An hour after the Washington Capitals’ morning skate started, with most of his teammates off the ice and already out of the locker room, Jakub Vrana knelt on the ice to catch his breath.
The 21-year-old forward did a lot of extra work Wednesday morning — firing shots at an empty net, cutting back and forth in a small space, stickhandling along the boards — meaning he will be a healthy scratch when the Capitals take on the Philadelphia Flyers at Capital One Arena at 8 p.m. Wednesday night. It is Vrana’s first healthy scratch since he was out of the lineup against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 16.
He started the season hot, scoring 10 times in his first 32 games, but his production has since tapered off. He has not scored since the Capitals’ win over the Boston Bruins on Dec. 14, and he has just three assists in the 16 games since. His lone point of 2018 is an assist against the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 12. He played a career-low 6:25 in a game against the Flyers before the all-star break and 9:11 before the Capitals’ five-day layoff that leads into Wednesday night’s game.
Capitals Coach Barry Trotz has said he wants Vrana to use his speed to create scoring opportunities, but Vrana has not been able to do so while bouncing around lines the past two months.
“I just think, like I said, I’ve been saying all along I like our group of forwards,” Trotz said Wednesday of why Vrana will sit against the Flyers. “I need him to be a little more involved in our game, a little more impact in our games. He’s got a real high skill level and speed that we can use, but he hasn’t that much on the games probably in the last 10, I think he has maybe one assist, I think last time he scored was in December.
“And I just think his game has fallen off a little bit in the last little while, and other guys have elevated their game, they’ve been out of the lineup or been put in the lineup. A good example is Brett Connolly. He was going to be a healthy scratch and he wasn’t even that playing bad. Our group was going pretty good, and he jumped in there and got hot. Sometimes with a young player, nothing can have more impact than not being able to showcase your talent. He has to understand that there’s 13 forwards and they are going to compete for his ice time, and he’s got to compete for his ice time to get it back. And he will.”
Here is how the Capitals’ lineup is expected to look against the Flyers:
Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson
Andre Burakovsky-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Chandler Stephenson-Lars Eller-Brett Connolly
Alex Chiasson-Jay Beagle-Devante Smith-Pelly
Scratch: Jakub Vrana
Christian Djoos-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Madison Bowey
Scratch: Taylor Chorney
Braden Holtby (starter)
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