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Devante Smith-Pelly was surprised by buy out but confident as training camp approaches

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Devante Smith-Pelly was surprised by buy out but confident as training camp approaches

ARLINGTON, Va. — Devante Smith-Pelly took to the ice Saturday for his first informal skate as a member of the Washington Capital after an unexpected change of scenery over the summer.

This is not where Smith-Pelly expected to be.

The New Jersey Devils elected to buy out the second and final year of the 25-year-old’s contract making him an unexpected free agent. It was a move that caught Smith-Pelly completely by surprise.

“I got the call the day the buyout happened,” he said to CSN after Saturday’s skate. “I had no idea.”

RELATED: CAPS ADD ALEX CHIASSON TO CAMP ROSTER WITH A PTO

It was yet another change in a tumultuous career that started with immense promise. In the 2014 postseason, Smith-Pelly roared onto the NHL stage with five goals in 12 playoff games for the Anaheim Ducks. He has been trying to live up to that postseason ever since. He was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in February 2015 and traded to New Jersey just one year later in February 2016. He seemed to find a spark with the Devils scoring eight goals in 18 games which earned him a two-year deal to stay in New Jersey, but the Devils bought Smith-Pelly out of that contract after scoring just nine points in 53 games last season.

But Smith-Pelly feels as if he may have landed on his feet by signing with the Caps.

“Washington was one of the first teams that we talked to and we thought it would be a good fit,” he said.

New Jersey’s loss could be Washington’s gain if Smith-Pelly is able to raise his play to the level he showed in 2014. How can he do that? He believes confidence is the key.

“I think I showed in New Jersey when I first got there, when I'm confident and feeling good about the way I'm playing I can produce and help out,” Smith-Pelly said. “I'm coming into this camp super confident. I worked hard this summer and I did a lot extra to make sure I'm ready. I'm looking forward to it.”

It’s a good thing he did that extra work because a roster spot is far from guaranteed.

Smith-Pelly is among several players competing for a spot on the Capitals’ fourth line. Nathan Walker, Riley Barber, Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd and Anthony Peluso are all expected to compete to earn a spot on the open wings alongside Jay Beagle. The team also added Alex Chiasson on a PTO on Saturday.

Smith-Pelly knows there is plenty of competition just to make the team, but as he is now on his fourth team in his short career, he is willing to do whatever it takes to play.

When asked what he needed to show the team in camp, he said “Whatever coach asks. I think I've always been willing to do that. ... I'll be looking forward to impressing them.”

MORE CAPITALS: DMITRY ORLOV ENTERS THE SEASON AS ONE OF THE CAPS TOP DEFENSEMEN

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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.

MORE CAPITALS: WHO WERE THE 3 STARS OF THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA?

"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.