Washington Capitals: Breaking down how Lars Eller can make a comeback

Lars Eller, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Lars Eller, Washington Capitals Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Washington Capitals have struggled lately and Lars Eller is in the middle of a down season, probably his worst since joining the Caps. The third line center has been inconsistent all season and had to battle COVID-19 twice, both times having to quarantine on the road in a hotel room.

He’s been a constant on a third line that’s been a revolving door as the Caps had struggled as a team with injuries. The 32 year old was skating at Tuesday’s practice with Marcus Johansson and T.J. Oshie. On the ice he’s had only nine goals and 14 assists for 25 points. That includes just two goals in his last 18 games.

Capitals Head Coach Peter Laviolette tried everything. He moved Eller to wing and even gave Connor McMichael a shot at third line center. McMichael, however, has since been skating with the extras and was a healthy scratch Sunday night.

Eller’s line has been bad all season and General Manager Brian MacLellan made note of that in his meeting with the media ahead of the trade deadline:

"“Is it a two way line? Is it offensive? Is it defensive. I think that’s part of the issue that we’re having.”"

Eller has mostly been skating with young players and rookies on the bottom six with new line mates almost every game. Eller added after Saturday’s practice:

"“It’s been challenging. Sometimes maybe you thought you had a good thing going and then something changes around you.”"

Eller has one year left on his five year $17.5 million contract that he signed just months before scoring the biggest goal in Capitals history to catapult them to their first Stanley Cup. If Eller doesn’t fix his game, perhaps the team might find some kind of value in trading him, which would open up a role for McMichael at the third line center position.

Eller knows he still has time to prove himself. Maybe being surrounded by Johansson and Oshie, two familiar teammates, can give him a boost. If that’s the case, then the bottom six can have no problems contributing. If not, it’ll put more pressure on top liners like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

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The Caps pretty much have five centers in Nicklas Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Eller, Nic Dowd, and McMichael. If Eller doesn’t fix his game, the Caps could send him packing. If he does, it’ll be interesting seeing what the decision makers do this summer.