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Prospect report: Does Zach Sanford or Jakub Vrana replace Andre Burakovsky?

Prospect report: Does Zach Sanford or Jakub Vrana replace Andre Burakovsky?

Hershey update: 25-14-8-3, 5th in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-1-1-0

It was a weekend Zach Sanford is not likely to forget. Not only did he score the game-winning goal against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, his first NHL goal, he also scored twice for Hershey against Bridgeport the very next day.

Sanford was recalled by the Caps earlier in the week but was not expected to play. An injury to Andre Burakovsky, however, got Sanford into the lineup on Saturday. With Washington starting their bye wee, Sanford was sent back down to Hershey following Saturday's game.

With Burakovsky expected to be out until March, the Caps will likely call up a player to replace him in the lineup as well as a rotating player to scratch for road games. Sanford and Jakub Vrana are the most likely candidates to replace Burakovsky. I assumed it would be Vrana considering the similar skill set of the two players. The Caps could plug Vrana into the third line without having to change too much in terms of the line’s makeup.

Vrana, however, had a tough day on Friday.

In overtime against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Vrana gave up a turnover that ended up costing the Bears the game. Vrana pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and tried to turn it up ice himself with his teammates headed to the bench for a line change, Vrana has the puck poked away to another Penguins player who passes up ice to set up a breakaway goal. Vrana has to be aware that there is nothing but open ice behind him with his teammates headed to the bench. He can’t get overly aggressive with the puck in such a critical moment..

You can see the play here.

The turnover earned Vrana a seat in the press box on Saturday.

Via Capitals Outsider, Hershey head coach Troy Mann described Vrana’s play of late as “inconsistent, especially without the puck” since his return from a four-week stint with the Caps.

Is this a huge cause for concern? Not really. When players are on the verge of moving up to the NHL full-time, their play often becomes inconsistent. Sometimes players lose focus after their first prolonged taste of the big leagues when they go back down to the AHL. Friday’s bad game likely will have no bearing on whether Barry Trotz decides to call up him or Sanford for the next few weeks.

Riley Barber made his triumphant return to the lineup over the weekend after a 35-game absence. Barber played Saturday and Sunday and scored three goals in those two games.

Christian Thomas is a newcomer to the Caps’ organization this season and currently leads the Bears in goals with 17. In a feature on Thomas published by Penn Live, Thomas talks about the grind of the AHL and how tough it is to make it to the big league. Coach Mann also provides some interesting notes on Thomas saying, “He's a dynamic scorer at the AHL level. He's got an NHL shot, a great release. When he's moving his feet he has some real good quickness to him from a skating perspective.”

Defenseman Darren Dietz is also in his first season with the Bears. In an article for the Lebanon Daily News, Dietz talks at length about his AHL career. Here’s what he has to say about signing with Washington:

“The end of last season my contract expired and I became an unrestricted free agent. On July 1 I made the decision to sign with Washington and Hershey to come here. There were some other options available but I didn’t waste any time jumping on this opportunity to be involved with this organization.

“To be brutally honest, it was getting the opportunity to win and be in a playoff situation because I hadn’t been in the playoffs as a pro so that made the decision an easy one. The group here, and the long run they made last year, I knew it was something good here and I wanted to be part of it. I had played in Giant Center a couple times with either Hamilton or St. John’s and I remember it was not a fun place to play.

You can read the full article here.

RELATED: Bye week grades: Special teams

Other prospect notes:

Both Ilya Samsonov and Damien Riat walked away champions over the week after playing in small international tournaments for their respective nations.

Samsanov played in the third and final game for Team Russia in the Sweden Hockey Games tournament, helping lead Russia to a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic to clinch the tournament. You can watch the highlights here in Russian.

Samsonov said in an interview that his focus right now is to play for the national team and finish his KHL contract, but he did give a subtle nod to the Caps (as translated by RMNB):

“Everyone dreams about playing in the NHL, but for right now I’ve got a lot of work to do to find a roster spot [on the National Team], and I still have to finish my contract. ... The guys and I sometimes play soccer or hockey video games. I play as Washington, but just because there’s no Magnitogorsk [in the game].”

Riat scored two goals in two games to help lead Switzerland to a win in the Slovakia Cup. Switzerland opened the tournament with a 4-2 win over Belarus on Friday and won in the final 4-3 against host Slovakia on Saturday. You can see the highlights of Saturday’s game here in German.

Coincidentally enough, Rait opened the scoring in both games with a goal in the second minute.

Tim McGauley scored two goals in South Carolina’s game on Feb. 9 to lead the Stingrays to the 5-4 win over Reading. It was the first two-goal game of his professional career.

In the WHL, Connor Hobbs recorded two goals and three assists in four games for the Regina Pats. Lucas Johansen scored one goal and three assists in three games for the Kelowna Rockets, earning third-star honors on Saturday. Beck Malenstyn of the Calgary Hitmen was named the second star of the game on Sunday after scoring a goal in his team’s overtime loss.

In the college ranks, Brian Pinho enjoyed a big game against UConn on Friday, scoring a goal and two assists in the win. You can see the highlights here:

Defenseman Chase Priskie scored in Quinnipiac’s 4-2 loss to Clarkson on Friday. He was also featured in the Bobcats Weekly video as the “Bobcat of the Week.” In the video, he talks about his role on the team’s power play and team chemistry. You can also see a few highlights of Priskie as well as a super enthusiastic anchor.

MORE CAPITALS: 5 things to know about Tom Gilbert

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Capitals vs. Penguins: Game 2 time, TV channel, how to watch, live stream

Capitals vs. Penguins: Game 2 time, TV channel, how to watch, live stream

The Capitals trail the Pittsburgh Penguins 1-0 in their best of seven series after a tight 3-2 loss in Game 1 on Thursday. With two games in Pittsburgh on the horizon, Washington will look to pull one back in a critical Game 2 at home on Saturday.

Expect the officials to be more of a factor in Game 2. There were only two power play opportunities in Game 1 and they both went against the Caps. The team tried hard not to voice their displeasure atter the game, but it was clear they were not happy.

Braden Holtby managed only 18 saves on 21 shots in Thursday's loss. He took responsibility for what he felt was a poor performance and will look to bounce back in Game 2. History suggests he will have a strong night.

Despite the 1-0 deficit to Washington's hated rival, it is still far too early to panic. Not only is it a long best of seven series, but head coach Barry Trotz believes this year's team is different from the one that was unable to defeate Pittsburgh a year ago.

RELATED: CAPITALS vs. PENGUINS PLAYOFF PREVIEW

CAPITALS VS. PENGUINS GAME 2 HOW TO WATCH

Who: Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
What: Game 2 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Second Round
When: 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 29
Where: Verizon Center
Online Stream: NBCSN's live stream page. Watch Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. and Caps Extra following the game with CSN's live stream page here.
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Radio: 1500 AM (Capitals Radio Network)

RELATED: STANLEY CUP POWER RANKINGS

WHEN IS CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 2?

The Capitals and Penguins square off in Game 2 of their 2017 second-round playoff series on Saturday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

WHAT CHANNEL IS CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 2 ON?

Game 2 of the Capitals-Penguins series will be broadcast on NBC and CBC in Canada.

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 2?

Capitals-Penguins Game 2 is available to stream live here through NBCSN's live stream page. Caps GameTime and Caps Extra pre and postgame shows are available to stream live here through CSN's live stream page.

WHAT ARE THE LINES FOR CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 2?

Here are the projected lines for Capitals-Penguins Game 2:

CAPITALS

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams
Andre Burakovsky - Lars Eller - Tom Wilson
Daniel Winnik - Jay Beagle - Brett Connolly

Defense
Nate Schmidt - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Kevin Shattenkirk

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches
Chandler Stephenson, Paul Carey, Karl Alzner, Taylor Chorney

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS GAME 1 LINES

Forwards
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Bryan Rust - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Scott Wilson - Nick Bonino - Conor Sheary
Chris Kunitz - Matt Cullen - Tom Kuhnhackl

Defense
Ian Cole - Justin Schultz
Brian Dumoulin - Ron Hainsey
Olli Maatta - Trevor Daley

Goalies
Marc-Andre Fleury starts with Tristan Jarry as backup

Scratches
Carl Hagelin, Carter Rowney, Mark Streit, Chad Ruhwedel, Matt Murray

RELATED: 2017 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 2 BETTING LINES

Stanley Cup Odds: Capitals 7/2 (+350), Penguins 17/4 (+425)
Game 2 Spread: Capitals -1.5
Game 2 Over/Under: 5.5 goals
Game 2 Money Line: Capitals (-150), Penguins (+120)

CAPITALS-PENGUINS GAME 2 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

CSN ON TWITTER:
— CSN's official Capitals account CSN Capitals 
— Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir
— Capitals Digital Producer JJ Regan
— Capitals Desk Producer Troy Machir

Be sure to check out CSN's Facebook page, and CSN's Instagram account

Keep up with all the action here with Capitals GameZone and join in on the conversation here with Capitals Pulse.

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Barry Trotz explains why he believes this year's Capitals team is different

Barry Trotz explains why he believes this year's Capitals team is different

If you walked away from Washington’s Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins thinking to yourself, “same ol’ Caps, same ol’ story,” it’s not hard to understand why. This team has not made it past the second round of the playoffs since 1998 and have beaten the rival Penguins only once in nine postseason meetings.
 
Last year’s dream season in which the Capitals were virtually uncontested through the entire season as the top team in the NHL was brought to an abrupt end in the second round at the hands of the Penguins in six games. After another Presidents’ Trophy winning season, seeing the Caps lose Game 1 to Pittsburgh at home has already left many fans feeling despondent.
 
But that’s not how the Caps feel.
 
“We're in a different place,” head coach Barry Trotz said after Friday’s practice when comparing this team to last year’s. “I think we feel that we still can build on our game.”
 
In many ways, the Capitals were actually the better team in Game 1. Washington held a large advantage in terms of shot attempts (72-32) and scoring chances (41-15) and still walked away with the loss. And yet, despite dominating on paper, Trotz still felt his team had more to give.
 
“I think last year, we came at them real hard and go, what else can we do?” Trotz said. “I don't have that feeling this year. I know we can do more, we know we can do more. That's a great thing to have is we know we can be better, we know we can do more.”
 
“I could lie to you and say that, but I’m not,” Trotz added as he stressed to the media that his confident rhetoric was not simply coach-speak.
 
Despite what happened on paper, the game appeared to be very even as it played out. The big difference seemed to be that every mistake the Caps made ended up in the back of their net.
 
Trotz’s confidence was likely not simply a brave face to wear before the media, but necessary for his players as well. If there was a feeling from last season of “What more can we do?” it would be hard to shake that feeling considering the picture the numbers paint of a dominant Caps’ performance in Game 1. The fact is, if they continue playing the way they did, they will come out on the winning end more often than not. The difference will be cleaning up those mistakes that a championship caliber teams like Pittsburgh always take advantage of.
 
All three of the goals Washington gave up in Game 1 were preventable. The first came when Matt Niskanen pinched too far into the neutral zone off the opening faceoff in the second period. A turnover led to a 2-on-1 in the wrong direction. Pittsburgh’s second goal was the result of Braden Holtby getting a glove on a slap shot from Olli Maatta but not holding onto it, leading to a rebound opportunity that Sidney Crosby finished. The third came with Brooks Orpik high in the neutral zone. A stretch pass left the defense exposed and Kevin Shattenkirk went after Scott Wilson as opposed to staying more center to account for the trailing Orpik and a wide-open Nick Bonino.
 
In terms of overall play, there’s not much more you can do if you dominate the defending Cup champs. What they can do, however, is cut out those mistakes, prevent those preventable goals and not dwell on them as they go forward in the series.
 
“I think we've learned to go forward, I think we've learned to park things and that's what the change is, that's where we wanted to get to,” Trotz said. “I don't know if we're fully there or not, but we're going in that right direction so I'm excited about the rest of the series for sure.”

MORE CAPITALS: Holtby's history suggests he'll bounce back in Game 2