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The Stephenson trade means Boyd now has a job, but not yet a home

The Stephenson trade means Boyd now has a job, but not yet a home

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Capitals have seen their fair share of roster shuffling this season with injuries and suspensions all throughout the season. In fact, Monday’s game was the first game of the season in which the team had its full lineup available. Nobody has been more affected by that shuffling that Travis Boyd, who has found himself caught between Washington and Hershey.

Now, it certainly appears as if he has finally earned himself a full-time NHL role, it just took trading away a friend to get it.

“It's not been an easy start to the year for him going through time in Hershey,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “To me, he's shown me a lot of mental toughness and that's what I think I've seen him grow with. He takes each day for what it's worth and try to make the most out of it that he can.”

The 2018-19 season was Boyd’s first full NHL season. He only played in 53 games, however, as he struggled to perform consistently and stay in the lineup. A player who had excelled at virtually every level in his hockey career began worrying so much about being taken out of the lineup, it took away from his game.

“Last year you get so caught up in what do I have to do to stay in the lineup?” Boyd said. “And you try and go out there and play a game where you don't screw up but all of a sudden when you start doing that, you end up not really even playing your game. And you're thinking the whole game and you're going out there, you're so worried about turning that puck over that you're not going to try to even make that play.”

As the team signed multiple players in the offseason to fill roles that Boyd could have filled, it became clear that his performance last season was not good enough. With Washington’s cap situation, the writing was on the wall as the season approached.

When Evgeny Kuznetsov (and his cap hit) returned from an early suspension, Boyd was reassigned to the Hershey Bears.

“A lot of guys would be like, I'm getting the short end of the stick here, this isn't fair,” Reirden said. “And sometimes it's not, but you have a choice to make whether you want to respond with the right way or the wrong way and he's made the choice to respond the proper way.”

Going back to the AHL after a season in the NHL can be tough for a player. Not everyone responds positively. Boyd, however, did. In four games with Hershey, Boyd scored four goals and two assists. With injuries continuing to crop up throughout the season, Boyd was a frequent call-up. Through the first two months of the season, Boyd cycled between Washington and Hershey, which has brought its own challenges on and off the ice.

“It's been pretty tough mentally just having that uncertainty as in not knowing 100-percent where you're going to be,” Boyd said. “Just kind of, I guess, doesn't let you get comfortable in one place.”

“Especially the family part of it too, having an apartment in Hershey and being in a hotel here,” he added. “Our daughter's been in school in Hershey. I feel bad for [girlfriend Kelsey DeGonda] and my daughter Hayden because they've got no say over it at all. It's tough trying to get her going in school and trying to get somewhere we can call home.”

Despite what was a tumultuous few weeks, Boyd seemed to find the one thing he had been looking for all of last season: Consistency.

“When I finally got a chance to play up here I basically said OK, well what's the worst they could do? Send me back down?” he said. “So I'm going to go out here and I'm going to try every single chance I get to go out there and show why I belong here and that's going out there and making plays when it's there and ultimately going out there and playing a free game and playing confidently.”

“When he's been in or out of the lineup or he's been in Hershey, he's made the choice to improve and grow his game so that when he does get the chance he's able to have success, and I think his performance has followed along with it,” Reirden said.

Boyd played so well the past few weeks that suddenly a Caps team that could not afford to keep Boyd on the roster at the start of the season, could not afford to take him off. But with the team getting healthy again at the start of December, cap space again began to be an issue. If Boyd was going to stay, someone else had to go.

On Dec. 2, the shoe dropped and Chandler Stephenson was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Upon hearing the news, Boyd had mixed feelings. The team had virtually traded away a player just to keep him, but it meant pushing a friend out.

“Especially Chandler who I've been with since my first year in Hershey too,” Boyd said. “Obviously you want to win that kind of battle and you want to be the guy who comes out on top and everything like that, but that's the business side and that's the side that you really don't have any control over.”

“It's sad to see Chandler go. I've been with him, this is my fifth year being on a team with him. He's a good buddy of mine and I wish him nothing but the best in Vegas.”

The other reality of this move is that while it certainly appears that he now has a full-time job in Washington, he now must compete for playing time.

Right now, Boyd appears to be the 13th forward and will likely be a healthy scratch until Reirden decides to shake up the lines or if there is an injury. He has to continue to be productive with the limited opportunities he is given or he could soon find himself again on the outside looking in yet again to young prospects such as Beck Malenstyn.

But the journey Boyd has been on this season will motivate him to keep pushing, not just for him, but for his family.

Boyd is still searching for a home and he is determined to make sure that home is in Washington, not Hershey.

”It's been tough,” he said. “It's been a mental grind for sure. Hopefully moving forward here we can get some confirmation and get some comfort level, hopefully get a place and start to make it our home for the rest of the year.”

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Oshie makes a triumphant return to St. Louis for his first All-Star Game

Oshie makes a triumphant return to St. Louis for his first All-Star Game

ST. LOUIS -- Friday's All-Star Skills provided a brief glimpse of the type of reception T.J. Oshie can expect to receive from the St. Louis crowd when he takes to the ice in his first NHL All-Star Game.

"It's been pretty cool hearing them cheer when I got called up," Oshie said. "I heard a cheer so I looked up at the scoreboard and they were showing me skating in warmups. It's really cool and special to me to see the support that I still have here in St. Louis, a place that I really enjoyed playing."

Though it feels to many in Washington as if Oshie has always been a Capital, this is only his fifth season with the franchise. He spent his first seven seasons with the St. Louis Blues. It is the team that drafted him, developed him and where he broke into the NHL. St. Louis is the city in which his first daughter was born and now, the city in which he triumphantly returns, still a fan favorite, for his first NHL All-Star Game (NBC, 8 p.m.).

"Obviously in D.C. is kind of where my career really started to take off and I've had more success there as a team as well," Oshie said, "But to come back here where I really started growing my family and had a lot of special memories and place I was drafted to, it's a pretty cool story to be able to tell my kids when we're older and grandkids after that."

While there is no question that D.C. is now home for Oshie, he never lost that bond that he had with the team and his teammates. When the Blues won the Cup, Oshie was on the phone with several of his former teammates the very next day as they continued celebrating.

And while Oshie never lost the bond he had with the team, neither did the team lose that bond with him.

"He goes all that time, comes back here for his first [All-Star Game] after he did so much for us and played so many games," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said, who was a former teammate of Oshie's in St. Louis. "It's weird how things work out."

It certainly is. Just ask David Perron.

Perron was also a teammate of Oshie's with the Blues and both player's careers are connected in more ways than one.

Perron was selected 26th overall by St. Louis in 2007, Oshie was selected 24th overall by St. Louis in 2005. Perron played his first NHL season for the Blues in 2007-08, Oshie in 2008-09. Perron was traded in the summer of 2013, Oshie in the summer of 2015. Perron won his first Cup in 2019 with the Blues, Oshie in 2018...against Perron who was then a member of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Now, the two are united again, each making their first All-Star appearance and it just so happens to come in St. Louis of all places.

"I said how special is it that we're here together right now?" Perron said. "I think for him after 12 years of his career, for me 13 years, it's both our first time and both being voted in by the fans, fans of St. Louis obviously helped him out quite a bit because he was a fan favorite when he was here and they helped me out a lot as well. It's truly special, a heck of a player. He's always played the right way, won a Cup two years ago against us in Vegas, that was hard, but I was happy for him to win one. And he's put in the work, he's put in the time, I'm happy for him."

Most players spend the bye week and the All-Star break by stepping away from hockey and going on vacations or spending time with family. With a pregnant wife and two daughters, Oshie probably had other plans for this week that did not involve going to snowy Missouri.

If the All-Star Game were anywhere else, this week may have been more than an inconvenience for Oshie than anything else. But not St. Louis.

Said Oshie, "I don't think there's another place that would be more fitting for me to go to my first All-Star Game."

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Gary Bettman almost excuses Ovechkin's absence from All-Star weekend...almost

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Gary Bettman almost excuses Ovechkin's absence from All-Star weekend...almost

ST. LOUIS -- Alex Ovechkin was voted a captain for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, but, for the second consecutive season, decided ultimately to not participate in the event in order to rest and prepare for the remainder of the season. By doing so, Ovechkin is subject to a one-game suspension because the league frowns on players choosing to skip the event. Plus, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman misses him.

Bettman spoke glowingly of the Capitals captain on Friday during a media availability prior to the NHL Skills saying Ovechkin's pursuit of Wayne Gretzky's goal record was "incredible."

"It's exciting," he said. "It's a testament both to Wayne's record that it seems to have been unapproachable until now and it's a testament to Alex Ovechkin and his amazing career so far and one that we hope continues for a number of years. Obviously his longevity, and he seems to be in great shape, will be a factor as to whether or not he can ultimately achieve that record."

As mentioned above, Ovechkin was not among the players in St. Louis so as a quick aside, Bettman finished his thoughts by jokingly saying, "We miss him and wish he was here, but we understand."

Obviously that would have been a significant statement, even if it was meant as a lighthearted joke, considering that Ovechkin must serve a one-game suspension and will miss the team's game on Jan. 27 in Montreal because the league does not condone his decision to skip the festivities in St. Louis.

Bettman, however, quickly corrected himself.

"No we don't," he said. "I miss him."

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