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Caps' Andre Burakovsky rejoins teammates, eyes return to game action

Caps' Andre Burakovsky rejoins teammates, eyes return to game action

Andre Burakovsky says he and the Caps’ medical staff have discussed next week as a potential target for his return to the lineup.

The 22-year-old winger has missed the last 14 games with a broken right hand.

Since Burakovsky has been out, his linemates, Lars Eller and Brett Connolly, have combined for just six points (2 goals, 4 assists).

“I feel pretty good,” Burakovsky said Tuesday after participating in the morning skate, his first on-ice activity with his teammates since getting hurt. “I still have got some issues with my hand. Obviously, it’s going to be like that for a while.”

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Burakovsky was not a full participant in the skate, but he did engage in passing and shooting drills.

Afterward, he said that he’s making progress each day but is still experiencing some discomfort while shooting and stickhandling with his right hand.

“I was skating this weekend, on Saturday, and I could barely shoot the puck,” he said, referring to a non-contact scrimmage against members of the training and equipment staff. “And [just now] I was feeling good. I shot the puck pretty good and passing and stickhandling felt good, too.”

Asked about a return date, Burakovsky said internal discussions have pegged next week as an option. The Caps close out this week’s slate against Nashville on Thursday and in Tampa on Saturday, then they open a three-game home stand against Calgary (Tuesday), Columbus (Thursday) and Arizona (Saturday) next week.

”We’re talking about sometime next week, probably, that I can come back and play a game again,” Burakovsky said. “But it all depends on how I feel. Like I said, it’s day-to-day. Some days it hurts. Some days it feels better. So it's tough, really, to say an exact date.”

Tuesday was a good day—for his hand and his psyche.

“It’s been a good day for me,” he said. “I've been missing the boys. They’ve been on the road a lot and I’ve just been home. It’s been a couple of real tough weeks with [strength and conditioning coach] Mark Nemish, for sure. Skating with no pucks every day for an hour, it’s not a lot of fun. It’s really, really tough. I’m glad I’m past that right now and I'm looking forward to being with the team.”

Barry Trotz acknowledged that Burakovsky is progressing nicely, but the head coach declined to put a timeframe on the winger’s return.

“He was happy to see everybody; he’s been lonely,” Trotz cracked. “When I get the 'okay' for him, he’ll be back in the lineup. I don’t have a timeframe.”

Prior to getting hurt, Burakovsky was on a hot streak, having recorded 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) in 12 games.

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Evgeni Kuznetsov glad to see the Caps rely on youth more

Evgeni Kuznetsov glad to see the Caps rely on youth more

The Caps' offseason roster turnover has been well-documented, but Evgeni Kuznetsov doesn't think that's necessarily a bad thing. 

Speaking to Igor Eronko of Sport-Express, Kuznetsov took a more optimistic approach to what'll be a much different looking team come October:

RELATED: PREVIEWING THE METRO DIVISION 

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The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly

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USA TODAY Sports

The 25 most important players for the Caps: No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly

Every player on an NHL team plays a role. Some play bigger roles than others.

In the coming weeks, Jill Sorenson, Tarik El-Bashir and JJ Regan will rank the 25 most important players in the Caps’ organization, from least to most important, weighing factors such as past production, future potential and intangibles. 

Today’s player: No. 21 Devante Smith-Pelly.

Will Devante Smith-Pelly manage to ressurect his career this season?

After getting bought out by the Devils on June 30, Smith-Pelly signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Caps a few days later. The deal will pay him $650,000 in Washington and $300,000 in Hershey.

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It's a significant paycut from the $1.25 million that Smith-Pelly, 25, earned last season, and the contract offers less job security. But he's got another chance, much like the one the Caps gave to Brett Connolly a year ago, to seize a spot in the bottom six and reestablish himself in the league. Connolly, after being cut loose by the Bruins last summer, took full advantage of his opporrunity here, scoring a career-high 15 goals in 66 games and earning a two-year, $3 million extension from GM Brian MacLellan.    

When training camp opens in mid-September, the Caps are going to need a pair of wingers to play with center Jay Beagle on the fourth line. There will be no shortage of competition for those positions, with Smith-Pelly expected to battle Anthony Peluso and forward prospects Nathan Walker, Chandler Stephenson, Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, Liam O’Brien and perhaps others.

Smith-Pelly would seem to have the inside track based on experience alone. He’s played in 266 NHL regular season games and 24 playoff contests. (Peluso, 28, has played in 142 games, while no one else I mentioned has appeared in more than 14.)

Smith-Pelly, a 6-foot, 214-pound righty, has also had some eyebrow raising stretches in his career. In the 2014 playoffs as a member of the Ducks, he amassed five goals in 12 games while averaging 4.4 hits per. In 2016, he was dealt from Montreal to the Devils late in the season and ended up racking up eight goals and five assists in only 18 games.

So, Smith-Pelly has been productive. He just hasn’t been consistent.

Will that change in Washington? That’s yet to be determined. But we can already surmise this much: he's got a pretty good opportunity in front of him and he's probably running out of chances.

Check out the full list of the Caps most important players as it comes out here and check out previous player profiles below.

— No. 25 Aaron Ness
— No. 24 Chandler Stephenson
— No. 23 Riley Barber
— No. 22 Pheonix Copley