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In Devante Smith-Pelly, Caps see a player with 'untapped potential'

In Devante Smith-Pelly, Caps see a player with 'untapped potential'

Devante Smith-Pelly went from potential star in 2014 to a buyout in 2017. Now the Caps are hoping they can tap back into that potential he showed with the Anaheim Ducks.

“I think there's some untapped potential,” general manager Brian MacLellan said to reporters in a conference call Monday. “I think maybe conditioning played a factor in some of it. I think we're going to work with him to see if we can get a little bit of that back and create a player that we can use.”

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Smith-Pelly looked like a player on the rise in 2014. After playing only 19 NHL games in the regular season that year, Smith-Pelly was phenomenal in the playoffs scoring five goals in 12 games for the Ducks. The following season he scored 17 points for Anaheim, but went on a two-month goalless drought and was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in February. One year later he was traded to the New Jersey Devils.
 
The trade sparked a productive streak as Smith-Pelly scored 13 points in 18 games with the Devils who re-signed him to a two-year deal. After just one year in which he totaled nine points in 53 games, New Jersey elected to buy him out of that contract making him an unrestricted free agent.
 
“I think for us, we're looking for ways on the bottom end of our lineup to add cheaper players or develop cheaper players because of the [Evgeny Kuznetsov] signing and the [T.J. Oshie] signing,” MacLellan said. “So we're going to have to be more creative on the fourth line.”
 
Because of their salary cap constraints, the Caps are in need of cheap players to fill out the lineup. Smith-Pelly represents a low risk, high reward type of player the team will be able to plug into the fourth line next season. They tried a similar move last season with the signing of Brett Connolly who recorded 23 points in limited ice time with a cap hit of only $850,000.
 
If the team can help Smith-Pelly return to that form he found in the playoffs in 2014, he will prove to be a steal.

“He has some things he wants to work at or we want him to work at,” MacLellan said. “We see him as a project that we might be able to turn him into a player that we can use on the NHL roster.”

MORE CAPITALS: With new deal, Philipp Grubauer remains a Capital — for now

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Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

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Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

Nicklas Backstrom has made a career out of setting up other players, but what many forget is that he is a pretty darn good scorer in his own right. Just not these days.

Backstrom had three goals in the first six games of the season, but since then he has been held scoreless. His last goal game on Oct. 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA!

Offense, in general, has been hard to come by for the veteran center who also underwent a career-long seven-game pointless streak.

While Backstrom has managed to get back on the score sheet with three assists in his last five games, he still can’t seem to get a goal.

“Obviously you want to score,” Backstrom said. “That's a no brainer, but at the same time you've just got to stick with it. I mean, at least I created chances tonight.”

While the goals may not be there, however, the chances are. For Barry Trotz, that’s an encouraging sign.

“Backy was on the bench, I gave him a little tap I said you know the hockey gods will even that out,” Trotz said. “You probably could have had three tonight and he'll probably get one of those leaky lizards go through the legs or through the arms and one from a bad angle. They'll even it out for him.”

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN GETS STITCHES AFTER GETTING HIT BY PUCK, BUT REMAINS INDESTRUCTIBLE

With Backstrom taking on a more defensive shutdown role this season, his offensive numbers have taken a hit. The Capitals, however, do not have the same scoring depth as in recent years and need Backstrom, still arguably their best center, to produce offensively in order to be successful. He is just too good of a player to not produce.

But given his recent play, Trotz is not all that concerned and believes the goals are coming. Backstrom seems to agree.

“The sun goes up the next day anyway even if I don't score,” he said, “So you've just got to stick with it, work hard and hopefully you'll get rewarded.”

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Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

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Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

It's always scary when you see a player get hit in the head with a puck. It's even scarier when you're a fan of the Caps and that player is Alex Ovechkin.

But there's is one thing you should always remember before you worry about the Great 8: He is not built like a normal human being.

Ovechkin was struck in the face by a puck in the second period of Saturday's game against the Minnesota Wild. It was a scary moment made scarier by the pool of blood he left behind on the ice as he made his way to the locker room.

RELATED: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS BEAT THE WILD

"Anybody who takes a puck to the face, you hope that they're not hurt badly," Barry Trotz said after the game. "Anytime you get hit to the face there's usually pretty good leakage. I saw, I knew he got hit in the face and in the mouth area and there was pretty good leakage around our bench and he went off and we were just hoping that it's not too serious."

Remarkably, it wasn't serious. Ovechkin missed the remainder of the second period, but returned for the third. After the game, there were a few stitches in his lip, but otherwise there appeared to be no serious damage.

Ovechkin said that after he had been hit he "Just tried to feel my tooth and it was fine. Just moving a little bit, but it's fine. It's hockey."

The fact that no serious damage was done turned what was a scary moment into one both players and coach could laugh at afterward.

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"He's a big strong man and he's got a few zippers so he's a lot better looking now that they fixed him up and all that," Trotz said. "It's when you get stitched up, that's the great thing about medicine, they can make you look great."

"It can be much worser," Ovechkin said when asked if he was scared in the moment. "I could lose my teeth."

Nicklas Backstrom had the same thought many of you are probably asking yourself right now: "Does he have any more teeth?"

It was just another reminder that Ovechkin is truly a machine. You know what they say, "Russian Machine...never gets broken."

I think that's how the saying goes.