Four shots on goal in a game is not news for someone like Alex Ovechkin or Alexander Semin, but it was a big deal for Washington Capitals defenseman Milan Jurcina.
That’s how many Jurcina had Monday night against Vancouver in his team’s 5-1 victory. One of those shots beat Roberto Luongo for Jurcina’s first goal in more than a year, but it was his overall improved offensive awareness that was the key.
“I was more open I think,” Jurcina said. “Why not? I am supposed to be defensive defenseman, so I don’t really think much offense. But if there is decent chance there to shoot the puck, why not?”
That’s what members of the Caps organization have been saying for quite some time about Jurcina. Acquired from Boston in February 2007, the 6-foot-4, 233-pound defenseman has shied away from taking shots from the point at times, often just pushing the puck back into the corner for the forwards to chase.
When Jurcina was with the Bruins, he had eight goals in 91 games, but after joining the Caps that number fell to three in 105 contests before this season. Last year he had only one goal - in the team’s home opener against Carolina - and only 58 shots on net in 75 games.
“I don’t know if it is new, but we definitely want him to shoot more,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “He’s got such a hard shot - why waste that ability? If he keeps shooting, he’s going to score goals.”
Through three games this season, Jurcina already has eight shots on goal and nine attempts - a much higher average than the past two seasons. Jurcina always has been capable in his own end, but having young skilled players like Karl Alzner and Sami Lepisto around in training camp might have helped him embrace a more offensive approach.
“All these guys are smart enough guys to see there are people pushing them from Hershey,” Boudreau said. “They’ve got some good players down there. Also the maturation of a defenseman takes longer than it does for a forward. Every year they play in this league that they play regularly, they get better.”
Another factor in Jurcina’s big night against the Canucks may have been his defense partner. Boudreau decided to move center Sergei Fedorov to the blue line and paired him with Jurcina.
The duo appeared to work well together. They combined to be plus-5 and put eight shots on goal, and some of that extra room Jurcina had to shoot probably came from Fedorov commanding extra attention.
“What can I say? I make him feel more comfortable,” Fedorov said with a laugh. “And I was comfortable playing with him.”
Added Jurcina: “It was great. Lots of people were asking me about it after. He is so calm with the puck. He is so experienced he could play anywhere - probably goalie too. He is a great guy, so calm and a lot of talk on the ice. You can see he is really experienced.”
Note - Right wing Viktor Kozlov could miss two weeks after leaving the game against the Canucks in the second period, general manager George McPhee said. There was no official word on the injury, but he was favoring his left leg as he left the ice. Eric Fehr likely would replace him on the active roster, while Chris Clark took his place on the top line at practice Tuesday.