, to compete for a Cup, you need good depth down the middle, you good need good depth down the lineup. You need to have three, maybe four lines scoring.”
Depth became a weakness for the Caps in their playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins as Washington was unable to find offensive production after their top lines were shut down. The Penguins meanwhile were able to find points from all four lines, especially the third. To bolster their depth, general manager Brian MacLellan traded for Eller to bolster the team's third line.
While Eller is set, the pieces around him are not. In what may be a preview of what the third line will ultimately look like, Eller skated with Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams on Friday as training camp began.
“They’re both highly skilled, really good players," Eller said of his linemates. "They can both pass and they can both finish, certainly. Jojo’s an extremely good skater and Justin Williams is, in my opinion, one of the smartest players in the league. ... I would love to play with those guys.”
But before the line can be set, Eller will have to wait until the rest of the players return from the World Cup. He still has to meet a few before the coaches can determine who he will play with.
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