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“It’s nice to see someone who doesn’t rely totally on hockey for their life,” Holtby said. “You know he’s got it together pretty well. And that’s part of the reason why he’s here is because he has a very level head on himself, but he’s very confident at the same time. That’s usually a recipe for success.”

A proud surprise

The Caps are 19-8-1 since bringing in Oleksy and his physical style. Stapleton joked that his former player was the reason for the turnaround, while pointing out that having Alex Ovechkin didn’t hurt.

Oleksy has only three fights with the Caps after 11 in the AHL, but his stable play helped him pass Tomas Kundratek on the depth chart and hold onto his spot in the lineup.

“He keeps it simple,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “If he doesn’t know where the play is or if somebody’s open or if no one’s open for him, he just throws it off the glass and out or he’s pretty good at buying himself time. … He’s tough. He’s just a smart player.”

No one can question Oleksy’s toughness on the ice, nor his smarts in hockey or the real world. But that doesn’t always equate to playing in the NHL. Yet Oleksy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon; Oates likes balance on defense and a guy who doesn’t make many noticeable mistakes.

In the store at the Caps’ practice facility now hang jersey T-shirts with his name and number: “Oleksy 61.” When his father came to town last week, he needed something to wear to the game; Steve Oleksy had the T-shirt waiting as a surprise.

“I walked into the apartment and he had it sitting on the bed with his name on it,” Andy Oleksy said. “I was pretty proud of that.”

And proud of his son’s perseverance to make it to this point.

“It’s been a crazy route,” Steve Oleksy said. “When I first heard about this, I just kind of looked back and said, ‘Man, it’s been wild.’ But I think it’s just beginning.”