By John Wawrow (AP Hockey Writer)
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Forward Carl Hagelin has faced Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals so often in the playoffs, the speedy, defensive specialist didn’t require an introduction upon practicing with his new teammates.
”It feels like I already know the guys on a personal level,” Hagelin said Friday after practicing for the first time with Washington after being acquired in a trade with Los Angeles a day earlier.
”I know what Washington is all about,” he added, referring to the six times he’s faced the Capitals in the playoffs during his seven NHL seasons. ”And I think, obviously, they should know what they’re getting.”
That went without saying, Capitals coach Todd Reirden said.
Reirden’s lost track how many times he’s prepped his power-play units in warning them how disruptive Hagelin can be killing penalties.
”You’ve got to be aware of this guy, so it’s nice to not have to worry about that any longer and finally have him on our team,” Reirden said.
Hagelin has played 64 career games against the Capitals, with 35 of them in the playoffs. That included 2016 and ’17, when the Penguins eliminated the Capitals on their way to winning back to back championships.
Hagelin received a stick-tap welcome from his teammates at center before practice, and then took a spot on the fourth line alongside Nic Dowd and Chandler Stephenson. Hagelin will make his Capitals’ debut Saturday, when Washington closes a six-game road trip at Buffalo.
The defending Stanley Cup champions placed a premium in shoring up their leaky penalty killing unit in the days leading up to the NHL trade deadline on Monday.
Aside from landing Hagelin, Washington acquired defenseman Nick Jensen on Friday in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings. The Capitals sent a 2020 second-round pick and defenseman Madison Bowey to Detroit for Jensen and a 2019 fifth-round pick.
The Capitals are so high on Jensen, who was in the final year of his contract, they signed him to a four-year, $10 million extension a few hours after completing the trade.
The 28-year-old Jensen is a late-blooming right-handed shooter who is averaging a career-high 20:48 of ice time, and playing a key penalty-killing role in his third NHL season. Jensen has two goals and 13 assists for 15 points through 60 games, tying his career best with a quarter of the season left.
”We wanted to solidify some areas that we’ve been deficient at,” Reirden said in referring to both trades. ”The penalty kill is something that’s improved for us from the break, but still not where we want to have it. We have two guys that can move in that situation and help us.”
The Capitals penalty killers have allowed just four goals on their opponents’ past 21 chances, but the unit ranks 22nd in the NHL.
Reirden wasn’t sure when Jensen would join the team.
Bowey, 23, was in and out of the defending Stanley Cup champions’ lineup this season and has a goal and five assists in 33 games. He is signed through next season at a salary-cap hit of $1 million.
Hagelin joins his third team this season. He began the year with Pittsburgh before being traded to the Kings for left wing Tanner Pearson in November. He had a goal and five points in 30 games with Los Angeles and two goals and eight goals in 46 games overall this season.
On the bright side, he returns to the Eastern Conference, where he’s spent a majority of his career, including his first four seasons with the New York Rangers. And Hagelin is back in the playoff race.
The Kings are last in the West standings, while the Capitals began the day two points behind the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders.
”I’ve been fortunate to play on some good teams my entire career,” said the Swedish-born Hagelin, who was selected by the Rangers in the sixth round of the 2007 draft. ”Most important right now is just making the playoffs. And you can see they have good swagger, the guys on this team, and they know what it takes to win.”