Eller embraces third-line center role with Capitals

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Sometimes taking that next step isn’t about making a huge splash. Instead, a smaller tweak can make for a winning formula.

Don’t be surprised, then, if acquiring Lars Eller ends up giving the Washington Capitals that extra nudge.

Naturally, it helps when a supporting cast player is comfortable with his role, and Eller indeed seems comfortable in his expected role as a third-line center

“I know who I am, I know what I’m here for, what I was brought in to do,” Eller told NHL.com. “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.”

A quick look at Behind the Net’s numbers backs up Eller’s observations regarding his Montreal Canadiens days.

In 2013-14, he began 43.7 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. He carried quite a burden in 2014-15, starting just 37.1 percent of his shifts in the attacking zone. Last season? Eller’s o-zone starts jumped to 50.7 percent.

While it’s true that Eller scored at a consistent rate during that span of time, the Capitals are probably most concerned about his all-around play, so drawing a regular assignment could be helpful.

Lining up with quality players wouldn’t hurt matters, either. So far, Eller’s been skating with Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson, the sort of wingers some teams would happily trot out as second-liners.

As much as Eller values the idea of a stable role, he also realizes that his linemates may change quite a bit. The bottom line is that he feels “really energized” in Washington, and that could pay some nice dividends by a team that figures to sit atop many experts’ lists heading into 2016-17.