Preseason games give coaches the opportunities to experiment, try things they wouldn't normally do during the season.
Like, for instance, using a player with zero goals and 105 penalty minutes in 26 NHL games in the fourth round of a shootout.
That's just what Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates did Tuesday against the Philadelphia Flyers, using Joel Rechlicz in the post-overtime tiebreaker. It worked as Rechlicz beat Ray Emery with a backhander for the game-deciding goal.
Rechlicz spent all of last season in the American Hockey League, totaling zero points and 154 penalty minutes in 40 games with the Portland Pirates and Hershey Bears.
In parts of three NHL seasons with the New York Islanders and Capitals, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound right wing has one assist, and it came during the 2008-09 season.
"We were just on the bench there and he [Oates] said, 'You're up,'" Rechlicz told reporters. "I was just kind of in shock there."
Oates said the opportunity he gave Rechlicz was more of a reward for a player who has shown loyalty to his teammates regardless of what team he was on.
"I had my first three guys and I just thought about it because he is one of those guys, he's an unsung hero," Oates said. "All you ever hear about is he's a great guy, he fights for his teammates all the time, he sticks up for everybody all the time …. it's an exhibition game, it's kind of an opportunity to do that.
"There's not a lot of times that you get to thank a guy and, you know, we have faith in him. I go, 'You any good at breakaways?' And he goes, "Oh yeah,' and I go, 'Well, you're up.' And he didn't even bat an eye; it was like he expected it. Even after he scored, it was like, 'no big deal.' Or shock, I'm not sure."
Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr and Andre Burakovsky all were stopped by Emery in the first three rounds, while David Leggio denied Flyers shooters Jason Akeson, Michael Raffl and Vincent Lecavalier. When Philadelphia's fourth shooter, Petr Straka, had his chance stopped, Rechlicz had his shot to be the hero.
He skated in on Emery, carrying the puck on his backhand. He took a few strides toward the middle of the ice, then pulled the puck back and lifted a backhander past Emery.
"I just got lucky," Rechlicz said. "I just had a little confidence and I just got lucky."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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