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Jakub Vrana is really trying to ignore the pressure

Jakub Vrana is really trying to ignore the pressure

There is perhaps no one on the Capitals roster with more on the line in training camp than Jakub Vrana.

Depending on how he performs, Vrana could climb into the team’s top-six or he could fail to make the roster at all and potentially be sent back down to Hershey in the AHL.

RELATED: WEDNESDAY'S PRESEASON GAME FEATURES A LOOK AT AN OVECHKIN-KUZNETSOV LINE

For a 21-year-old, it normally would not be an issue if he had to go back to the minors to further develop. As a first-round pick with questions about his focus in the AHL, as well as a clear hole in the top-six, there is a lot of pressure on Vrana's shoulders to prove he’s ready for the big leagues and he knows it.

“If you would think about [the pressure], you would probably kill yourself so I just try to don't think about it,” Vrana said to CSN after Wednesday’s morning skate. 

Vrana will make his preseason debut Wednesday in Montreal. In what could be a preview of the regular season lineup, Vrana will skate on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Barry Trotz stressed that it was important for the player not to read into anything in terms of who he plays with and where, but it is clear there will be a lot on the line for Vrana in Montreal.

“If he plays really well, it doesn't matter who he plays with, he'll make the hockey team,” Trotz said. “If he doesn't play well, then he won't have a chance to make the hockey team.”

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH WEDNESDAY'S PRESEASON GAME

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NHL Power Rankings: A heck of a race is developing in the Metropolitan Division

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USA TODAY Sports

NHL Power Rankings: A heck of a race is developing in the Metropolitan Division

Four points separate first place from second place in the Pacific Division. Four points separate first place from second place in the Central. Three points separate first place from second place in the Atlantic. In the Metropolitan Division, however, five points separate first place from…sixth place.

About a third of the way into the season, one division stands out with a traffic jam atop the standings. The Columbus Blue Jackets sit in first place with 39 points, the New York Rangers are in sixth with 34 and in between are the Washington Capitals (37), New Jersey Devils (36), New York Islanders (35) and Pittsburgh Penguins (35).

No other division in the NHL comes close to how crowded things are in the Metro.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S NHL POWER RANKINGS

Given the way Washington started the season, the fact that they have been able to climb all the way back into second place by early December is a testament to just how good they have been of late.

The good news for the Caps is that, because of how tight the division is they were able to climb the standings fairly quickly even after a tough start. The bad news is that now there is little margin for error.

Washington enjoyed sitting atop the division for a handful of minutes on Friday before Columbus retook the top spot. The Devils have been one of the biggest surprises of the season, but three losses in four games has dropped them from first place to third. The Rangers have won seven of their last 10 games and that has them sitting only in sixth.

Having so many teams battling for supremacy of the division should make for a compelling race all season long. The only thing is no team better get down for too long. Otherwise, there are five other teams ready to leave you in the dust.

The Capitals have won eight of their last ten games to climb to second place in the division. Where did they climb in this week’s Power Rankings? Find out here.

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Game 31: Capitals at Islanders Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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USA TODAY Sports

Game 31: Capitals at Islanders Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Islanders will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Islanders game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

You can also stream the game online with no cable TV subscription on fuboTV (try for free!).

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-ISLANDERS GAME?

The Capitals (18-11-1) take on the Islanders (16-10-3) Monday, December 11 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Brooklyn.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-ISLANDERS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Islanders game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Capitals GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington following the game for Caps Extra, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Islanders
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-ISLANDERS GAME?

The Capitals-Islanders game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

The game is also available to stream, along with all the pregame and postgame shows, on fuboTV (try for free).

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR CAPITALS-ISLANDERS?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Alex Chiasson
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Chandler Stephenson - Jay Beagle - Devante Smith-Pelly

Defensemen
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - John Carlson
Christian Djoos - Madison Bowey

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches: T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury), Taylor Chorney

CAPITALS-ISLANDERS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.