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Stanislav Galiev makes opening day roster after drawing earlier criticism

(AP Photo/Nick Wass).
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When Stanislav Galiev saw he wasn’t in the lineup for Sunday’s preseason finale, he thought his time with the Washington Capitals was finished and another season in the American Hockey League awaited. It wasn’t an unreasonable conclusion, as every other bubble player who didn’t play was cut the next morning.

But Galiev was told after the game that he would be on the opening day playing roster, giving the skilled 23-year-old Russian winger more time to make an impression.

“It was kind of a shock,” Galiev said. “But I was excited.”

Galiev appeared to face longer odds to nab one of the coveted depth forward spots. Unlike Sean Collins and Liam O’Brien, also jockeying to make the NHL roster, he likely would play on the top line in Hershey, which the Capitals could view as more valuable experience than getting fourth-line minutes in the NHL.

Galiev led the Washington affiliate with 25 goals last season, and he was first in the AHL with 15 goals on the power play, earning an early April promotion to the Capitals and scoring in his NHL debut. But when Capitals Coach Barry Trotz was asked about Galiev in training camp, he was blunt.

“There’s no question: He hasn’t stood out right now at all to me,” Trotz said before Washington’s exhibition game at Carolina. “He’s got to play better. … We’re pretty well out of time. We’ll make a decision on him very shortly.”

Whether or not Trotz wanted it to have a motivating effect, it did. Galiev had his best game that night, scoring a goal in the 4-3 shootout loss.

“I knew it was kind of the bell for me,” Galiev said. “It would probably be my last chance, and if I didn’t play well, I would probably end up in Hershey. I kind of became angry with myself before the game.”

Said Trotz: “I wanted to see more. I was very straightforward. It wasn’t calling out a player. I just said I need to see more from him, and he delivered. It was a good wake-up call for him. … I think we saw the best of Galiev.”

How long Galiev will be with the Capitals is unclear, though he would have to clear waivers to be reassigned to Hershey. With top-line center Nicklas Backstrom (hip) out for potentially the first four or five games of the regular season and Chris Brown (hand) out for two to six weeks, Washington is carrying extra forwards. To have the 22-man active roster the Capitals desire, two forwards – likely some combination of Galiev, Brown and Collins – will be in Hershey when everyone’s healthy.

“I think we need more time with Stan,” General Manager Brian MacLellan said. “He had one good game at the end of preseason. He didn’t get much accomplished in the first couple games, but we need more time to evaluate where he’s at going forward.”