After two games as a healthy scratch, Jakub Vrana will be back in the lineup on Tuesday against the New York Islanders (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).
Scratching a player who recorded over 50 points last season was a notable move by head coach Peter Laviolette. Vrana said Tuesday that the message was received and he realized there were aspects of his game that needed to improve.
“Me and Peter, we had some conversations through the year," Vrana said. "There is some things during the game that I need to work on. There is definitely I agree, talking about, like playing hard on the puck, stuff like that, making mistakes. But at the same time, whatever is going on, we keep it in the locker room.”
While Vrana is a major offensive threat, his defensive play has never been a strong suit. Considering how much the team relies on a five-man defensive system, that is an area of Vrana's game that must improve.
But one thing that is never in question is Vrana's work ethic. He is frequently one of the last players on the ice after practice as he continues to work on and improve aspects of his game. According to him, this is how he plans to address getting scratched.
“The only thing I can control is go out there and work my ass off," Vrana said. "Work hard, try to do what I do best and that’s my focus right now."
Vrana comes back into the lineup at a critical time as the Caps play the Islanders in a battle for first place in the East. Washington holds a two-point lead over New York for the division lead. Tuesday's game is also a chance to avenge an 8-4 loss the Caps suffered at the hands of the Islanders last week. With three more games against New York after Tuesday's game, the Caps need to have a better showing against a team they will likely be battling against for the divisional title for the remainder of the season.
A player as good as Vrana has to come in and make a positive impact on his team.
“Yeah I got a chance to play tonight," Vrana said. "I am focused on tonight’s game and I am going to go out there and do my best to help the team to win the game."