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Merit matters for Capitals as Adam Oates keeps shuffling
Call that a smart hunch by coach Adam Oates that resulted in a Hendricks goal, but it’s not an isolated incident. Oates made it well-known to his players when he arrived that the Caps were a team of opportunity.
“He’s an honest coach. He said that from Day One that hard work’s going to pay off around here,” Hendricks said. “Do the systems correctly, work hard at what you do and you’ll be rewarded.”
Spots in the lineup aren’t etched in stone. Far from it.
That’s how Hendricks was able to earn a spot on the second line for Thursday night’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. That’s how Wojtek Wolski replaced Marcus Johansson on the top line. And that’s how Mathieu Perreault has a chance to thrive even after he expressed unhappiness over a lack of ice time.
Oates knows Ovechkin is a first-line talent and that Backstrom and Mike Ribeiro will be his top two centers when they’re both healthy. So he’s not going to shake up the lineup just for the sake of it.
But the first-year NHL head coach has shown early on that he fosters competition by the way he rewards players based on performance.
“Every player should want that,” he said. “Every player should want to improve and want more minutes. That’s your job.”
Oates said any professional athlete should want that, “always want a little more.”
Getting bumped up to the second line shortly after that will likely only fire Hendricks up more. The 30-year-old grinder can’t help but love the competition.
“I think it’s important. I think it’s important because that’s what we work for, that’s what players want,” he said. “You’re competitive against your opponents every day, but you’re competitive in your own right as well where you want to perform, you want to get more ice time, more opportunity.”
Wolski, who earned a shot playing on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom, signed in Washington because of opportunity. The left wing made $4 million last season; his pro-rated salary for 2013 is $600,000.
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About the Author
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