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Training Camp

Lars Eller 'really energized' by joining Capitals

Center looking forward to more defined role after trade from Canadiens

by Katie Brown / Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Lars Eller has been in Washington only for a few weeks but has already found a fresh enthusiasm for his NHL career.

"It's new inspiration for me," Eller said after arriving at Washington Capitals training camp last week. "New faces, new everything. I think this change comes at a good time for me, and I'm really excited to get started. I feel really energized."

Eller was acquired by the Capitals from the Montreal Canadiens on June 24 in a trade for a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and 2018 draft.

Eller said he didn't have a defined role in the Canadiens lineup and never really felt comfortable being shuffled around. He won't have that uncertainty in Washington: The Capitals pegged Eller as their third-line center from the start.

And for a team looking to get stronger down the middle, Eller seems like a good solution. He can play both ends of the ice and hopes to bring some offense to a bottom six that lacked consistent scoring last season.

"I think the best teams in the League, to compete for a [Stanley] Cup, you need good depth down the middle, you good need good depth down the lineup," Eller said. "You need to have three, maybe four lines scoring."

Eller's production in Montreal was inconsistent, which may have been caused by a lack of certainty in his role. Last season, he scored 26 points (13 goals) in 79 games.

It's a bit of a relief for Eller to be away from the intense scrutiny of Montreal, but the pressure others put on him is nothing compared to the pressure he puts on himself, he said. Coming to Washington will allow him to fly under the radar a bit and just focus on doing his job.

"I know who I am, I know what I'm here for, what I was brought in to do," Eller said. "Sometimes in Montreal, I was moved around quite a bit, maybe. I didn't maybe at times find one place to stick in, so I'm just really, really excited to get started here."

The Capitals have a couple of weeks to figure out their lineup before opening the season Oct. 13 at the Pittsburgh Penguins. Eller has skated with Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson in practice and said he expects to play with different linemates throughout preseason until the roster is decided.

"I didn't quite know that about [Lars], but [he's] a very strong skater, quicker than I thought he was," Williams said. "Strong on the puck, very good puck protector. It seems like he's kind of in the right position all the time. If we play together to start, great. I'm sure we'll be playing with a lot of people."

Nine Capitals, including coach Barry Trotz, participated in the World Cup of Hockey 2016, so it was an unusual situation to come into training camp without nearly half the NHL roster and the coach.

"A lot of new faces, but I'm not a guy that needs to take up a lot of room in the locker room, necessarily," Eller said. "Having a few Swedes on the team, that's nice. I played a few years in Sweden, I speak Swedish and stuff like that. But so far it seems to be a really great group of guys. I feel good about it."

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