Andre Burakovsky added seven pounds of muscle in the offseason, but strength between the ears is where the Washington forward hopes he’s improved most.
Far too often in his first two seasons, Burakovsky has let a poor performance or two spiral into a prolonged slump.
“Everyone is going to have a bad game,” he said, “but if I have a bad game, I have to bounce back and have a good one my next time out. I don’t want to have a bad game and then have it go six or seven straight. I need to be a little more stable.”
Stability has been hard to come by for Burakovsky, 21, who shuffled throughout the lineup last season and had a brief stint as a healthy scratch.
As he prepares to face the Avalanche Tuesday at Verizon Center (7, CSN), he’s confident he can emerge as a top-six forward and become a fixture on one of the league’s top power plays.
“I think I have a lot of new levels that I’m going to reach,” said Burakovsky, who has started the year on Washington’s second line with countrymen Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson.
“For me it feels like this is just the beginning. I’ve had two good years where I was just learning the NHL, so now I have a lot of steps I’m going to take this year.”
Burakovsky didn’t take long to show that potential, scoring twice and playing a career-high 18:30 in last Thursday’s season opener, a 3-2 loss at Pittsburgh.
Coach Barry Trotz has noticed an early difference with Burakovsky taking more pucks to the net and driving to high-traffic areas. With more muscle, Trotz says, Burakovsky isn’t being pushed off the puck as easily as he used to be.
Now it’s a matter of rounding out his game and getting used to playing through stretches when the offense dries up.
“When you’re not scoring there are 100 different ways you can contribute and make a positive impact on the game,” Trotz said.
“But sometimes you get away from that because you’re spending so much bad energy going ‘I haven’t scored and I haven’t done this.’ And while you’re thinking about that, you miss two or three things you’re responsible for without the puck. You tend to lose focus of that. But as a player matures, I think he understands he can contribute in other ways.”
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