Last season, Washington Capitals defenseman Steve Oleksy was the team's feel-good story. After traversing the country for five years playing for seven teams in three different leagues, the 27-year-old finally cracked an NHL lineup, signing with Washington as a free agent in March and becoming a fixture on the defensive end.
Oleksy, however, has not enjoyed the same success this season. It began on opening night when he was passed over by rookie Connor Carrick, and it has continued through the second quarter of the season. Oleksy has been a healthy scratch for the past six games and it is possible that another defenseman whose next NHL game would be his first -- rookie Patrick Wey, who was in the ECHL less than a month ago -- could play instead of him this weekend.
"I mean all you can really do is continue to work hard in practice, continue to work on your game, work on your skills, do all that stuff, do all the right things and control what you can control," Oleksy said after practice on Friday. "That's what I've tried to carry with me throughout this period."
Oleksy said that he has regularly met with head coach Adam Oates and assistant coach Calle Johansson regarding what he can do to improve. While Oleksy did not go into specifics, Oates did.
“Steve and I talked about stuff that I've seen,” Oates said. “In a sense, it’s a sophomore jinx, if you will. Just a little bit I thought he hit a wall moving the puck. I still think very highly of him. We still want him. He's just got to work on his game. That's all. Everybody does at times. Everybody."
If Wey does in fact play for Washington, which has back-to-back games against the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers on Saturday and Sunday, then he will become the 12th defenseman to suit up for the Capitals this season, which would lead the League. (The Capitals also used 12 last season, second-most among all 30 teams.)
Perhaps more importantly, the Capitals would have used six defensemen with less than 100 games of NHL experience, also a League-high.
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