Entering a home-road back-to-back before Christmas break, the Washington Capitals recalled center Andre Burakovsky and left winger Aaron Volpatti from their American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey.
For Burakovsky, a 19-year-old rookie, his reassignment to the Bears offered a chance to finally log heavy minutes. Coach Barry Trotz had scratched him for five of six games and, during the nights Burakovsky did play, consistently reduced his ice time to less than 12 minutes.
“It was great to be back on the ice and play a couple minutes,” Burakovsky said. “It was really fun to be back and I’m just enjoying every single minute I had out there…I was just down there to play a couple minutes and feel the ice again, feel how it is to play a game again, and it felt good. Now I’m back here. Now I’m going to be ready for my next game up here and focus on that one.”
Monday morning, Trotz indicated Burakovsky, still Washington’s leader with 2.07 points per 60 minutes, would return to the lineup either at home against Ottawa or Tuesday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers, most likely the latter.
“He went down there and he hit a lot of posts, was hoping he’d whack in a hat trick and feel really good,” Trotz said. “He didn’t, but we’re going to get him in either today or tomorrow. Probably tomorrow.”
According to Trotz, Hershey’s coaching staff reported to him that Burakovsky was “probably the best player on the ice” during Friday’s loss at Lehigh Valley. Both games, Burakovsky centered a line with Liam O’Brien and Stanislav Galiev.
“Second night,” Trotz said “probably not as dominant, not a lot of players who play that give-and-go, high-skill game that Andre plays down there, so I think he played a little more one on one the second game. Still quite good, but not as good as the first game.”
Saturday at home, making his Giant Center debut, Burakovsky also experienced the AHL’s new overtime format, which moves from four-on-four to three-on-three before the shootout.
“Was kind of tired at the end,” he said, “but got a lot of ice time and it was really cool to play. It was a new rule I’ve never tried before. That was cool.”
According to a team news release, Volpatti will not yet be activated from long-term injured reserve, where he has remained since the preseason after undergoing neck fusion surgery. He was initially reassigned to Hershey under the collective bargaining agreement’s terms for a conditioning loan, which cannot exceed “the longer of six days and three games, solely for the purpose of determining whether the player is fit to play.”
Burakovsky skated both ends of Hershey’s back-to-back Friday and Saturday, while Volpatti logged three with the Bears over two weekends. Neither registered a point. With Burakovsky back, the Capitals have an extra forward for Monday’s meeting with the Ottawa Senators, and neither he nor Volpatti took line rushes with the Capitals. That would indicate Trotz maintaining the status quo with his lines, deploying Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Eric Fehr and Michael Latta as the four centers.