- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Travis Boyd’s first career point made an impression. In Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Capitals center created just enough space with a spinning backhand to find Alex Ovechkin for a goal.

The perfectly timed move was a dazzling highlight to an otherwise losing Capitals effort.

“Not only the pass, but (it was) just super cool at the end of the day to say my first point was to Ovechkin,” Boyd said. “One of the greatest players to ever play the game. What are the chances that would happen?”

While Boyd has a nice story to tell the grandkids, for now the 24-year-old is focused on helping the Capitals survive without Evgeny Kuznetsov. Boyd has played in just five NHL games, but has seen more playing time after Kuznetsov left Friday’s game with an upper-body injury.

Boyd was called up shortly after the trade deadline, when rosters can expand past the 23-man limit as long as they stay under the salary cap. He also had a brief stint with the Capitals in December.

The Capitals promoted Boyd after two full productive seasons in the American Hockey League. This season, through 56 games with the Hershey Bears, Boyd already had 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists).

With Kuznetsov’s injury, Capitals coach Barry Trotz didn’t hesitate to pair Boyd on the first line with Ovechkin and Tom Wilson.

“I don’t think he’s overwhelmed,” Trotz said. “I think he’s got good instincts, good hockey IQ. … I wasn’t too reluctant to put him with guys like Ovi and Tom right off the bat. It was less disruptive.”

The experience has been helpful for Boyd, who said he enjoyed getting to play against the Flyers’ top line and defensive pairing. He also picked up on how the game shifts when Ovechkin is on the ice.

As soon as they hopped over the boards, Boyd said, the Flyers would immediately change for their preferred matchup. And any moment Ovechkin was open, Boyd noticed how Philadelphia would send two or three defenders to try and close the gap.

Offensively, Boyd learned quickly on how to play with Ovechkin.

“Just get him the puck as much as possible and usually it has a good chance of going in if it’s on his stick,” Boyd said.

Still, the Capitals are feeling Kuznetsov’s absence. Trotz said Kuznetsov is able to break down coverages and draw attention to himself, and those elements were missing from the Capitals’ offense.

Kuznetsov was injured when he was slashed during Friday’s game against the New York Islanders. The Russian was seen grabbing his arm as he crashed into the boards. He did not return, and missed Sunday’s game.

The Capitals, though, seem to have avoided a disaster. Kuznetsov is “day-to-day” and has skated on his own the previous two days. Trotz said Kuznetsov will make the trip for Thursday’s game in Detroit.

In the meantime, Trotz tweaked his lines for Tuesday’s matchup against the Dallas Stars. Boyd was moved down to the third line, where he was paired with Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly.

“Just coming up here, when you do get into a role like I was in [Sunday], you’ve just gotta stay confident and trust yourself to make plays,” Boyd said. “You’ve gotta believe you’re able to make plays up here and obviously seeing one go in [Sunday] was good for my confidence.”

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