The Washington Capitals finished last season with the 10th-best power play proficiency in the NHL - and this season they could be even better.
Buoyed by the return of Chris Clark and Michael Nylander, plus a return to full health for Tom Poti, the Caps now can deploy two equally potent extra-man units.
“We could have two No. 1 units - 1 and 1A I guess,” Clark said. “Some teams definitely don’t have that luxury.”
A lack of traffic in front of the net bogged the power play down last season. Brooks Laich developed into a player who would score the “dirty” goals, but Clark’s return gives the team two players who can do the job.
Nylander’s vision and ability to find the open man in space could lead to plenty of easy one-timers for his teammates. Last season, Poti’s shoulder injury limited his ability to play as the power-play quarterback the team expected him to be when it signed him as a free agent.
Poti had six goals and 32 points on the power play in 2006-07 with the New York Islanders. He had no goals and eight extra-man points last year.
“I feel a hundred times better now with my shoulder,” Poti said. “I can shoot and make the passes that I want. Hopefully I can help out there and contribute more.”
Sorting out who plays on which unit and where is a forthcoming task for coach Bruce Boudreau. He has nine players to choose from for six forward spots, while Alex Ovechkin and Sergei Fedorov are also likely to see time on one of the two points with Mike Green and Poti.
Boudreau prefers to have two right-handed shooters with one lefty or vice versa up front. Ovechkin, Clark, Alexander Semin and Kozlov are potential right-handed shooting forwards, while Nylander, Laich, Fedorov, Nicklas Backstrom and Tomas Fleischmann are the lefties.
The coach didn’t commit to any arrangements yet, but said Ovechkin likely will skate with both groups. Ovechkin last season led the NHL with 22 power-play goals playing mostly on the point, but he could score more this season with two potent units.
“I’m not trying not to think about because there is a lot of options there,” Boudreau said. “It is a lot of ‘Holy smokes.’ With our team concept, we have to understand there is only so much ice for somebody. The guys who are playing the best are going to be rewarded.”
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