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Wednesday Night Rivalry

Jay Beagle continuing to grow his game for Capitals

Center increases scoring, dependable on penalty kill, faceoffs

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / Staff Writer

When Barry Trotz took over as the Washington Capitals coach May 26, 2014, the scouting report on center Jay Beagle was that he was reliable defensively but couldn't score.

They're not saying that anymore.

Heading into the Capitals' Wednesday Night Rivalry game against the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SNE, SNO, TVA Sports, NHL.TV), Beagle, in 49 games, has 10 goals, 10 assists and 20 points, equaling his NHL career highs in all three categories, set in 62 games in 2014-15, his first season under Trotz.

"It's obviously a goal of mine to be better than I was last year," said Beagle, who had 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 57 games last season. "I'm constantly trying to grow as a player and get better, so I've got to continue to keep doing that to stay in the League."

Before Trotz's arrival, Beagle, 31, had never had more than four goals or nine points in a season. Since then, Beagle has spent a lot of time during the summers and before and after practices working on his shot and puck-handling.

"I think it says a lot about Jay Beagle," Trotz said. "He's worked on his game. He works on areas of his game all the time. … He's developed that touch."

Video: WSH@DAL: Beagle finishes Kuznetsov's slick feed in OT

This season, Beagle has played mostly on the Capitals' fourth line with Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson. Although Trotz often matches them against scoring lines, they understand that it's not enough for them simply to come out of a game without being scored against.

They need to score goals too.

"It's something that right from the get-go we wanted to establish that in order to be a successful team, especially in the [Stanley Cup Playoffs]," Beagle said. "You have to have four lines that can score and that can chip in at any time. So we've tried to do that this year. We just have to continue doing that. You can't be satisfied with what we've accomplished already this year."

When a fourth line can contribute offensively without being scored upon, it can give a team a big boost. So it is significant that Beagle's plus-16 dwarfs his previous NHL best (plus-six in 2014-15). Beagle's linemates also are doing their part; Winnik is plus-12 and has 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 40 games, and Wilson is plus-9 with nine points (three goals, six assists) in 50 games.

It has helped that the line has been intact most of this season, Beagle said.

"As a fourth line you don't really see that too often where they're basically the same line for the whole year," he said. "Usually you have guys coming in and out but [Trotz has] left us together and that chemistry goes a long way. It's something we're definitely not taking for granted."

Beagle's scoring hasn't come at the expense of other parts of his game. Hie is second on the Capitals in shorthanded ice time per game (3:00) on the League's fourth-ranked penalty kill (84.7 percent). Among players to take at least 100 faceoffs, he is tied for fifth in the NHL with a 58.7 winning percentage.

Video: WSH@STL: Beagle drives home Winnik's pinpoint feed

"He just is a detailed guy," Trotz said. "I can play him against top lines, he kills penalties. He does a lot of good things. To get 10 goals, that's pretty good, but that says a lot about him and a lot about his line."

Trotz has helped Beagle by using him occasionally in offensive situations. Against the Dallas Stars on Jan. 21, Trotz sent Beagle out to take the opening faceoff of the 3-on-3 overtime and told him to stay on the ice for a full shift. Beagle made the move pay off by scoring 19 seconds into overtime for a 4-3 victory.

When Oshie missed the Capitals' 5-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 26 because of a family matter, Trotz moved Beagle into his spot at right wing on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

"It shows he has confidence in me and that's huge, obviously," Beagle said. "I don't want to take that for granted."

Although Beagle hadn't produced a lot offensively before his arrival, Trotz believed he had the potential to do more if given the chance.

"That's what I told him," Trotz said. "I said, 'I think you can [score] but I don't think you've been given much of an opportunity.'"

It was up to Beagle to earn those opportunities and make the most of them.

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