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


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.”


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.”


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3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

The Caps battled through the rust on Thursday to earn a point in New Jersey. On Friday, rust cost them yet again as they fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Here's why they lost.

4 shots on goal in the first period

Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi has had his struggles this season. Yes, he has played better since getting claimed off waivers by Montreal, but getting to play against Niemi instead of Carey Price wass a golden opportunity for the Caps to generate some offense. Washington, however, had very little offense to speak at the end of the night. How did they respond with Niemi in net? By getting only four shots in the first period. Four. They finished with 26 shots on goal for the game, but had they come out swinging in the first and put pressure up early on Niemi, they could have gotten a much different result.


Bad passing

After the game, Lars Eller said "It was one of the sloppiest games we've played if not the sloppiest. I don't think we've given up so any odd-man rushes or chances in one game." In no aspect were the Caps more sloppy than with their passing. Here are just a few examples.

A cross-ice backhand pass in the defensive zone? Really? You are not going to be successful trying to make those type of plays and it cost the Caps. They could not maintain possession of the puck or breakout of their zone and it led to several odd-man rushes for Montreal.


It's not an excuse. The Caps should have played better on Friday regardless, but there's no arguing the fact that rust was a factor. It was abundantly clear that the Caps were out of sync. That will happen when you are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back with no practice time.

Saturday's practice will be absolutely critical since Washington faces a matinee game on Sunday, their third contest in four days.

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3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

The first time the Caps hosted the Montreal Canadiens this season, Alex Ovechkin tallied four goals as the Caps dominated in a 6-1 thrashing.

Friday's game featured considerably less offense as Montreal just managed to squeak by Washington 3-2.

Philipp Grubuaer got the start and did everything he could to keep Washington in it, but the Caps struggled to find much offense.

Alex Ovechkin did manage to register assist No. 499 as he set up John Carlson on the power play and Lars Eller scored late, but it would not be enough for the Caps to come back.

Here are the three stars of the game.


1. Max Pacioretty: The Canadiens struggled to get anything past Grubauer in this one, but Pacioretty finally did in the second period on the power play. It was simple enough, he found the puck at his feet, turned and shot.

When goalies start to frustrate teams, we see a lot of players respond by looking for the perfect play and give up good opportunities for more difficult passes. Pacioretty was smart, he just shot. He also added an assist on Paul Byron's goal as the puck bounced off the board and off Pacioretty's skate right to Byron.

He ultimately put the exclamation point on the win with an empty-net goal as well to complete a three-point night.

2. Philipp Grubauer: Grubauer certainly didn't look like a backup goalie in this one. He was strong in net all night long, but his best save came in the first period. Pacioretty hit the side of the net to Grubauer's left on a pretty passing play, but the puck bounced out to the slot and Charles Hudon passed it over to Paul Byron on Grubauer's right. Grubauer dove with his arm outstretched and managed to corral the puck into his body to keep it out of the net.

He would finish the game with several more fantastic saves, 23 in all despite the loss.

3. Andre Burakovsky: It would be hard to draw up a better return to the lineup for Burakovsky.

He started on the fourth line, but he wasn't there for long. He had four shot attempts in a first period in which the Caps struggled to get anything going offensively at all. He also had a breakaway opportunity in the third period as he came out of the penalty box. He had Antti Niemi beat, but hit the post.

It was the second time Burakovsky struck iron in the game. Hedid just about everything right, but just couldn't light the lamp.