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Kevin Shattenkirk filling big role for Capitals

Defenseman has taken power play to new heights since trade to Washington

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- After defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was traded by the St. Louis Blues to the Washington Capitals on Feb. 27, he tried not to view himself as the final piece to the Capitals' Stanley Cup puzzle.

He saw how that distinction weighed on goaltender Ryan Miller after he was traded to the Blues on Feb. 28, 2014 and during a six-game loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round that season.

But Shattenkirk believes he can be a difference maker for the Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think I'm a piece. That's probably the right way to put it," Shattenkirk said. "I'm not the savior. I'm not the one who is going to come in here and everything is just going to magically go right. It all comes back to everyone understanding their roles."

 

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Shattenkirk, 28, knows his role is to provide solid defense and some offense with his puck-moving skill in the Capitals' third pair with Brooks Orpik and to help run the power play from the point. Although he is playing on the third pair, Shattenkirk would play on the top pair on most teams and his addition gives coach Barry Trotz the option to move him up if needed.

After taking some time to get used to the Capitals system and personnel, Shattenkirk has taken their already dangerous power play to another level. Over their final 12 games of the regular season, Went 12-for-34 (35.3 percent) over the last 12 games of the regular season.

Video: WSH@BOS: Shattenkirk buries Backstrom's pinpoint feed

Shattenkirk's right-handed shot and instincts working with forward Nicklas Backstrom has made the first power-play unit even more diverse, leaving opponents to choose whether to key on Alex Ovechkin in the left circle, Shattenkirk at the point, Backstrom on the right half wall or T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson down low.

Since joining the Capitals, Shattenkirk has 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 20 games, including seven points (one goal, six assists) on the power play.

"Their power play was giving a lot of teams a lot of headaches before," New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Obviously, [Shattenkirk's] right-handed shot helps a lot. He's an elite player that can find open people and is real good on the power play."

The Capitals power play was 13-for-50 (26 percent) in the playoffs last season, but that included going 5-for-9 in a 6-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round and 8-for-27 (29.6 percent) in that series overall. In their six-game loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round, they went 5-for-23 (21.7 percent), including 1-for-12 in the first four games, when they fell in a 3-1 series hole.

In the playoffs, the importance of each power play becomes magnified as an opportunity to change the momentum in a game or even the series.

"Especially in the playoffs, those are turning points in the game," Shattenkirk said. "Maybe you catch a break and get a power play and need to turn things around, and you may not score but you get the crowd back into it or you take it away from the other team in the opposing building."

Video: WSH@TOR: Shattenkirk nets PPG for first as a Capital

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