As the Capitals forwards zipped around the ice Friday morning, Andre Burakovsky leaned against the glass and watched.
Burakovsky turned 23 Friday, but was the Capitals’ odd forward out during the team’s morning skate, indicating he will be a healthy scratch when they face the Columbus Blue Jackets (27-22-4) at Capital One Arena at 7 p.m. Capitals Coach Barry Trotz will sit Burakovsky for the fourth time in the last 15 games, all part of a disappointing season for the forward. He also missed two other games due to illness in that stretch, which comes after missing 22 games in the first half of the season after surgery for a broken thumb.
Burakovsky, who signed a two-year, $6 million contract in the summer, has four goals and seven assists in 28 games this season.
“It definitely has not been easy. This is not really what I was expecting of this year at all,” Burakovsy said after the Capitals practiced Thursday. “I mean we still have the most important part left of the season, so just going to get ready for the playoffs and help the team as much as I can.”
In recent weeks, Burakovsky has bounced around Trotz’s lines, going from the bench to the fourth line, up to the second line with Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, and then down to the third line with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly in a 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday. But Burakovsy played just 6:34 in the Blue Jackets’ win and did not touch the ice in the third period.
Trotz has constantly talked about the competition for ice time among his bottom-six forwards. That includes Jakub Vrana, Alex Chiasson, Devante Smith-Pelly and Chandler Stephenson. Burakovsky’s participation level was similar during Thursday’s practice, as he rotated on just a few rushes and stayed on the bench as the Capitals worked on their power play. Trotz has expressed the need to send messages to Burakovsky and the 21-year-old Vrana when their play lags, and Burakovsky is again receiving that treatment from his coach.
“We know Andre, we’ve all seen that he’s a good player,” Trotz said Thursday. “We’ve seen it in the past, he was good in the playoffs, all that. He just hasn’t found his game right now, and some of the decisions he was making I’m just sort of trying to get his attention a little bit.
“I think Andre is going to be a guy we need down the stretch, and we’ve seen it. I need him. We need him. He just needs to find his game within our game a little bit, and it’s been a struggle for him this year for the most part. He really hasn’t gotten a lot of traction. But at the same time he hasn’t found his game.”
With Burakovsky a healthy scratch again, here is what the Capitals’ lineup looked like during the morning skate:
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana-Evgeny Kuznetsov-T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly-Lars Eller-Alex Chiasson
Chandler Stephenson-Jay Beagle-Devante Smith-Pelly
Healthy scratch: Andre Burakovsky
Christian Djoos-John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Madison Bowey
Healthy scratch: Taylor Chorney
Braden Holtby (starter)
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Staff writer Samantha Pell contributed to this report