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Evgeny Kuznetsov eager to shoulder more responsibility after signing eight year extension

Evgeny Kuznetsov eager to shoulder more responsibility after signing eight year extension

Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov says he welcomes the pressure that comes along with the eight-year, $62.4 million contract extension that he signed this summer.

The deal carries a cap hit of $7.8 million, which is the second highest on the Caps behind captain Alex Ovechkin. It also ranks as the 11th highest cap hit among all NHL centers.

“I feel more responsibility on me right now,” Kuznetsov said, “and that’s what I need.”

Kuznetsov possesses all of the skills and instincts a team could want in a top-six pivot. The challenge for him, though, has been producing at a clip commensurate with his immense ability for an entire 82-game regular season and the playoffs. For example, last season the 25-year-old started slowly, was named the NHL’s player of the month during a torrid January, cooled off a bit down the stretch, then was the team’s third most productive player in the postseason, racking up five goals and five assists in 13 games.


In order to take the next step, he can’t afford sluggish starts and late season lulls.        

“I want the people to ask more from me,” he said. “And at the same time, they give me more opportunity to show more.”

Kuznetsov returned to Washington on Monday along with fellow Russians Ovechkin and Dmitry Orlov. The trio has been on the ice for the team’s informal skates the past two days as they ramp up for the start of training camp in mid-September.

“Two years ago, I practiced all summer here,” Kuznetsov said, asked why he chose to arrive earlier than many of his teammates. “Then last year we have to be back home for World Cup.”

“This year,” he said with a smile, “I kinda stayed a little bit more [at] home. My wife wants this, so it’s kind of an easy decision.”

It’s been a summer of highs (signing the mega extension) and lows (watching a handful of key veterans depart) for Kuznetsov. On Wednesday, he skated alongside former teammate Marcus Johansson, who was dealt to New Jersey in July to accommodate the $139 million in extensions the Caps handed out to himself, T.J. Oshie and Orlov.

“It’s always tough when some friends and your teammates leave to other team,” Kuznetsov said. “But that’s the way of hockey, part of the business. The good thing [is] we all keep being friends, you know? We all understand that’s part of the business.”

On the flip side, Kuznetsov said he’s looking forward to a more competitive environment in camp as new players and prospects jockey for jobs. With the departure of forwards Justin Williams, Johansson and Daniel Winnik as well as defensemen Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk, there could be as many as five spots up for grabs.

“I feel good for the young guys,” Kuznetsov said. “They know right now they have a couple of spots to fill. That’s always good challenge in training camp—when your young guys know they have a chance to play in the NHL, they are going to work hard.”

Kuznetsov, on the other hand, has arguably more security than any other Capital these days, allowing him to focus solely on being the best player he can be.

“Whenever summer is coming and you’re without deal, you have to think about some other things—it’s always tough,” he said. Now “I feel comfortable here. I love the city. I knew before I signed that I want to stay here.”

MORE CAPITALS: A slimmer looking Ovechkin returned to practice Tuesday

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

USA Today Sports

Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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