- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2019

This Thanksgiving, Travis Boyd is surely grateful to be on an extended run with the Washington Capitals.

The 26-year-old forward has shuttled back and forth between Washington and Hershey, Pennsylvania, so far splitting the season almost half-and-half between the NHL and the Capitals‘ minor-league affiliate. Everywhere the organization has asked him to go — on the Capitals‘ fourth line, on their third line or down to the Bears — Boyd has produced.

Boyd was assigned to Hershey to start the season, and almost immediately he won AHL Player of the Week honors for the week of Oct. 7 by racking up four goals and two assists in two games. Since then he’s been recalled by Washington, reassigned to Hershey and recalled again.

“Obviously some of it’s completely out of my hands, and I have nothing to do with the business side of it,” Boyd said last week. “When I get a chance to play, just like tonight, I just try to take advantage of it in whatever way possible. Make sure you’re detailed in the defensive zone, and if you get a chance to make a play offensively, go out there and try to make a play.”

Boyd said that after the Capitals‘ morning skate Nov. 18, before they played the Anaheim Ducks. With injuries elsewhere in the bottom six, coach Todd Reirden moved Boyd up from the fourth line to the third. What happened next? Reirden started the third line against the Ducks and Boyd recorded the primary assist for a Richard Panik goal on the first shift of the game.

In his limited NHL opportunities, he’s packed in plenty of production. That assist brought Boyd to six points on the year (one goal, five assists). Because he’s had limited ice time as a bottom-six forward, Boyd is scoring at a rate of 3.69 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five, according to the site Corsica Hockey.

Through Tuesday, that ranked third in the entire league among players who’ve seen at least 10 games, trailing only big-time scorers Brad Marchand and Leon Draisaitl.

To Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan, Boyd has proven he’s taken his game up a notch.

“He’s better than he was last year in my mind,” MacLellan said. “Offensive zone, he’s controlled the play a little bit better. I think he’s always been pretty good in the offensive zone, but he’s winning more battles, he’s creating off the cycle.”

In turn, Boyd has earned himself more responsibility. The Garnet Hathaway spitting incident and subsequent suspension extended Boyd’s stay on Washington’s third line. And with Nicklas Backstrom coping with an upper-body injury that’s now forced him to miss three games, Boyd is playing on the No. 2 power-play unit because Lars Eller has had to fill in for Backstrom on the top unit.

The mental toll of not knowing where he’ll go next hasn’t slowed Boyd down.

“It’s been a tough year so far, definitely, but (I) try not to think about it,” Boyd said. “That’s the part of this that’s out of your hands. My focus has been every game I’ve had a chance to play this year, just try and go out there and play well and make it a tough decision for them whether to send me back down or not.”

That tough decision is coming soon for Reirden and MacLellan. The final game of Hathaway’s suspension is Wednesday and he’s expected to draw back into the lineup for Friday’s game against the Lightning. Carl Hagelin can be activated from long-term injured reserve and play next Tuesday.

Reirden didn’t speculate on how the bottom six returning to normal would influence Boyd’s role with the team.

“We’ll see where things go from there,” Reirden said. “He’s gotten an opportunity a couple of games there in that spot and (we’ll) continue to evaluate here as we get to hopefully a healthy, unsuspended roster.”

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