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Zach Sanford wraps up strong preseason audition for the Capitals

Zach Sanford wraps up strong preseason audition for the Capitals

With the preseason now finished, the waiting begins for Zach Sanford who hopes he has shown enough to warrant a spot on the Capitals roster to start the season.

Based on what head coach Barry Trotz had to say following the Capitals' preseason finale on Sunday, Sanford won't have to wait very long.

Sanford has been a standout in training camp for the Caps and has almost certainly played his way onto the team after a stellar preseason in which he scored two goals and one assist.

Sanford said after Sunday's win over the New York Islanders that he was proud of what he has shown the team this preseason and he certainly should be.

RELATED: Caps dominate Islanders in preseason finale

A second-round pick in 2013, Sanford has spent the last two season playing college hockey for Boston College and signed an entry-level deal with the Caps over the summer.

The transition straight from college to the NHL is not an easy one to make. Even those who do make the NHL roster out of campoften get sent down to the AHL soon after as coaches hope to get them regular playing rather than keep them in the NHL lineup on a semi-regular basis.

Sanford has played so well to this point, however, that it may not be an issue.

"Based on his play, I don't know if he will be semi-regular," Trotz said. "I think he's regular the way he's played. That's good on him."

Sanford has shown a willingness to screen and fight for pucks in the crease. That is a style of play that physically, Sanford is well suited for given his 6-foot-4, 203-pound frame.

"Being the bigger guy you kind of have to do that stuff," Sanford said, "But you know I've learned to like it and I guess that's where most of the goals are scored so it's a good spot to have to go."

But it's not just Sanford's play in the offensive end of the ice that has caught Trotz's eye. The head coached talked at length about how much he feels he can trust Sanford in different situation, including when the team holds the lead.

"That's a big compliment to him," Trotz said. "Yeah, he can be trusted. Right now, I don't have any issues with that. When you have trust, it doesn't matter if the guy's 22 or 32. You have trust in players and they earn your trust."

What also helps is that Sanford may have already cemented a place in the lineup playing along side Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson.

The Sanford-Eller-Johansson line was one of the team's best on Sunday generating a goal for Eller and multiple scoring opportunities. More importantly, it has shown the versatility Trotz has been hoping to get out of that line after the team's offensive depth was exposed by Pittsburgh in the playoffs last season.

"You've got a little bit of size on that line," Trotz said, "You've got a little bit of weight, you've got some experience, you've got some speed, you've got some creativity and they're responsible defensively. That being said, that sounds like a pretty good line."

With 24 players currently on the roster, Trotz said the team will make their final cuts sometime in the next 24 hours. So now it's just a matter of time for Sanford as he waits to see if he will make the team.

But really, it sounds as if the decision has already been made.

"He's a hockey player," Trotz said. "That's the best way to describe him. He's a hockey player and I think the guys recognize that."

MORE CAPITALS: Will Orlov-Carlson start the season as a defensive pair?

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.


Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.