Newly acquired Caps defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk will don his No. 22 sweater for the home folks for the first time tonight against the Devils. Shattenkirk made his Caps debut on Tuesday night in New York against the Rangers, doing so less than 24 hours after the trade was made to bring him here from St. Louis, and doing so without the benefit of a practice or a morning skate.
Since then, Shattenkirk has been able to catch up on his sleep and he has been able to partake in a full practice with his new teammates. He and Ovechkin devoted some time at Wednesday's practice to working on their power play chemistry together.
Video: Shattenkirk after first practice in D.C.
Shattenkirk, one of the league's most prolific power play point producers over the last several seasons, will be tasked with the responsibility of trying to put the puck right in Ovechkin's wheelhouse so the Caps' captain can continue pounding one-timers from his office at the left dot when Washington is a man to the good.
"Something they told me before the [Rangers] game is that you really have to be able to sell that shot," notes Shattenkirk, "just to get him that extra half a second. I think to see it firsthand, everyone is just loaded up for that shot defensively. That will be the thing that I'll have to work with is selling my shot a little more, and even taking more shots to get guys to maybe hold that lane a little more and open him up."
Selling his own shot shouldn't be too difficult. Since the end of the lockout that wiped out half of the 2012-13 season, only two NHL defensemen - Shea Weber (45) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (37) - have scored more power-play goals than Shattenkirk (26). Shattenkirk has seven extra-man tallies this season, tied for second in the league among defensemen behind only Weber (11).
Video: MacLellan talks Shattenkirk, 2017 NHL Trade Deadline
With 20 games left this season, the next task is for Shattenkirk to learn exactly where and how Ovechkin likes to receive the puck, and to work on putting it right in that wheelhouse.
"The thing that [Ovechkin] really conveyed to me is, 'Don't feel that you have to get it over to me every time,'" relays Shattenkirk. "That was important. Watching these guys for so long, you think that it's all 'Just get it to Ovi, get it to Ovi.' But there are a lot of other little plays that they make to open him up in the long term.
"[Wednesday] after practice, we took a couple of reps together just by ourselves and just worked on finding that sweet spot. I think it will come with repetition."
Ovechkin and Shattenkirk are far from the only weapons Washington boasts on its first power play unit. Marcus Johansson us unparalleled at gaining the zone on the rush with the extra man, and Oshie is a serious threat from the diamond when healthy. But Nicklas Backstrom is as good a half wall distributor as there is in the game, and he is the engine that makes it all work.
Since he entered the league in 2007-08, Backstrom has accumulated 239 power-play assists, the most in the NHL and 31 more than any other skater.
"I think my success on the power play these last few years has come from making the simple pass and really making it on the mark," says Shattenkirk. "That's something that was always stressed to me. When you go forehand to forehand, that's when you really start to have better looks and things look fast. A lot of my points on the power play have just been simple plays.
"Nick is a wizard out there with the things he does with the puck. If he is giving me a pass and I have a lane to shoot, I'll have to take it. That will be the biggest adjustment for me, is taking a few more shots. And hopefully that opens up [Ovechkin] on the other side."
With so much talent on one power play, the important thing for all five guys to remember is to shoot the puck. Sometimes, when there is so much talent on the ice simultaneously, there is a tendency to defer, defer, defer, and to try to set up the "other" guy for a pretty goal. The Caps have to guard against that mentality.
Video: Coach Trotz after Wednesday's practice
"We're all going to have to be a little bit selfish," says Trotz. "I want Backy to shoot more. If Osh is available, we're going to use him. Low walks, obviously the shot from the top, and the shot from Ovi. Just try to make the right balance there, and let's not be too predictable.
"We're going to have to be a little unpredictable there in terms of that. Everybody has to be unselfish and everybody has to be selfish at the same time."