The last team the Capitals beat was the Buffalo Sabres. That game came on Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving, as Washington held Buffalo to only one goal. On Monday, the Caps will look to end their three-game losing streak against those same Sabres, only it’s not the same Sabres at all.
Jack Eichel missed the first 21 games of the season with a high-ankle sprain, but returned to the lineup for Buffalo’s game on Nov. 29, their first game after facing the Caps. How’d he do? Eichel recorded two points including his first goal of the season. He followed that up with two goals in his next game just two days later against Henrik Lundqivst.
“[Eichel’s] a dynamic player,” Matt Niskanen said. “His individual talent, his speed, release. And I think he's a really smart player. He's around the puck all the time and he has the puck a lot because he skates so well and he's smart, but if he doesn't have it he's always around it. He's a dangerous, dangerous player.”
Two seasons ago there were several teams in a race to finish last in the league hoping to get a chance to draft one of the two top draft picks expected te become superstars in the NHL. One was Connor McDavid. The other? Jack Eichel.
Eichel lived up to the hype in his rookie season with 24 goals and 32 assists and now he appears to be making up for lost time with four points already in just three games. His presence makes the Caps’ task of stopping the Sabres’ offense that much more difficult.
“It changes a lot,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He's a pretty dynamic player. He gives them a dynamic one-on-one guy, gives them a lot of speed, he's got a real good release. He's a star player in the league.”
Eichel’s addition makes Buffalo more dangerous because it affects the entire lineup. Consider what getting a player like Nicklas Backstrom back would mean for the Caps. That wouldn’t just change the top line, it would have a trickle-down effect through the whole lineup.
That’s the challenge the Caps face Monday.
“It gives them better depth,” Niskanen said “Not that he's a depth player, but it slots everybody else into a better spot up and down the lineup. Might be a little bit different look than the first game.”
“They added a star player that makes your matchups a little tougher with Eichel and [Ryan] O'Reilly,” Trotz said. “It sort of puts everybody in their proper place a little bit.
"It will be a tougher matchup.”
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