It's no secret that Capitals winger Jakub Vrana has struggled as of late. The 25-year-old has not scored a goal in his past 11 games and has seen his ice time diminish tremendously over that period.
Ahead of Friday night's game, Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette announced that Vrana would be a healthy scratch, as Richard Panik will take his place in the lineup.
On NBC Sports Washington's Capitals Pregame Live, both former players Alan May and Craig Laughlin said they believe Laviolette's scratch of Vrana could end up helping the winger in the long run.
"Laviolette said he's had conversation after conversation with Jake. His last 11 games he hasn't scored a goal. He struggles with confidence sometimes. He makes some careless passes," Laughlin said.
"At the end of the day, at least he knows, as a matter of fact, why he's out of the lineup. That to me is a huge difference that can actually make Jake better."
Transparency for Vrana is key here, as the winger has spoken directly with his head coach and knows exactly where he must improve in order to earn ice time again.
Laviolette said as much earlier on Friday, putting it bluntly by saying "We’re looking for a higher level of play.”
"Jake is a kid that in the American Hockey League, he struggled with some criticism when he got there," May said. "They had some attitude problems when he was there. But he was just a young boy, he was a kid.
"Now, he gets up here, what has happened the last couple of years? No one really heard about things if they weren't going right if you were a top-line player," May continued. "But I know the one thing with Jake is they want him to play better."
This recent slump isn't the first time Vrana has been a healthy scratch, as he went through a similar stretch during the beginning portion of the 2017-18 season. By season's end, Vrana was playing an important role for the eventual Stanley Cup champions.
By scratching Vrana, Laviolette is hoping the move "will reignite a fire inside of his game." May thinks that's certainly a possibility, too.
"We look at his goals, his stats are terrific when you look at them: 10 goals, 13 assists, 23 points. And, he's a plus player," May said.
"But what they want, what they're probably telling him is 'we want you to work harder when you don't have the puck.' So I look at Jake, this will be a good turning point for him to evaluate himself and know there are better things [ahead]."