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Andre Burakovsky could be back in Capitals’ lineup against Flyers

Capitals left wing Andre Burakovsky has been out of the line up for the last three games. (Molly Riley/Associated Press)

Capitals Coach Barry Trotz assigned Andre Burakovsky to a line during Monday’s practice rather than have him skate as a scratch, curious to see how the winger would practice after being out of the lineup for three straight games. He might have seen enough to play him Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Flyers.

“What I liked there is that he was sniping today,” Trotz said. “Instead of just getting his shot on net, every time he was shooting, he was trying to score. That’s what he does. Getting his shot off quickly, his release is really good. I have him playing the left side. I think probably the right side might help him a little more naturally, get that shot locked and loaded. But we’ve got a lot of right wingers right now, so he may have to start [on the left], and we’ll see if we can get him over there.”

Capitals face tough lineup decisions this season

With Burakovsky in a scoring slump to start the season, Trotz scratched him for the first time this year for Washington’s Dec. 13 game against the New York Islanders, and Burakovsky hasn’t played since. The decision was intended to serve as a sort of fresh start for Burakovsky, allowing him to clear his head for a week. After he scored two goals on opening night, Burakovsky has been in a 26-game drought, and he was without a point in seven games before being yanked from the lineup.

These sort of slumps have plagued the 21-year-old Swede’s young career, as he went 25 straight games without a goal last season, too, similarly scratched for a handful of games before responding with a strong finish to a season that ended with 17 goals. Through 27 games this season, Burakovsky has 10 points. Through 27 games last season, he had two goals and five assists.

“If he gets in the lineup, hopefully he’ll come and be assertive, reset and go from there,” Trotz said. “Actually, you look at his points last year at the same pace, how many did he have? He had seven. He’s traditionally been a slow starter for us, so we’ve got to figure that out for next year. But then he got hot after that, so we’re hoping the same thing will happen this year.”

Before the Capitals’ game in Raleigh on Friday, Burakovsky admitted that the lack of production had started to weigh on him, especially with him being a restricted free agent this summer. After starting the season on the second power play unit, he was replaced by rookie Jakub Vrana.

“When you’ve gotten in your head, it’s really tough to get out of it,” Burakovsky said Friday. “But the only thing that’s been in my head is that I’ve not been able to score and have the points that I’m supposed to have, what everyone is expecting.”

He said watching the games he hasn’t played in has been helpful for him, especially observing the decision-making of players like Nicklas Backstrom and Justin Williams. He said in some situations he has a tendency to carry the puck when he should chip it down instead.

Capitals’ Justin Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov help each other out of early-season slumps

Burakovsky skated on the left side of a line with center Lars Eller and Vrana. Trotz said that’s the one forward group on the team that’s still in flux and is lacking some role definition as well as production. Against the Flyers, Burakovsky could have an opportunity to show he belongs there.

“When we have a conversation, I think it’s fine,” Trotz said. “Away from the rink, I can’t tell you because I’m not with him. I think for the most part, he understands. He’s just trying to figure it out himself. Why has he had these long slumps where he hasn’t been able to produce? That type of thing. That’s part of the growing process for him. So, hopefully, just finding a little key to that might be a little preparation during the year or the summer. I think he works hard, and I think he puts all of the time in, but maybe it’s not putting all your thoughts into production or whatever, whatever’s holding it back. Maybe we find that key and then he goes from there.

“He’s 21 years old. I mean, they all have to find their way a little bit, and he will.”