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Capitals power play hoping to get back on track

by Adam Vingan

WASHINGTON -- Special-teams success tends to fluctuate in the NH. Hot streaks and dry spells are impossible to predict.

To that end, the Washington Capitals' power play is currently experiencing a drought. Despite ranking fifth in the League at 22.9 percent entering the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day, Washington scored six goals on 43 opportunities in December.

"I think we could just work a little bit harder," defenseman John Carlson said. "At certain times, you just expect to do great things out there and it just doesn't happen. Teams are killing us well; they're working really hard.

"Sometimes you maybe get a little bit of a false sense of security when you've got an extra guy, but it doesn't work like that. You can't do that."

With a power play as historically effective as Washington's, which has finished first or second in power-play efficiency in four of the past six seasons, opposing teams understandably tailor their game plans to shutting it down.

"Our power play's been number one in the League for the last three years on and off, so that's a statistic that other teams look at," forward Troy Brouwer said. "They're going to come in, they're going to have their best effort on their PK against us."

As for what went wrong in December, forward Nicklas Backstrom identified poorly executed breakouts and zone entries, which have not allowed the Capitals to sustain pressure in the offensive zone.

"Teams have been doing a good job jamming us up at the line a little bit," Brouwer said. "We've got to find ways to break through with the puck. We're a team that doesn't want to dump the puck on the PP if we don't have to. We have to understand when it is necessary to dump it in, then we've got to work on our recoveries."

Washington fired 63.4 shots per 60 minutes on the power play this month, according to Combining October and November, the Capitals led the NHL with 68.1.

"When you're getting one chance and it's out of the zone, it's tough to get momentum, it's tough to get confidence and feel good about it when you don't sustain anything," Carlson said.

Though the lack of production was unwelcome, coach Barry Trotz was pleased that Washington was able to compile an 8-2-3 record in December without having to rely on its biggest weapon.

The Capitals will attempt to get their power play back on track Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks, who have the League's best penalty kill at 90.5 percent.

"We've sputtered as of late," Brouwer said. "But we're too good of a group out there that the goals are going to start coming."

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