When the Caps traded for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline, that meant someone else would be coming out of the lineup to make room. That player became Nate Schmidt. Now thrust back into duty for Washington, Schmidt is making it very hard for head coach Barry Trotz to scratch him again.
“Nate's come in and played very, very well," Trotz said. "His ability to get up ice, his ability to skate, he's done a really good job. So yeah, we do have a little bit of an interesting scenario here.”
Schmidt came back into the Caps’ lineup after Shattenkirk was suspended two games for a high hit delivered to Kevin Gravel of the Los Angeles Kings. Schmidt has been outstanding in those two games and scored Washington’s first goal of the game against Minnesota, just his second goal of the season.
With Shattenkirk set to return to the lineup now that his two-game suspension is up, it was originally assumed Schmidt would find himself as a healthy scratch again.
According to Trotz, however, that may not be the case.
“He stepped in and is making our decisions tougher,” Trotz said. “I think that's an outstanding thing.”
It says a lot about a player when he can step back into the lineup after getting replaced and play as well as Schmidt has. That will no doubt raise his esteem in the eyes of the coaches.
But who will he play for? The answer is not Shattenkirk.
“I think we're going to have to get Shattenkirk in,” Trotz said. “There's no question. I'm not going to keep him out. We've got to get him playing the way we need him to play and he's had a couple days off here.”
It’s important to get Shattenkirk as much playing time as possible as he continues to adjust to the team. Plus, the Capitals showed just how much having a left-right balance on each defensive pair means to the team with what they were willing to give up to get him. Should Schmidt, a lefty, remain in the lineup for Thursday’s game, that then means it will most likely be in place of another left-shot defensemen: Dmitry Orlov, Brooks Orpik, or Karl Alzner.
It certainly is an interesting Schmidtuation.
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