Cody Eakin understood when Coach Bruce Boudreau told him he would be a healthy scratch the night after he had recorded his first NHL goal. The coach praised his play, but explained that with 13 healthy forwards and everyone playing well it was Eakin’s turn to watch from the press box.
“There are guys that have been around longer and they haven’t been playing bad so it’s just earning my stripes, so to speak,” Eakin said. “I thought I played pretty solid, limited my turnovers and got a couple points that night. I thought that was the best game I played throughout preseason and here, so I was happy and I think [Boudreau] was happy. I’m just going to wait my turn for the next one.”
Turns out Eakin’s next opportunity should come on Tuesday against the Dallas Stars at Verizon Center, Boudreau told reporters after a lengthy practice Monday. What the immediate future holds for Eakin, though, and how long he will remain in Washington is a little less certain.
“He brings great speed and brings a new element, different element, to the game for us and he’s done pretty well in his two games that he’s played,” Boudreau said. “We’ll keep him — he’ll play tomorrow and we’ll take it day to day, just like everything else.”
When Eakin, 20, was recalled from Hershey last week, the fleet-footed winger thought it would only be for the Capitals’ game against the Anaheim Ducks. Early that night in his NHL debut, though, Eakin managed to create scoring chances and took three shots during his 17 shifts and 13 minutes 19 seconds of ice time.
His speed made it relatively easy for the undersized forward, who is listed generously at 6 feet, to stand out. Against Carolina, Eakin saw less ice time (8:45) but he recorded his first NHL point (assist) and first NHL goal.
Part of the challenge, Eakin said, is not micro-managing his play in an effort to impress the Capitals’ brass. On his goal against the Hurricanes, when his instinct to shoot kicked in Eakin followed it rather than pass the puck back to veteran Alexander Semin.
“I’m a guy that tries to over-think a lot of things, lots of them on the ice, so I’ve been trying to keep it simple,” Eakin said. “On the goal, instead of trying to force a pass kind of thing, just take a shot — kind of instinct — and it went in. Things like that, just keep it simple, play within my boundaries and do what I can.”
Eakin played on a line with Semin and Marcus Johansson in both of the games he’s appeared in since being recalled. It’s an interesting trio with plenty of speed between Eakin and Johansson and an abundance of play-making instincts with each player.
Boudreau wouldn’t say if quickness was precisely what the Capitals were looking to add, but it’s probably a safe bet.
“I don’t think speed ever hurts you. In today’s NHL, speed is quite a weapon, and Cody’s done well everywhere he’s gone,” Boudreau said, adding that Eakin’s experience in the world junior championships likely prepared him to be unfazed when skating alongside NHLers. “I think everybody knows that his training camp wasn’t as great as he would have liked to have had it but he’s playing good in the American league. We wanted to give him a chance to see what he has and he’s done really well with the chance.”
Eakin isn’t looking too far ahead when wondering how long he might remain in Washington, but admitted that it’s tough for him not to notice that the Capitals will be visiting his hometown of Winnipeg next week on Nov. 17.
“That would be pretty special,” Eakin said. “It’s one thing to be up here, but to play so soon back home. I’ve kind of got my fingers crossed to be here for that one.”