The Washington Capitals can’t be happier with one of their top players in Evgeny Kuznetsov, who took that next step last year when the won the Stanley Cup, putting up career highs in goals scored and points with 27 goals and 83 points. However, general manager Brian MacLellan feels that he can do even more this year — help out on the penalty kill, according to the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan.
That’s not a role that Kuznetsov has played much of over the course of his career. The 26-year-old has played a grand total of just 11 minutes over the last four years, which averages out to two seconds per game. However, while new head coach Todd Reirden probably won’t make too many changes to the team’s lineup after last year’s success, he has made it clear that he wants to make changes to their penalty kill, which was 15th in the league last year at 80.8 percent. One way to do that would be to inject more speed into it. That’s where Kuznetsov comes in, who could add a new element to their shorthanded line and perhaps improve his own defensive play at the same time.
“It’s a situation where we are going to try any option we can,” Reirden said. “We want to get better in that area, we need to get better in that area, and we’re going to be more aggressive, and if we’re going to be more aggressive then we have to have guys that can skate and think the game at a high level. He’s certainly one of many options we’re considering right now and he certainly seems to be up to the challenge.”
- The Capitals are without recent signee Sergei Shumakov so far in training camp, according to NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti. The 26-year-old winger who has spent his entire career in the KHL, signed a one-year, entry-level contract worth $925K. Shumakov posted 17 goals and a career-high 40 points last year for CSKA Moscow. He is expected to arrive from Russia today.
- Josh Yohe of The Athletic (subscription required) analyzes the play of Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who had a breakout season for Pittsburgh and who was arguably the team’s best player in their five-game series against the Washington Capitals in the playoffs last year. Domoulin, who partners with oft-injured Kris Letang, seemed to take off last year. Always a top defender, he even has started to show a little offense as he scored five goals. That may not sound like much, but considering his career-high had previously been one goal, that’s a big improvement. The team hopes he continues to get more involved in the offense this season.
- In the same article, Yohe reports that head coach Mike Sullivan will miss a few days after the death of his father, George Sullivan. Assistant coach Jacques Martin will take over for Sullivan until he returns.
- Sam Donnellon of Philly.com examines Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Anthony Stolarz, who just two years ago was looked at as a big part of the Flyers future. Fast forward to today and Stolarz is the fifth wheel in a goaltending system that already has too many goaltenders. Assuming things go as expected, the Flyers will be keeping Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth on their big-league club and will send Alex Lyon and top prospect Carter Hart to the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms. That leaves Stolarz, who missed most of last year after undergoing a second knee surgery. Donnellon writes while injuries are an issue amongst the veteran goalies, the likelihood that Lehigh Valley will institute a three-goalie system is unlikely, especially considering that the team needs to further develop Hart, their goalie of the future.