- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2016

With the recent shuffling of the Washington Capitals’ forward lines, two different players have been forced to shift their styles of play.

One is Andre Burakovsky. The electric 21-year-old initially started the season as a second line right wing. But coach Barry Trotz’s forward changes relocated Burakovsky to the third line left wing spot.

Not many forwards can comfortably switch to a left or right wing. Generally, players that rely more on their size or board play prefer to have their stick lined up along the boards when they skate up the ice, meaning right-handed players on the right and left-handed players on the left.

Burakovsky, though, is a bit different. He’s more of a finesse-type player, relying on speed and his puck-handling skills to beat defenders — and he’s had plenty of experience using those tools on both sides.

As a member of the Erie Otters at the junior level of hockey, Burakovsky often played on the left, and for the most of last season as a Capital, Burakovsky also played as a left wing. So, while he prefers the right wing, he has found ways to generate offense on both sides.

“I’m kind of used to the left side spot, but I think the right side is a little more me,” Burakovsky said. “I like it a little bit better. But it’s OK, I like both sides, it doesn’t really matter where I’m playing.”

“I like to create offense from the right side, like cut right to left and things like that,” Burakovsky continued. “But obviously when I’m left side I can come over to right side a little bit too and create on that side. It doesn’t really matter. I’m trying to just, wherever I am on the ice, trying to create something all the time and be dangerous, so left, right, doesn’t really matter to me.”

Burakovsky is joined by Tom Wilson, who went from a battering ram of a fourth line forward, generally more of a defensive-minded role, to a second-line wing position. Now, Wilson has more offensive responsibility, and he’s had to adapt to his new job.

Over the last three seasons, Wilson compiled 486 penalty minutes, more than any other player in the NHL. But, so far this season, he has just 10 total minutes.

Part of the reason behind the decline is playing with skilled guys like Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Wilson no longer has a need to drop the gloves to create a spark, he has an opportunity to do so with his stick. Now Wilson asks himself why he would want to fight someone only to sit in the penalty box for five minutes while his linemates skate with someone else.

“You want to kind of keep the lines intact when you can,” Wilson said. “You don’t want to be messing things up going to the box. The league is such a power play league these days that when you put your team down, it’s never a good thing.”

“For me, I don’t want to be sitting in the box for five minutes when I could be out there with Kuzy [Kuznetsov] and Jojo [Johansson] and helping contribute to the team offense and team win,” Wilson continued. “When [fights] need to happen, it’ll happen, other than that, I’m going to try to stay out of there as much as possible.”

The changes in lines allows two young Capitals to modify and grow their games. One will find more and more ways to be more creative and the other will learn to maintain his temper and focus more on his offensive game.

 

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