Zach Sanford got exactly what the Capitals hoped he would during his two-plus week stint in the minors: some confidence with the puck on his stick.
In six games with the Hershey Bears, Sanford recorded four goals and three assists while skating primarily on a line Brad Malone and Nathan Walker. Prior to being sent down, Sanford, 22, had no goals and one assist in 19 games with the Capitals.
Sanford wouldn’t say whether he’s suiting up Saturday night against Montreal, but it’s unlikely the team would recall the rookie just for him to sit.
“It was nice to get some ice time, play some power play, get the chance to shoot the puck a little more, get some points,” said Sanford, who was one of eight Caps who took part in the morning skate Saturday.
“It almost gets to the point where you think you’re never going to score again,” he added, referring to his struggles in Washington. “When you see one go in, the pressure relieves a little bit.”
Based on the morning skate, it looks like Andre Burakovsky will be scratched for a third straight game. If Sanford is indeed in the lineup vs. Montreal, that means one other forward must sit. It would not be a surprise if the odd man out is Brett Connolly, though we may not know for sure until pre-game warmups.
Sanford said Capitals Coach Barry Trotz reached out to him multiple times during his stint with the Bears in effort to keep the rookie apprised of the situation in Washington. Earlier this week, Sanford said Trotz sent him a text informing him that he would be recalled ahead Canadiens game.
Sanford admitted that he was frustrated by his demotion late last month. But he also acknowledged that it was ultimately the right decision for his longterm development.
“Initially it’s frustrating for anybody when you get sent down, but I think it’s important to get a breather and take a step back,” he said. “It was good for me. I went in with a good mindset that I was going to work hard as I could, not be pissed off and it turned out well for me…It was huge for me and for my confidence going forward.”