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Caps' Kevin Shattenkirk hits the reset button on his mental approach

Caps' Kevin Shattenkirk hits the reset button on his mental approach

PITTSBURGH — Kevin Shattenkirk acknowledged Monday that he’s struggling, but the Capitals defenseman was also quick to say he’s optimistic he can turn things around.

“Not well,” he said, asked to assess his postseason play to this point. “Last game was really bad. But I’m focused on tonight. That’s all I can worry about.”

Shattenkirk has three assists through eight postseason games, but he is also saddled with a playoffs-worst rating of minus-7.

Much has been made of his misplay on Matt Cullen’s shorthanded breakaway goal in Game 2. He was also in the box for putting the puck off the rink when the Penguins took a 4-1 lead early in the third period Saturday night. 

“I’m my hardest critic, so I’m not really listening to what a lot of what people are saying,” Shattenkirk said after the morning skate at PPG Paints Arena, “but I know it hasn’t been good.”

RELATED: Barry Trotz remains committed to Braden Holtby

Shattenkirk said he’s identified some areas that were in need of immediate attention — and it had less to do with his on-ice execution and more to do with his mental approach and how he's internalized the pressures of the postseason.

“This time of year it’s tougher to flush it,” Shattenkirk said. “The games means so much. You beat up on yourself a little bit more.”

The 28-year-old trade deadline addition continued: “The most important thing for me to do is to have fun. And that’s something I’ve lost along the way here.”

Shattenkirk said he’s hopeful that getting a day away from the rink and the playoff pressure-cooker — the team was off on Sunday — will serve him well as he attempts to get back on track individually, while also helping the Caps claw their way back into the second round series.   

“I think having a couple of days to take a step back, it made me realize I wasn’t enjoying it like I should be,” he said. “That’s important. We’re professionals but we’re still playing the game that we love, and I think this is a great opportunity for me tonight to just go out there, enjoy the atmosphere, not think and just play. That’s when I’m at my best.”

Shattenkirk also said he’s received an outpouring of support from his teammates.

“I expect a lot out of myself,” he said. “I want to prove myself to these guys. I can be hard on myself at times, and that’s something I have to work on. But I have a great support cast in here and guys who have been picking me up the last few days, just getting me back to smiling again and having some fun.”

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Tom Wilson suspended for 2 preseason games for hit on Blues prospect

Tom Wilson suspended for 2 preseason games for hit on Blues prospect

Tom Wilson has been suspended two preseason games by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for his big hit on St. Louis’ Robert Thomas on Friday night.

In handing out the punishment, the NHL noted the lateness of the hit—it occurred more than a full second after Thomas had lost control of the puck—and the predatory nature of Wilson tracking down the Blues’ rookie before delivering the blow in front of the visitors’ bench.

RELATED: OVECHKIN, KUZNETSOV SET TO PLAY AGAIN ON SATURDAY

Wilson, a rugged 23-year-old winger who has a reputation for playing on the edge, has been on the NHL's radar for a while now. He’s been fined twice previously, but this marks the first time he’s been suspended.

Wilson must sit out Saturday’s exhibition game against the Hurricanes and Monday’s contest against the Devils. He’s eligible to return Friday at Carolina.

Earlier Saturday, Barry Trotz said he was “a little surprised” that the NHL had requested a hearing with Wilson, adding, “Whatever decision that they have we’ll deal with it. They do a good job.”

For Wilson, losing two preseason games amounts to a cheap lesson. But it also serves to underscore that he’s now squarely in the league’s crosshairs and will be considered a repeat offender should the Department of Player Safety examine a future play involving him.

MORE CAPITALS: WHY SLAPSHOT TERRIFIED US ALL IN FRIDAY'S PRESEASON OPENER

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Ovechkin, Kuznetsov highlight the Caps' Saturday night lineup vs. the 'Canes

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Ovechkin, Kuznetsov highlight the Caps' Saturday night lineup vs. the 'Canes

Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen highlight the Caps’ lineup tonight against the Hurricanes at Capital One Arena.

Here’s how Coach Barry Trotz will have them lineup (based on the morning skate):

Forwards
Ovechkin – Kuznetsov – Chiasson
Smith–Pelly – Beagle – W. Simpson
Vrana – Boyd – Connolly
Walker – Albert – Barber

Defense
Orpik – Hobbs
Djoos – Niskanen
Siegenthaler – Orlov

Goalies
Grubauer
Copley

RELATED: TOM WILSON TO HAVE HEARING FOR HIT ON BLUES PROSPECT

Some notes and observations from the morning skate:

  • Fourth line center Jay Beagle will make his preseason debut tonight. He’s been battling some “tightness” according to Trotz. “Everyone’s tight right now,” Beagle told CSN after the morning skate. “I feel great. I’m ready to play tonight. It’s something the medical staff was really diligent about.”
  • Vrana will skate in his third preseason contest…but in a much different role. In his first two appearances, the 2014 first rounder skated in the top-six (on Kuznetsov’s line and Backstrom’s line). Now’s getting a look on the third combo.
  • Tom Wilson was originally slated to suit up but he was pulled from the lineup because he’s facing a disciplinary hearing with the NHL for his hit on St. Louis’ Robert Thomas on Friday. Instead, Wilson participated in the intrasquad scrimmage at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.  
  • Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov will also get their first action of the exhibition season. Although Trotz has said they’ll start the regular season as a pair, each will play with a prospect vs. the Canes.
  • Chiasson, who is on a PTO, has enjoyed a strong camp to this point. If he can add production tonight (while skating on a line with Ovechkin and Kuznetsov) that could go a long way toward him clinching a spot…if he hasn’t done so already. Chiasson was also on the first power play unit this morning.
  • Former Capitals winger Justin Williams will skate on the Hurricanes' first line tonight.
  • Another round of cuts is expected to come on Sunday.

 

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