Capitals ready to test new pickup

October 9, 2013

The Capitals picked up Alexander Urbom after he was placed on waivers by the New Jersey Devils last week. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

When defensive prospect Alexander Urbom was placed on waivers by the New Jersey Devils last week, the Capitals pounced on the opportunity to claim him.

Capitals coach Adam Oates, who was vaguely familiar with the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Swede from his time as an assistant coach in New Jersey, knew that his team was getting a player with raw potential.

Not wanting to “throw him to the wolves” after just one day of practice, Oates opted to sit Urbom out of Washington’s 2-1 loss to Dallas on Saturday, going against his own left-right philosophy by playing right-handed defenseman Steve Oleksy on his weak side.

Yet after three days of practice, Oates has decided that Urbom is acclimated enough to contribute. The defenseman will make his team debut tonight when the Capitals open a five-game homestand against the Hurricanes.

“He’s had some good practices, so it’s time to give him a look,” Oates said.

The rangy Urbom, New Jersey’s third-round draft pick in 2009, has appeared in 14 career NHL games, averaging just over 13 minutes of ice time. His defensive partner — either Oleksy or Connor Carrick — has yet to be determined.

Urbom is described by scouting reports as a positionally sound, but green, shutdown defenseman with mobility. His transition from the Devils to the Capitals was made easier by his familiarity with Oates and his system, which Oates cultivated during his two years in New Jersey.

Urbom, however, is not using that as any sort of crutch as he prepares for his first game in a Capitals uniform.

“It makes you more comfortable, of course,” Urbom said. “But I’ve still got to play my game.”

Backstrom is a father

Nicklas Backstrom became a father early Tuesday when his girlfriend, Liza Berg, gave birth to the couple’s first child, a baby girl named Haley. “It was probably the best moment of my life so far,” the Capitals center said after Wednesday’s practice.

Adam Vingan is an NHL.com Washington correspondent, the Capitals beat reporter for Express, and writes Capital Games for NBC Washington.
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