“Anything after that depends on how you commit to the game, whether you become a regular penalty killer or are out there late at the end of the game when we’re up a goal,” Muller explained. “That’s what you have to prove to me you can handle. It’s just building the relationship right now, getting the trust factor. It’s been good so far.”
Staal admitted he didn’t know what to expect from his newest teammate, but after playing together for a month, the four-time all-star center praised Semin’s competitive drive and said he’s meshed well within Carolina’s dressing room, which has been built around a blue-collar work ethic.
Staal, who has recorded nine goals and 10 assists in 17 games, is also quite happy to have someone with Semin’s talent level and instincts skating next to him.
“He just thinks the game on an elite level,” Staal said in a phone interview. “I feel like both of our minds are thinking similar things when we’re out there. It’s resulting in good offensive chances and then also good defensive work. He’s been great at both ends of the rink and we’re continuing to develop chemistry together. . . . He’s a smart hockey player, he knows the game, he wants to win and he’s doing what he has to do to be effective for our group.”
Staal is far from the first player to enjoy working on a line with Semin. Although they didn’t skate together consistently, Semin and Ovechkin were never more of an intimidating offensive presence than when they were combined on one unit.
The two remain close friends and speak weekly, according to Ovechkin, who planned to catch up with his compatriot over dinner Monday night. While Ovechkin would have liked to see Semin stay with the Capitals, he’s not surprised to see him off to a good start with Carolina.
“He’s great player, good guy, but it’s a business. Sometimes it’s not your decision to keep the players,” Ovechkin said, adding that it’s likely Semin will be eager to perform well in his first trip to Washington. “Probably, yeah. He just want to show up and tell them like it was a mistake. Every normal player will do it. I think it’s going to be good night for both teams.”
Capitals notes: Goaltender Braden Holtby agreed to a two-year, $3.7 million contract extension. Rugged defenseman John Erskine also formalized a two-year, $3.925 million contract extension. . . . Nicklas Backstrom missed Monday’s practice with an illness, while Jason Chimera left the session early with a lower-body injury and both are questionable against Carolina.