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Andre Burakovsky is officially back for the Caps

Andre Burakovsky is officially back for the Caps

Andre Burakovsky is indeed back.

The Capitals winger participated in his first full-contact practice Friday and afterward confirmed that he’ll suit up against the Lightning at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Saturday night.

“I’m playing tomorrow,” said Burakovsky, who has been sidelined since Feb. 9 with a broken right hand. “I’ve been feeling pretty good lately. I talked to the doctor and obviously it’s not 100-percent. But it feels good and my shot is getting better. The doctor said it can’t get worse, even if it hurts sometimes when I shoot.”

He added: “I can’t really feel [pain] when I’m shooting. It’s more coming a little bit after because I’m not really thinking about it when I’m shooting [since] I’m so focused on my shot and what I’m supposed to do. Right after [the shot] I feel a little, bit but it’s not bad. It’s something I can live with.”

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Earlier in the day, prospect Jakub Vrana was demoted to Hershey to make room for Burakovsky, who had been on long-term injured reserve.

“I’m happy to see him back,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “Nothing against Jake, but you want to see Andre back.”

Burakovsky’s return couldn’t come at a better time for the Capitals, who are in need of a boost. They’ve lost five of their past six games while averaging less than 2.2 goals per game during that span.

During Friday’s practice, Burakovsky returned to his usual spot on the Caps’ third line with Brett Connolly and Lars Eller. Connolly and Eller have combined for just three goals and four assists without Burakovsky the past 15 games, a precipitous drop in production from the trio’s pre-injury level.

Eller said it’s too early to know if they’ll pick up where they left off but he said he’s optimistic.

“He makes the team better so we’re glad to have him back,” Eller said. “Andre looked good [and] he’s glad to be back.”

Connolly conceded it might take a couple of games to gel.

“If we can get anywhere close to what we were doing before the break, I think that would be good going into the playoffs,” Connolly said. “He’s obviously a big part of the team and we’re happy to have him back and hopefully we can pick up where we left off.”

Although Burakovsky’s shot may not be 100-percent yet, the 22-year-old winger said he’s in top physical condition after spending the past five weeks working almost exclusively on his skating and stamina.  

“I’m hungry,” said Burakovsky, who will wear a wrap on his wrist and hand for stabilization purposes. “I’ve been out for a while now and I can’t wait to get back in. I’m excited.”

MORE CAPITALS: Check out the latest edition of the Capitals Faceoff Podcast!

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Capitals 2017-18 Prospect Preview: Jakub Vrana

Capitals 2017-18 Prospect Preview: Jakub Vrana

As we skate toward the start of the 2017-18 NHL Regular Season, our CSN Capitals team of Jill Sorenson and Tarik El-Bashir detail and analyze the Capitals roster.

They will take a look at breakout candidates, prospects on the rise, players in need of improvement and a look at the rest of the Metropolitan Division, all leading up to the start of the NHL regular season.

We've detailed why Tom WilsonBrett Connolly and Andre Burakovsky are destined for breakout season.

Now we are detailing the prospects you can expect to see with the Capitals this season.

First up is Jakub Vrana.

YOU CAN WATCH TARIK AND JILL'S FULL BREAKDOWN OF JAKUB VRANA IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE.

2017-18 CAPITALS PROSPECT PREVIEW: JAKUB VRANA

Position: Left Wing
Age: 21
AHL Seasons: 3 (88)
2016-17 AHL Stats: 49 games, 19 goals, 17 assists
NHL Seasons: 1 (21)
2016-17 NHL Stats: 3 goals, 3 assists

Tarik El-Bashir's Prospect Preview:
After a getting a few stints in Washington last season, Jakub Vrana’s challenge will be significantly tougher in 2017-18: he’s got to turn his vast potential into tangible production. 

And the 21-year-old may have no better opportunity than the one he’ll be afforded this winter. With Marcus Johansson in New Jersey and Justin Williams in Carolina, Washington needs a couple of wingers to step into important roles. As things stand now, Andre Burakovsky will get one of those spots, while Vrana’s name figures to be penciled into the other.

There’s no questioning Vrana’s skill; he’s got wheels, good hands and a quick release. But now comes the hard part: putting it all together while showing the consistency he could not find last season with the Bears or the Caps.

Indeed, last year was an odd one for the 2014 first rounder. In each of his NHL stays, Vrana started strong and then faded. What troubled management, though, was the Czech’s response to being demoted.

In short, it wasn’t great.

The result was a disjointed season in Hershey, where Vrana was scratched a few times and his overall performance was, well, a little underwhelming.

I’m not ready to call this a make-or-break year for Vrana, but if he doesn’t develop into a full-time NHLer, I’d consider it a big disappointment.

Jill Sorenson's Prospect Analysis:
What He Has:
"This is a guy hwo the organization looks at for his natural abillity. Obviously he has that flash, that offensive flare that this team really wants. The speed that they want."

What He Needs to Do: "He needs to take advantage of the opportunities that are laid in front of him. I think a lot of people think this top six spot is his to lose. So take advantage of that and make it stick."

RELATED: TEN BEST CAPITALS PLAYERS OF ALL-TIME

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Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Andre Burakovsky

Capitals 2017-18 Breakout Candidate: Andre Burakovsky

As we skate toward the start of the 2017-18 NHL Regular Season, our CSN Capitals team of Jill Sorenson and Tarik El-Bashir detail and analyze the Capitals roster.

They will take a look at breakout candidates, prospects on the rise, players in need of improvement and a look at the rest of the Metropolitan Division, all leading up to the start of the NHL regular season.

Up first are the Capitals breakout candidates.

We've detailed why Tom Wilson and Brett Connolly are destined for breakout season.

Today we are looking at Andre Burakovsky.

YOU CAN WATCH TARIK AND JILL'S FULL BREAKDOWN OF ANDRE BURAKOVSKY IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE.

2017-18 CAPITALS BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: ANDRE BURAKOVSKY

Position: Left Wing
Age: 22
NHL Seasons: 3 (196 games)
2016-17 Stats: 64 games, 12 goals, 23 assists +13 plus/minus

Tarik El-Bashir's Breakout Preview:
Due to some high-profile free agent departures this offseason, the Caps will be counting on a handful of youngsters to turn potential into production in 2017-18.

At the top of that list is 22-year-old winger Andre Burakovsky, who figures to get a full-time role in the top six forward group, possibly on the top line alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. He should also see a significant jump in power play minutes. 

The biggest challenge for Burakovsky figures to be the same issue that’s tripped him up the past couple of years: consistency. A year ago, for example, he went 26 games without a goal. But he also enjoyed a torrid 13-game stretch in which he racked up six goals and eight assists. So it’s there; he’s just got to bring it every game now. 

Former Washington forward Marcus Johansson, another first round pick from Sweden, became a 20-goal scorer in his fifth NHL season.

The Caps desperately need Burakovsky reach that plateau—or even surpass it—a full year earlier.

Jill Sorenson's Keys to Breakout:
1.  Confidence: "He really relies on his confidence to find success. So when he went through those lulls last season he didn't have a lot of confidence. But he kept shooting the puck, kept sooting the puck and he knew it would find the back of the net sooner or later. He got scratched, he came back, boom, he found the back of the net. I think going on that top line in the playoffs and looking ahead to next season is going to give him that confidence he needs to really produce."

2.  Comfort Level: He's had great mentorship from Nick Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. He understands now, that at 22 years old, he looks at those guys and sees 'hey those guys have been successful, I see what it means to be a pro. To have that connection with Backstrom, who he plays alongside on the ice and spends time with off of it, wil help him take a big step ahead."

Prediction: Over/Under 25 Goals
Tarik: 27, over.
Jill: 25, push.

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