Washington Capitals could be getting much-needed boost from prospect Andre Burakovsky

ByJoe McDonald ESPN logo
Thursday, December 22, 2016

What do you need to know about last night's big stories? Joe McDonald gives us his take on the biggest and best. This is where we say, "Morning, Joe."

Burakovsky gets a boost: The Washington Capitals' Andre Burakovsky returned to the lineup Wednesday after a much-needed three-game hiatus as a healthy scratch. Players never want to sit out, and the 21-year-old winger is no different. Coach Barry Trotz felt that Burakovsky was pressing because he went 26 games without a goal since his two-goal performance in the season opener. Well, Burakovsky returned and took advantage of the opportunity, scoring a goal-scorer's goal during Washington's 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. It should serve as a massive confidence boost for the third-year NHLer. He went through a similar skid last season and was able to break out of it after being a healthy scratch, so he has experience in a situation like this and it's going to be interesting to see if he can build some consistency in his game. Wednesday's performance was a good start.

Mason making the most of it: I would love to see the Capitals and the Flyers in a Stanley Cup playoffs rematch this spring. Last season, the Capitals won the best-of-seven first-round series 4-2, but it was a lot closer than how that looks. Flyers goaltender Steve Mason struggled and was replaced by Michal Neuvirth in Games 5 and 6. Currently, Neuvirth is sidelined with an injury and Mason has been solid. He made 36 saves against the Capitals on Wednesday and he's playing a lot more comfortable without being part of a tandem. The net is Mason's and he's taking full advantage of the opportunity. If the Flyers earn a postseason berth in the ultracompetitive Metropolitan Division, and Mason is the go-to guy, he can't implode like he did last spring.

Vasilevskiy is ready: On Tuesday, Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop suffered a lower-body injury and will be sidelined 3-4 weeks. That means it's time once again for backup Andrei Vasilevskiy to showcase his ability to be a No. 1 goalie at this level. The 22-year-old is extremely athletic and he has performed well every time he has been called upon. He'll make his 13th start (7-4-1/2.41/.923) of the season when the Lightning host the St. Louis Blues Thursday. This will be an important stretch for Vasilevskiy to prove his worth, especially with Bishop becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1, making his future with the Bolts uncertain. Vasilevskiy was outstanding in the Eastern Conference finals last spring after Bishop suffered a series-ending injury against the Penguins in Game 1. Bishop is 30 and has become injury prone, which means he's expendable. Vasilevskiy is ready to take the reins full time.

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