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Capitals expect Oshie to flourish on Ovechkin line

by Katie Brown

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Washington Capitals are confident forward T.J. Oshie will bring more than his shootout skills to the table this season.

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said playing Oshie on a line with captain Alex Ovechkin will open up more scoring opportunities for Oshie than ever before. And coming from the Western Conference, Oshie has the advantage of being unfamiliar to Eastern Conference opponents.

"Playing with a megastar like [Ovechkin], he's not going to get as much attention as he did in St. Louis because everyone's worried about [Ovechkin], so he may have a little more room on that side," Trotz said. "Teams will go stand by [Ovechkin] and that's OK, it just means Oshie's open."

With the St. Louis Blues last season, Oshie primarily played with David Backes and Alexander Steen, and was a regular part of the power play and penalty kill. Oshie has reached 20 goals once in his NHL career, when he scored 21 and had 60 points in 2013-14.

Last season, Oshie scored 19 goals and had 55 points, with three power-play goals. Trotz said he sees that goal number going up this season, especially if Oshie is playing with Ovechkin and getting power-play minutes.

"I think there's probably a little more of a ceiling," Trotz said. "Our power play has produced at a higher level than St. Louis'. If you look at the goals scored, ours has been higher probably the past couple years."

The gap between Washington and St. Louis in power-play goals over the past few seasons is notable but not enormous: The Capitals have scored 128 power-play goals over the past two seasons to 112 by the Blues.

Washington's power play was first in the NHL last season (25.3 percent), and St. Louis was fourth (22.3 percent).

Oshie finds himself a little in awe of playing on the same line with Ovechkin after years of playing against him. They've had plenty of time to acclimate to one another during the preseason.

"He's actually a really unselfish player, which I think outside looking in, you don't really see that, but multiple times he's had to tell me to shoot the puck more often," Oshie said. "It's been great playing with him so far."

Playing opposite Ovechkin in the NHL and internationally over the years may have provided Oshie with rare insight by having an outside perspective on how teams have to adjust to cover Ovechkin and having had to do it himself.

"Just from playing against him, you always have to know where he is on the ice, and you look at some teams, they have to switch up their entire penalty kill just so they can cover him," Oshie said. "It opens up a lot of space for other players, and it's nice to be on the ice with him and get a little extra room."

Oshie was known for years in St. Louis as a shootout specialist but rose to prominence during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when he helped the United States defeat Russia 3-2 with an exceptional performance in the shootout.

Taking advantage of international rules, U.S. coach Dan Bylsma chose Oshie to shoot over and over again, and Oshie scored on four of his six attempts.

Although the new 3-on-3 overtime format this season is designed to cut down on the number of NHL games going to a shootout, Trotz said he is confident Oshie's prowess will come in handy.

"We'll take our chances in the shootout," Trotz said.

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