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The Caps have a quiet confidence after trading for Kevin Shattenkirk

The Caps have a quiet confidence after trading for Kevin Shattenkirk

NEW YORK—Kevin Shattenkirk did not arrive in time to participate in Tuesday’s morning skate following the Monday night trade, but his presence still was felt in the visitors’ dressing room at Madison Square Garden.

“It’s like there’s a quiet confidence now,” defenseman Karl Alzner explained.

“There have been years when we’ve been really good and we haven’t picked anybody and you’re kinda like, ‘Alright, we still have a good team but it would have been nice to have that little boost.’

“Now,” Alzner added, “it seems like we’ve gotten that. It’s been a quiet confidence this morning. Guys have a little bit more energy, are a little bit giddy in a way, which is kinda funny. It’s a cool thing to be a part of.”

Across the room, veterans Justin Williams and Alex Ovechkin acknowledged that management did its job. And now the pressure is squarely on the players to do theirs.  

“We believe we have an even better team than we had last year,” Williams said.

RELATED: DRIVE FOR THE CUP FUELED DECISION TO TRADE FOR SHATTENKIRK

“But it’s how we respond to it. You have to embrace the pressure on yourself. Because after [the trade], we still have to go out and play. It’s not just on paper, it’s how we come together, it’s how we play and how we respond to it.”

Ovechkin said: “Every year we talk about, ‘This is our year, this is our year.’ Enough Talk. It’s time to do something.”

Williams also praised Shattenkirk’s on-ice demeanor.

“I like that he’s got some attitude to him,” said Williams, who faced him often when both played in the Western Conference. “He’s not just an offensive guy that’s going to shy away when it gets tough. Yes, he’s good offensively. But he doesn’t back down, and that’s what I like.”

Although the overwhelming mood was one of excitement, there are a few players who know Shattenkirk’s arrival means less ice time. Or even no ice time.

Against the Rangers, Nate Schmidt is expected to play alongside Shattenkirk.

RELATED: GET TO KNOW NEWEST CAP KEVIN SHATTENKIRK

But Schmidt also knows that when Brooks Orpik is ready to return from injury, there are no guarantees. 

“For the team, this is a great move,” Schmidt said. “You can’t be more happy for what our guys got in return. You got a heckuva player. What more can you ask for in a trade that brings in a player of his magnitude? Personally, it’s tough. But this is good for the team. This is a good for us in the long run.”

Coach Barry Trotz, meanwhile, said the chance to add a player of Shattenkirk’s ability was simply too good to pass up given the sense of urgency the Caps feel this season.

“Obviously we gave up a real good player and some picks,” Trotz said, referring to prospect Zach Zanford. “But at the same time, we’re getting a real good player. You don’t want to have an opportunity go by, where you think that you could have made a difference. [General Manager Brian MacLellan] is doing everything he can to see if he can make a difference for us.”

RELATED: UPDATED NHL POWER RANKINGS

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This won't be the first time Capitals turn to Lars Eller at 2nd-line center in playoffs

This won't be the first time Capitals turn to Lars Eller at 2nd-line center in playoffs

When the Capitals take the ice for Game 2 against the New York Islanders on Friday, they will be without center Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom is in concussion protocol and is unclear when he will be able to return. No team can lose a player of Backstrom's caliber and not feel that loss, but Washington does at least have a contingency plan in the form of Lars Eller. The team has had to turn to Eller on the second line in the playoffs before and, though the results were far from perfect, things did end up working out for the Caps. That year was 2018 and the Caps would go on to win the Stanley Cup.

One of the priorities of general manager Brian MacLellan is center depth. He puts a great deal of emphasis on the position and making sure the team is well-stocked in case of injury. That depth was put to the test in 2018 when Backstrom suddenly was out of the lineup in the playoffs with an upper-body injury. That injury turned out to be two fractures in his right hand and it kept him out for four games, starting with Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

With Backstrom out, Eller was called upon to center the second line in his absence.

“I love when those challenges happen because I think I don’t change the way I think about the game or the way I prepare myself," Eller said. "It will basically mean I will be playing more minutes probably than I otherwise would. My mentality is the same, trying to go out there and play a strong two-way game and create offense in every shift."

RELATED: LOSING NICKLAS BACKSTROM WOULD BE 'HUGE TROUBLE' FOR THE CAPITALS

Offensively, the results were great. In those four games, Eller recorded two goals and three assists. There is not much more that could have been asked of him in that respect. Defensively, however, it was another story.

Eller is a good defensive player, but Backstrom is one of the team's best defensive forwards and has been one of the top two-way forwards in the league for much of his career. When you are on the second line you are typically going to get more difficult defensive assignments and Eller struggled at times against those assignments. In Game 6 against the Penguins, Washington allowed only one goal. It came off a faceoff that Eller lost in the defensive zone. In Game 3 of the Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Eller took three bad penalties, one for closing his hand on the puck, one for slashing and one for cross-checking. Tampa Bay would score on his first penalty and earn their first win of the series.

This is not to suggest that Eller was or is a defensive liability, it's just a reflection of the difference between him and Backstrom. Eller is a high-end third-line center. That is where he is at his best and he makes the Caps one of the deepest offensive teams in the NHL. He can plug into the top-six when needed, but he is a third-line center. The Caps are very fortunate to have a player like him who can step into the top lines, but the longer Backstrom is out for, the more noticeable his absence becomes and 2018 is evidence of that.

Now, fast-forward to 2020. Eller will once again be called upon to play on the second line due to an injury to Backstrom. He even is expected to play with the same linemates -- Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie -- as he did in 2018.  If it's just for a game or two, you may not even notice a difference. With every passing game, however, the absence of Backstrom will loom larger, not because of Eller, but because of how good and important a player Backstrom is.

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How to watch Capitals vs. Islanders Game 2

How to watch Capitals vs. Islanders Game 2

After getting out to an early lead in Game 1, a few critical mistakes led to the Capitals falling to the New York Islanders 4-2 to begin their Stanley Cup run.

Now, in Game 2, Washington will look to get back on track and even the series. A physical Game 1 means more fireworks are probably in store for Friday.

You're not going to want to miss this one. Here's how to watch. 

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS HOW TO WATCH 

What: No. 3 Washington Capitals vs. No. 6 New York Islanders
Where: Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada 
When: 8:00 PM ET 
TV Channel: Capitals vs. Islanders will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals vs. Islanders on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the MyTeams App.

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS TV SCHEDULE

7:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live (LIVE)

8:00 PM: Capitals vs. Islanders (LIVE)

10:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live (LIVE)

RELATED: GAME 2 PREVIEW

CAPITALS VS. ISLANDERS SCHEDULE (ISLANDERS LEAD 1-0)

Game 1: Wednesday, August 12, 4:04 p.m. (Islanders Win 4-2)

Game 2: Thursday, August 14, 8:00 p.m.

Game 3: Sunday, August 16, 12:00 p.m.

Game 4: Tuesday, August 18, 8:00 p.m.

Game 5: (If necessary) Thursday, August 20, TBD

Game 6: (If necessary) Saturday, August 22, TBD

Game 7: (If necessary) Sunday, August 23, TBD

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS WHAT TO WATCH 

Braden Holtby took the blame for the Game 1 loss, and Washington will need him to rebound on Friday. Goaltending may be the most crucial aspect of playoff hockey and Washington is hoping they can rely on Holtby for one last deep run.

Anders Lee's hit on Nicklas Backstrom was the talk of Game 1. It was a reason Backstrom had to exit and will not play in Game 2 as he enters the concussion protocol. Both teams were very physical for the rest of the matchup and that should continue on Friday with tensions rising. 

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS PLAYERS TO WATCH 

T.J. Oshie (26 goals, 23 assists, 49 points): Oshie was the Capitals' only source of offense on Wednesday. With two goals early on he set the tone and showed that he has a knack for showing up in the big moments. Though the Caps will need others to help, it's always good to have Oshie putting the puck in the net. 

Mathew Barzal (19 goals, 41 assists, 60 points): Barzal didn't net a goal in Game 1, but he didn't need to. His presence was still felt on offense, however, as he recorded two assists on the afternoon. If he can continue to distribute, and score every once in a while, the Capitals could be in trouble.

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