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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.”

RELATED: NHL Power Rankings: Keeping up with the Metropolitan

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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Caps at Islanders: Ovechkin is in for final game before bye week

Caps at Islanders: Ovechkin is in for final game before bye week

The Capitals (32-11-5) head to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders (28-14-4) in the last game before the bye week. Tune in to NBC Sports Washington for all the action! Pregame coverage starts at 12 p.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live bringing you up to the 1 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for postgame coverage with Caps Postgame Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here is what you need to know for Saturday's game.

Ovechkin is in

By skipping the All-Star Game, Alex Ovechkin is subject to a one-game suspension. He must serve that suspension in either the last game before the bye week or the first game back. Todd Reirden said following Thursday's game that Ovechkin will play on Saturday meaning he will miss the Jan. 27 game against the Montreal Canadiens. This should come as no surprise considering the Islanders game is a division game and the Montreal game is not.

Here are the lines based on Friday's practice:

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas

Ovechkin is red-hot

It is a good thing Ovechkin is playing Saturday because he is red-hot right now. He has five goals in just the past two games and sits one behind Mario Lemieux for 10th all-time in goals.

Holtby starts

Ilya Samsonov started the last two games and played well, but with the bye week upcoming, Reirden felt it important to get Braden Holtby back in. He confirmed Friday that Holtby will be the starter.

Holtby has not registered a save percentage above .900 in six straight starts and he sits at .899 for the season. He has still managed a 18-9-4 record for the season, however. Reirden said the last two games for Samsonov allowed Holtby the chance to "reset." HIs last game was on Jan. 11 against the New Jersey Devils.

When last we met

With Holtby in net, he will have a chance to rebound after this last start against the Islanders, a tough 4-3 loss at home on New Year's Eve. He allowed four goals on 22 shots in that game.

It was a very sloppy affair, not what we are used to seeing from the typically buttoned-up Islanders defense and turnovers were a problem for both sides. Semyon Varlamov closed the door in the period, stopping a whopping 17 shots as Washington poured it on looking to tie it.

Here's a recap of the game.

Washington is 1-1-0 against the Islanders this season with the final matchup coming on Feb. 10.

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Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne believes Alex Ovechkin will catch Wayne Gretzky

Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne believes Alex Ovechkin will catch Wayne Gretzky

During the Caps big win over the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night, Alex Ovechkin passed Finnish great Teemu Selanne on the all-time goal list, bringing him to 11th overall. He currently stands at 689 goals and his next target on the list is Pittsburgh Penguins star Mario Lemieux at 690.

With Ovechkin closing in on yet another goal-scorer, Selanne took to Twitter to say that he believes Ovechkin will be the one to pass Wayne Gretzky's mark of 894 goals.

Selanne isn't the only one who believes the Great Eight can catch up to the Great One. Nicklas Backstrom thinks his captain can do it, Sidney Crosby agrees with that assessment,  and the Great One himself said that Ovi has elevated the way the game has been played with his goal-scoring pursuit.

Ovi's take on it all? That if he's able to complete the feat he'll retire immediately. Ovi needs 205 more goals to reach that mark.

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