After sitting out for seven games and nearly three weeks as a healthy scratch, rookie defenseman Connor Carrick is expected to be back in the Capitals’ lineup Friday when they visit the New Jersey Devils.
Carrick, 19, appeared in 27 consecutive games before the coaching staff shut him down after noticing signs of fatigue. They wanted to give Carrick a little time off from game action while letting him continue to observe the NHL game so he could focus on improving.
“It was good for him to get a little rest. He’s played a lot of hockey,” Coach Adam Oates said, rattling off Carrick’s recent schedule which included the 2012-13 OHL season and postseason with Plymouth, tournament play last summer, NHL training camp and playing time, AHL games and the World Junior Tournament. “There’s times where I felt he was just a little tired and hopefully get a spark back in him for this little run.”
It was unexpected when the Capitals opted to have Carrick turn pro this season rather than spend another year in the OHL. But he’s averaged 16:55 of ice time, primarily skating on the third pairing with veteran John Erskine.
While Carrick is one of only eight defensemen to play at least 30 games for Washington this season, there have been times where he’s seemed outmatched at the NHL level, raising concerns that organization may have rushed his progress in its search to shore up defensive depth.
Among that group of eight blueliners, Carrick has the lowest Corsi-for at 44.8 percent and the lowest Fenwick-for (non-blocked shot attempts) at 43.5 during five on five play. Only time will tell whether his quick arrival at the NHL, without the benefit of extended development time in the AHL, ultimately impacts his overall progress.
For now, Carrick hopes he’ll be able to take what he’s learned and over the past few weeks and apply it to his play. His biggest focus, Carrick said, has been trying to recognize when he has proper positioning and then learning how to maintain it.
“Maybe a guy will fade on a play and I’m guilty of it, everyone is at some point, but it’s a habit you want to get out of. It has to do with calming down in certain areas and being more intense in others,” Carrick explained. “I’ve watched a couple games and that’s been the case a couple times. That’s why the best players in the league are so good. [Detroit’s Pavel] Datsyuk’s real intense on the backcheck and when he trips a guy it’s like he doesn’t have a pulse, he’s just calm as can be. You just try to get more of that in your game. That’s been the instruction, just to watch and to learn and it’s kind of what I’ve been doing. I’m positive.”