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Jakub Vrana's play in the NHL continues to impress everyone but himself

Jakub Vrana's play in the NHL continues to impress everyone but himself

It should come as no surprise that Alex Ovechkin had a game-high five shots on goal in Sunday’s win against the Vancouver Canucks. What is surprising is who was right behind him. Rookie Jakub Vrana was a major offensive threat throughout the game with four shots on goal against the Canucks and another three shots missed.

With six games of NHL experience now under his belt, Vrana has only one goal to show for his efforts, but he continues to generate multiple chances every game. He is averaging over two shots per game and has only been held without a shot on goal only once.

“For the six games I've played, I have one goal, but I would say I could put easily two, three in,” Vrana said after Tuesday's practice. “But it's a little different NHL and AHL.”

Vrana was called up at a time when the Caps were struggling to find any consistency on offense. While Vrana ultimately needs to be able to convert on his chances, head coach Barry Trotz remains pleased with the young winger’s efforts.

“What I like about him that he does, he does become dangerous because of his speed,” Trotz said. “He is dangerous because of his ability to shoot the puck. He gets in those areas, got a real quick release and last night he probably had the most scoring chances. He had a couple good looks where he just gets it on net we probably score, he's trying to get a little flying there, but he's had some good looks.

"I like the speed aspect, I like the skill aspect and he's competing at a pretty good level.”

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As Trotz alluded to, there were times in which Vrana appeared to rush some of his opportunities which resulted in his shot missing the net completely. That’s a product of having to adjust to the pace of the NHL game, one of the hardest transitions for any player to make.

“Everybody on the ice is very smart, not so many mistakes you see in the game,” Vrana said. “Everybody plays very professional and details and that's what makes the game very fast.”

“Anybody will tell you, everything just closes down on you a lot quicker, goalies are better, everything's just that much quicker,” Trotz said.

What makes the pace of the NHL so hard for a player like Vrana to adjust to is that the speed of play can make shooters impatient. They become antsy when they get the puck and that forces bad decisions, whether it be a rushed shot or a turnover.

Vrana’s biggest goal going forward now is to remain patient offensively.

“It's tough to stay confident when it doesn't go exactly your way,” Vrana said. “I'm not saying it doesn't because as long as you have chances, you pretty much doing your job, create chances. But you have to put it in as a goal scorer and when that doesn't go your way you have to work, work every day on it and just be patient and hopefully it's coming.”

But it’s not all about what Vrana does with the puck. He has to be better without it as well. That was the biggest concern for him heading into the season and probably the major reason why he did not make the Caps’ roster coming out of training camp.

Vrana called it a weakness of his, but Trotz said he has seen great improvement in that aspect of his game.

“He's made great strides from the first time I saw him,” Trotz said. “He's just maturing as a player and getting comfortable, getting trust within the group and with the coaching.”

With improved play away from the puck, it appears the only thing really standing in the way of Vrana from a prolonged stay in Washington is production. If he keeps generating scoring chances at the same rate he is now, that production will come.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Defense steals show against Canucks

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Capitals defensive prospect Aaron Ness stable after scary injury in Hershey playoff game

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Capitals defensive prospect Aaron Ness stable after scary injury in Hershey playoff game

In their first game against the Bridgeport Tigers to kick off the 2019 Calder Cup playoffs, the Hershey Bears lost blueliner Aaron Ness to a serious injury in the third period.

After Travis St. Denis put pressure on Ness from behind, Ness lost an edge and slid into the goal post and then crashed head-first into the boards, where he was seemingly knocked unconscious. He laid motionless for a few moments as he received attention from medical personnel.

The 28-year-old was stretchered off the ice and transported to Bridgeport Hospital, where he underwent further evaluation. Bears play-by-play announcer Zack Fisch later reported through Dan "Beaker" Stuck that Ness was awake and alert at the hospital and getting x-rays, according to Chocolate Hockey.

The Bears posted an update on Twitter Saturday in regards to his status, saying that he is in stable condition and is expected to be released. It's unclear when he will return to action, but it likely won't be anytime soon.

Ness, one of Hershey's six alternate captains, had 50 assists and 55 points in 71 games with the Bears in the regular season. He has three points in 18 games up in the NHL with Washington.

After the Sound Tigers tied the game following the Ness injury to force OT, Kieffer Bellows scored in double overtime to lift Bridgeport to a 3-2 win to take Game 1 of the series. St. Denis has been suspended one game for the hit, according to NHL.com's Tom Gulitti.

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'Canes Svechnikov says Ovechkin asked him to fight first in Game 3

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'Canes Svechnikov says Ovechkin asked him to fight first in Game 3

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the Game 3 fight between Hurricanes rookie Andrei Svechnikov and Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin. Finally, though, Svechnikov shared his side of the story Saturday.

The Russian forward returned to the ice for the Hurricanes' morning skate prior to Game 5, then told the media that Ovechkin was the first to ask him to fight before the two dropped the gloves. They exchanged a couple of punches before Ovechkin knocked out Svechnikov, which ultimately put him in concussion protocol and kept him out of the lineup.

"He ask me first for fight," Svechnikov told Tom Gulitti of NHL.com. "I'm not a superhero, ask first for fight... I said yes. I just want to stand up for myself."

Sara Civ, The Athletic's Hurricanes beat reporter, also said that Ovechkin apologized to Svechnikov after the game.

Svechnikov is hopeful to return to Game 6, but will not return to the lineup Saturday. Gulitti reported that he was in a yellow (probably non-contact) jersey and was sporting a full cage at practice.

Washington and Carolina square off for Game 5 at 8 p.m. Saturday on NBC.

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