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So far, so good for Kevin Shattenkirk's adjustment to the Capitals

So far, so good for Kevin Shattenkirk's adjustment to the Capitals

In 2009, Kevin Shattenkirk was in the Capitals locker room at Verizon Center as a member of the Boston Terriers playing in the Frozne Four. He holds fond memories of that time as he helped the Terriers win the tournament for a national championship.

Eight years later, Shattenkirk has another happy memory in his return to that locker room: His first home win with the Washington Capitals.

“Last time I was in here I think we were going really crazy after a win,” Shattenkirk said. “It was a heck of a day, but it's a lot of fun to just be back in here and experience that again.”

The stakes may not have been as high in Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, but it was an important step for what the Capitals hope to be a championship season with their prized deadline acquisition settling into the lineup.

“Made some real good poise plays in tight areas,” Barry Trotz said after the game. “He wasn't being safe, he was actually a little more relaxed. I think it was good.”

RELATED: Caps outlast Devils to set franchise record

Shattenkirk continued what has appeared to be a rather seamless transition into the Capitals lineup, playing a team-high 21:24, including a whopping 7:23 on the power play, in his first home game as a Capital.

“I think whenever there's more minutes, especially on a power play, for a guy like me it helps me,” Shattenkirk said. “Just feeling the puck and starting to kind of get that back into my game during a game.”

When a defenseman leads the team in ice time for a game just two games after being acquired by that team, it shows a remarkable level of confidence by the coaching staff. Talking to his teammates, it’s easy to see why Trotz feels that way.

“He doesn't have any holes in his game,” Carlson said. “There's adjustments for sure that he's dealing with … but I think [it] helps feeling a part of us right away and then his skills can shine.”

“He's patient, he's a smart player,” Braden Holtby said. “He's very skilled. Obviously everyone sees the skill but he played with two different D partners he has never played with before and he looks like they've played together all year.”

Shattenkirk played alongside Brooks Orpik on the third pair in Orpik’s return from a lower-body injury. Those two are expected to remain a pair into the playoffs and they looked to be in sync together right away, though there remain a few kinks to work out.

“I think I was almost the recipient of some of his hits,” Shattenkirk said. “He flies around out there and lays his body on the line. Little things that we have to work out ourselves, little plays together. But all around, I know that I have a solid guy back there who can really cover for me whenever I need him to.”

All of this should be music to the ears of Capitals fans who have seen a parade of deadline acquisitions fizzle in the Alex Ovechkin era as they were unable to adjust to their new team.

It may be a small sample size, but two games in there seems to be no growing pains at all for a player the Caps hope will be a major key in a championship run.

That enthusiasm is shared by the fans.

In the first period of a sleepy game on Thursday that offered little to cheer about, the fans gave Shattenkirk a thunderous ovation when he was shown on the video screen during a stoppage in play.

“I've known that this fan base is great and they've supported this team for a long time,” Shattenkirk said, “But even a little thing like that, for a guy like me who hasn't been here before, it was very special and meant a lot to me.”

MORE CAPITALS: Jakub Vrana's power-play goal puts Caps up 1-0 over Devils

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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.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS NEED TO WATCH OUT FOR THE BLUE JACKETS

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