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Kevin Shattenkirk finding his way with Capitals

Recently acquired defenseman getting used to new teammates, systems

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Kevin Shattenkirk was looking forward to having Sunday off.

The 28-year-old defenseman said he needed a day "to really just decompress" after a crazy week that began with him being traded to the Washington Capitals by the St. Louis Blues late Monday.

After playing three games with his new team in the five days that followed the trade -- all victories by the Capitals -- Shattenkirk is beginning to find his way. He picked up his first point as a Capital with an assist on Nicklas Backstrom's power-play overtime goal in a 2-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center on Saturday.

Video: PHI@WSH: Backstrom snipes game-winning PPG in OT

But after seven seasons in St. Louis, Shattenkirk isn't completely comfortable, yet. Staying in a hotel while searching for an apartment, he's had to get used to living in a new area along with different systems and teammates. Even remembering the secret handshake he used to have with forward T.J. Oshie when they played together on the Blues took some time.

"We were in the locker room each period trying to figure out what we used to do years ago, but we finally got it down pat," Shattenkirk said.

With more games and repetitions, his play on the ice will go back to feeling natural as well.

"I think I'm forcing it a little too much, and that was something to be expected a little bit, but it's a matter of me just calming down," Shattenkirk said. "I think there's been a little too much panic in my game in all areas of the ice."

It's been most evident when he's played the point on the Capitals' star-filled power play. Shattenkirk has 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists) on the power play this season, and his skill in man-advantage situations is one of the reasons the Capitals wanted him.

But at times it's appeared as if he's been trying too hard to get the puck to Alex Ovechkin.

Video: Williams on fight with Cousins, Shattenkirk on Caps

The tendency to want to get the puck to Ovechkin is understandable. He's scored 207 power-play goals in his career, most of them from his favorite spot in the left circle.

Shattenkirk is learning that when opponents are taking away that option, it's better to shoot the puck or pass it to Backstrom on the right half wall, which will help Ovechkin get open for the next opportunity.

"I have to realize that I have to take control of it a little bit more and maybe take some shots from my position," Shattenkirk said. "Especially there in the overtime, I took that shot that went wide, but it's more a matter of getting guys to worry about [his shot] and have to play for it. I think once that gets going, I can start to find Ovi on the other side a little bit more and open up some more space for Nick."

Coach Barry Trotz said it's a matter of Shattenkirk relaxing and getting used to the positioning the Capitals use on their power play.

"He's done something instinctively for so long and now we're asking him to do something a little bit different," Trotz said. "So we'll be patient with him. He's got a real good hockey IQ. He can pass the puck extremely well. He gets pucks to the net when there's lanes. So that will come."

As Trotz noted, Shattenkirk has 18 regular-season games left to get in sync with what the Capitals do so that he's playing on instinct when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.

"He's so smart too," Backstrom said. "I'm so impressed by him the first couple of games and he's moving the puck so well, so it will be good. Obviously, when all five men are going on the power play, we're going to get better and we're going to click."

Shattenkirk said he's been able to settle in as games have progressed. The Capitals had a total of one shot on their three power plays in regulation against the Flyers. But they were able to work the puck around a little better on the 4-on-3 power play in overtime. After putting a pass in Ovechkin's skates and missing the net with a shot earlier in the man advantage, Shattenkirk passed to Backstrom in the right circle. Backstrom curled toward the net from there and fired a shot through Oshie's screen that beat goaltender Steve Mason to the short side.

"I think the best part about that overtime there was it was a chance for me just kind of go play and forget about worrying about systems and the rest of it," Shattenkirk said. "And that's what I just have to do mentally for myself."

Video: Friedman talks Shattenkirk trade with NHL Tonight

In the locker room, Shattenkirk has felt at ease after one old grudge was addressed. Before his first practice with the Capitals on Wednesday, a team meeting featured a video clip of his fight with Justin Williams, who was on the Los Angeles Kings at the time, during the 2014-15 season.

Since then, it's become a laughing matter. So when Nick Cousins went after Shattenkirk for delivering a big hit on Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning 1:55 into the game on Saturday, Williams was the first to step in and stand up for his new teammate.

"It was amazing," Shattenkirk said. "For me to only be here for a few days so far and to come out there in an emotional game like this against a big rival for these guys and now for me, it was a great start. And for him to stick up for me, especially with our little tussle that we had a few years ago, that's the type of guy he is.

"That's why he's been in this league for so long, because he's such a great teammate. I hope he knows that I would do the same for him."

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