Recently, it hasn't been hard to notice that some of the Capitals' most effective players are some of their youngest or least experienced in the NHL. The combination of a myriad of injuries and having many of Washington's biggest stars still working out of offensive slumps has given opportunities to others, who want to leave the best impression they can.
In the 11 games since Washington last saw the Senators on Dec. 19, including when the Capitals broke their eight-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory in Ottawa, the younger players and call-ups --Mathieu Perreault (3), Marcus Johansson (3), Jay Beagle (2), John Carlson (1), Andrew Gordon (1) -- have combined to score 10 of the team's 27 goals.
Johansson has been a consistent presence during that span, particularly in the past week as he's helped create scoring chances and shows a growing confidence as he earns more trust and ice time from the Capitals' coaching staff.
"He's earned it," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of the rookie center's increased ice time. "He's playing great. He's reminding me of [Nicklas Backstrom] my first year -- started slow and as the season got along and he got more acclimated to the league and everything else that he became a great player. It's unfortunate we haven't be able to stay with the same group of players for [Johansson] to play with, injuries and lack of production in other areas have dictated otherwise. He's done really well because you can see sparks; he's going to be a fine player."
Then there's Beagle, who's in his longest recall stint with the Capitals during his time in the organization having played in 10 consecutive games and 12 of the last 13. Beagle's earned praise for his penalty killing skills, as Boudreau hasn't hesitated to use him while shorthanded, and his constant work ethic. But Beagle understands that there can't be any off days for someone who's been brought up from the American Hockey League and he tries to keep that pressure in perspective.
"As a call up, you can get sent down on any day. If you're not playing well they'll find someone else that will play," Beagle said. "I felt like I haven't played as good as I can the last two games, so I've got to step it up and I know that and I've got to play better. I'm hopefully going to be going [Sunday]."
Gordon is the latest to rejoin the Capitals with a chance to contribute again after being recalled from Hershey Saturday, to help Washington move forward despite injuries to three of Washington's right wings: Eric Fehr (shoulder), Matt Bradley (broken finger) and Alexander Semin (undisclosed lower body injury). He will likely appear in his ninth NHL game against the Senators with the chance to show he can aid the Capitals as they try to stop this three-game slide.
The Capitals did not hold a morning skate because of today's early start but I'll have more from Verizon Center this afternoon.