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It's confirmed: Andre Burakovsky will return to the Caps' lineup on Wednesday

It's confirmed: Andre Burakovsky will return to the Caps' lineup on Wednesday

PHILADELPHIA—Andre Burakovsky will indeed return to the Capitals’ lineup Wednesday against the Flyers, the winger confirmed after the morning skate.

Burakovsky, who hasn’t scored a goal since potting a pair in the season opener back on Oct. 13, sat out the last three games as a healthy scratch.

In the pre-game skate at Wells Fargo Center, Burakovsky was on the third line with Lars Eller and rookie Jakub Vrana. Burakovsky was the right wing, which is different from earlier in the week when he lined up on the left.

“That’s where he’s ultimately going to end up, so we’ll have him do that for a bit,” Coach Barry Trotz said of Burakovsky switching sides.

Burakovsky said he’s comfortable playing either wing—just so long as he’s playing.

RELATED: John Carlson is good to go vs. Flyers

“Yeah, it feels good to be back in,” he said with a smile. “I’m just going to have a good game today and hopefully stay in.”

The 21-year-old said he spent his time out of the lineup working on speeding up his release, recognizing soft spots in D-zone coverage, finding open shooting lanes and becoming less predictable.  

“Just getting my shot off a little bit quicker, shoot more, put myself in positon where I can score,” he said. “I said before, I don’t think my game was bad. It was just that I couldn’t produce and that’s what I’ve been working on and hopefully it will be back tonight.”

Burakovsky added: “I have been working on putting myself in position where I can have a quicker shot and get the puck a little bit quicker. Sometimes I put myself in position where I don’t really have any time and don’t really have any space to shoot, but I was just trying to get it through and it hit someone. So I’ve been working a little bit on just putting myself in an open spot and find open ice because I know in this league when you find open ice the puck will get to you. So it’s just a little something that’s going to help.”

Coach Barry Trotz said he’s looking for Burakovsky to do a little less thinking and play a little more instinctively.

“I think one of the things is when you're pressing, you overthink it a little bit,” Trotz said. “I think that's what he's implying...that he's going to get the puck and move his feet and then play instinctively off of that, whereas I think before he was getting the puck and looking for that next play rather than getting moving and getting into those spaces.”

“So,” Trotz continued, “I think just that mindset of being a little more decisive in what he's doing and it'll come a little quicker for him. Things close down in this level of hockey very quickly. When you're standing and trying to figure out where that puck should go, it closes down. There's too many smart players on the ice.”

Although he’s only got two goals and eight assists in 27 games, Burakovsky hasn’t lost belief in himself. 

“It’s not like last year,” he reiterated. “Last year I didn’t really have my confidence and I wasn’t really playing well at all. This year it’s been different. I think I’ve been playing good but it’s just the points haven’t been there for me like I wanted them to be. I mean, two goals in the first game and then nothing after that, that’s not really good. But I still had lot of chances and I could have produced a lot more. The chances are there. The day when I don’t shoot the puck that’s the day I’m going to be worried. So I’m not worried about my game at all. As long as I create chances, I’m fine.”

Burakovsky has two goals and an assist in six career games against the Flyers.

MORE CAPITALS: USA Today makes bold predictions on the Caps for 2017

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Capitals prospect report: Hershey climbs into a playoff spot with a 15-game point streak

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@TheHersheyBears

Capitals prospect report: Hershey climbs into a playoff spot with a 15-game point streak

For much of the season, it did not look like the Hershey Bears were going anywhere. In mid-January, they sat with a 15-20-0-2 record and the playoffs all but out of the question. If they had any hope of reaching the postseason, they would need to make a serious push.

Fifteen games later, the Bears have completely resurrected their season and sit in third place in the Atlantic Division.

Hershey needed to make a serious run and they did just that with points in 15 straight games going 14-0-0-1 over that stretch. This run ties the longest streak in franchise history set by the 1942-43 Bears who went 11-0-4.

Even with their 15-game streak, however, Hershey still has more work to do to reach the playoffs. The AHL playoff format is similar to the NHL’s, but with no wild card. The top four teams from each division make the playoffs with no cross over.

Hershey’s early struggles really put them back in the playoff race. Even with a 15-game point streak, they still trail first place Charlotte and second place Bridgeport by 14 and six points, respectively. The Bears sit tied with Providence for third place with 61 points while Lehigh Valley sits in fifth place with 60 and rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is not too far behind with 57.

Hershey must find a way to hang on to third or fourth place, but they still have 24 games remaining in the season including three against Providence, one against Lehigh Valley and two against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Bears have earned their spot in the playoffs as of today, but the playoffs don’t start today. If they hope to stay in playoff position, it will mean beating the teams chasing them in the standings.

Hershey will look to extend their point streak to a franchise record 16th game on Friday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Other prospect notes:

  • One major reason for Hershey’s turnaround has been the improved play of goalie Ilya Samsonov. After a 5-10-0-0 start to the season, his numbers were atrocious with a 3.88 GAA and .863 save percentage. Once the calendar changed to 2019, however, he has been lights out with an 8-1-0-1 record, 1.49 GAA and .937 save percentage. The transition to North America seems to be going just fine.
  • Beck Malenstyn has also played a major role in the Bears’ turnaround. In his first professional season, Malenstyn has only 12 points, but eight of those points have come in 2019. Two of those points came Sunday as he scored twice in the win over Lehigh Valley. It was his first professional multi-goal and multi-point game. He seems to be someone who is starting to figure things out in the AHL.
  • Aaron Ness (seven assists) and Jayson Megna (three goals, two assists) both have five-game point streaks. Mike Sgarbossa (two goals, two assists) sits right behind them with a four-game point streak. Ness is tied for fourth in the league with 35 assists. That’s not fourth among defensemen, that’s fourth in the entire AHL.
  • It appears Mathias Bau’s 2018-19 season may be over without playing a single game. He suffered an injury prior to the season that has kept him out of action and it appears the injury is serious enough that he will not be able to play at all. A Hershey team official confirmed to NBC Sports Washington that Bau has returned to his native Denmark to continue his recovery and remains out indefinitely. Though I could not get confirmation on the specific nature of the injury, the Danish National team announced in July that he had suffered some broken ribs and tear in his spleen. The Danish team announcement was found by the blog Chocolate Hockey.
  • Defenseman Colby Williams has not played since Jan. 6 and remains week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
  • It seems safe to say this season has not gone the way Axel Jonsson-Fjallby had hoped, either in Hershey or in Sweden. Since his return to his home country, Jonsson-Fjallby has no goals and seven assists in 27 games with his SHL team. His struggles have earned him a demotion to healthy scratch. Nova Caps has more.
  • Eric Florchuk earned first star honors on Friday as he led Saskatoon to an 8-3 win over Kootenay in the WHL. Florchuk scored two goals and one assist on the night.

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Capitals at Maple Leafs: Time, TV Channel, Live

Capitals at Maple Leafs: Time, TV Channel, Live

The Washington Capitals headed up north to face the Maple Leafs on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. The Caps are second in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 33-20-7, while the Maple Leafs fourth in the Atlantic Division with a record of 36-19-4. This season, the Capitals lost to the Maple Leafs 4-2 in October

The Maple Leafs are hoping to end their two-game losing streak during Thursday evening’s game.

Here is everything you need to know about Thursday’s game, which will begin at 7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals at Toronto Maple Leafs, Game 61 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, Canada
When: Thursday, Feb. 21, 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: The Capitals at Maple Leafs game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder Link)
Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Maple Leafs on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Capitals at Maple Leafs
9:30 P.M.: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 P.M.: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS INJURY REPORT

Capitals: 
T.J. Oshie -- upper body as of Feb. 18

Maple Leafs: 
Nazem Kadri -- concussion as of Feb. 18
Nathan Horton -- back injury as of Sept. 16

CAPITALS at MAPLE LEAFS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jakub Vrana, C, Capitals (18 goals, 19 assists, 37 points): Vrana has been “flying recently,” NBC Sports Washington’s J.J. Reagan wrote in Wednesday’s Capitals mailbag. He’s consistently had one assist per game, contributing to the Caps’ on-and-off wins throughout February. 

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (42 goals, 27 assists, 69 points): Ovi scored two power play goals on Monday against the Los Angeles Kings. Additionally, the team captain scored twice in 20 seconds, Reagan wrote following the game. The last time the Caps played the Leafs, however, Toronto blocked seven of Ovi’s shots and 12 from other Capitals, Reagan wrote. 

CAPITALS vs. MAPLE LEAFS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 152
All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead 77-65-10
Last Meeting: Toronto won 4-2 (10/13/18)

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