NEW YORK—Kevin Shattenkirk arrived at Madison Square Garden around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, running on adrenaline alone.
“I didn’t get much sleep,” the Capitals' newest player said before debuting against the Rangers. “I was thinking about everything under the sun. Even today during my pregame nap, it was more tossing and turning.”
Indeed, the 28-year-old defenseman has been through a lot over the last 24 hours.
He found out late Monday night—via social media, no less—that he had been traded from the Blues to the Capitals. He spent Tuesday morning making his way from St. Louis to the Capitals’ hotel in Manhattan. Then, after some quick hellos and a crash course on Washington's systems, he found himself in the lineup Tuesday night.
Shattenkirk, a pending unrestricted free agent, knew that he was likely to be moved prior to Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. So the fact that he got traded wasn’t a huge surprise.
He just had no idea it would be to the Caps. Or that he would find out on Twitter.
“Washington kind of really came out of nowhere in my mind,” Shattenkirk said. “It was a team I didn’t really have in my head. Obviously when the news was announced, it was very exciting for me because this is a great team.”
He added: “These days, just like everything else, I found out on social media. That’s when everything started to break. After that, you start to get some text messages. Then finally I spoke to [Blues General Manager] Doug Armstrong and then [Capitals General Manager] Brian MacLellan after that.”
Although the Caps are looking at Shattenkirk as the final piece to a championship puzzle, he says it's important to guard against trying to do more than is asked of him.
“In my mind, I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself,” he said. “They didn’t bring me in to save anything. They are the best team in the NHL right now. I just have to make sure I’m doing what I do best.”
Which, for Shattenkirk, means playing solidly in the defensive end while also producing on the power play. Entering Tuesday’s game, Shattenkirk was tied for third among defensemen in power play points (20).
He acknowledged that it’s going to take at least a couple of games to get comfortable with the Caps’ schemes and personnel. But it became obvious early in Tuesday's game that Coach Barry Trotz is not going to ease him into the flow. In fact, Shattenkirk was tasked with manning the point on the first unit power play and he looked quite comfortable feeding the puck to Alex Ovechkin in the circle.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said before the game, asked about playing alongside No. 8. “I’ve had a good couple of weapons in St. Louis for a long time. But [Ovechkin] is of the greatest goal scorers of all time. For me, I just need to learn how to make that pass and I think I’ll be alright.”
Overall, Shattenkirk enjoyed a solid first game in a Capitals sweater. He moved the puck quickly and decisively. He nearly set up Marcus Johansson with a cross ice pass early in the contest. His three shots on goal in the first period were more than anyone else on the ice. But the challenge of a joining a new team at the deadline was also apparent as a miscommunication with partner Nate Schmidt led to the Rangers’ first period goal.
Indeed, it’s going to take a little time for Shattenkirk to get fully integrated.
“There’s a lot of new terminology, new systems,” Shattenkirk added. “I don’t think they’re expecting me to get it all done in 12 hours, 24 hours. It’s going to be a process. It’s going to be a couple of games for me to figure this out. Already I can see how great these guys are in the locker room and helpful they are. I’m looking forward to being able to bounce some ideas off guys and make sure I get this down as soon as possible.”
That, and getting a few hours of shut-eye.
“Hopefully when we get back to Washington I’ll be able to get some solid hours in,” he cracked.
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