Andre Burakovsky has had a roller coaster season thus far. From a slow start, to an upper-body injury, and a thrilling two-goal game at Dallas, Burakovsky has struggled in a season in which he was expected to step up and be a leader. After that impressive Dallas performance, Burakovsky went scoreless for the next four games. During the Capitals’ morning skate this past Saturday prior to their game against the New Jersey Devils, Capitals head coach Barry Trotz went back to one of his old tricks hoping it’ll ultimately turn Burakovsky’s season around.
Trotz scratched Burakovsky from the lineup. Burakovsky was also a healthy scratch in the practices on Sunday and Monday and had a seat in the press box for Tuesday’s game at Carolina. During the sessions at Kettler, he rotated on the fourth-line with Alex Chiasson.
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“(Trotz and I) just talked a little bit. He said that he doesn’t think our line has been going like we’re supposed to. He said he wants me to be a bit more hung on the puck. I agree. There’s several things (of my game) that I feel like aren’t really back to after injury,” Burakovsky told reporters after practice on New Years Eve. “I guess it’s been taking a bit longer than I was expecting but I’m just trying to be positive, come to the rink with a smile and try to get better everyday.”
This isn’t the first time Trotz has done this to Burakovsky. In 2015, Burakovsky rested for three games. The same thing happened last season in December. After scoring the first two goals in the season opener at Pittsburgh, Burakovsky went scoreless for 26 games. Trotz once again made him a healthy scratch for three games.
After both of those trials, Burakovsky scored in his first game back. In 2015, he scored twice in a road win over the Anaheim Ducks. Last season, Burakovsky scored in a game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“When Trotz scratched me (in the past) it worked pretty good for me. I came back and I think I had two points in my first game against Philly and everything went up from there. Hopefully when I get the opportunity next game (that I’m back in), I can do the same thing,” said Burakovsky.
After Nicklas Backstrom missed Tuesday’s morning skate due to an illness, Burakovsky was practicing with the fourth-line, taking rushes with both Jay Beagle and Alex Chiasson. Backstrom was a game-time decision and was ultimately well enough to play resulting in Burakovsky being scratched for the Capitals’ game against the Hurricanes.
“I’m learning a bit of a lesson here, being a healthy scratch. It’s not something I want to do. I want to be out there and help the team, compete and help them to win. It’s obviously coach’s decision and I’m gonna learn from my mistakes and come back and play like I’m supposed to. They signed me for a reason this past summer so I’m just gonna come back and show them that I can be a top player for this team,” Burakovsky added.
The game at Carolina was the second game that Burakovsky served as a healthy scratch. With the Capitals next game not coming until Sunday, only time will tell if Burakovsky will be sitting out their contest against the Blues. Burakovsky once again skated as an extra forward in Wednesday’s practice. Even if he’s scratched for the Blues game, it is likely he’ll be placed back into the lineup for Tuesday’s game vs. Vancouver.
By Michael Marzzacco