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Capital Gains: Van Riemsdyk Making Most of Opportunity

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The 29-year-old has maintained a positive attitude despite an up-and-down season, and it’s paying off in his return to the lineup and sudden resurgence.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After a long practice at Medstar Capitals Iceplex, Washington Capitals defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk leans back and sports a smile as he reflects on a wild season that hasn't gone according to plan, but in the end, has been vital for his NHL career.

The 2015 Stanley Cup champion is candid as he speaks about his role so far. He was brought in over the offseason to bolster the blue line alongside key additions like Zdeno Chara and Justin Schultz. However, Peter Laviolette’s defensive pairings have worked well so far, and as a result, van Riemsdyk’s found himself sidelined.

Still, that hasn’t shaken TvR in the slightest. Not only does has he made his presence known on and off the ice, but he’s lived up to expectations when he gets the call to return to the lineup. It’s that character and drive — combined with work ethic — that led Washington to re-sign the defenseman to a two-year deal in late March.

“I’ve enjoyed my time,” van Riemsdyk said. “It hasn’t gone exactly as I would’ve hoped or liked, but the experience has still been great. The organization’s first class, and I’m excited to be here for another couple years.”

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders Photo by Steven Ryan/NHLI via Getty Images

The 29-year-old’s pilot year with the Caps has had its ups and downs. He’s played in just 14 of the team’s 50 games this season, putting up a goal and assist averaging just around 16 minutes a night when he gets the call.

A self-described “competitive person,” van Riemsdyk didn’t shy away from admitting it can be tough to sit out for a number of games.

“We have a funny group that makes coming to the rink a little easier during times [where you’re scratched],” van Riemsdyk explained. “It’s a great culture here, it’s an organization that takes great care of you. It’s not like showing up to the rink and you’re dreading it every day. We have a great staff and coaching staff, and even if you’re not in, they take great care of you.”

Now in wake of recent injuries through the Caps’ defensive corps, van Riemsdyk’s had the chance to draw back in and really showcase his ability. He hasn’t disappointed.

“He’s such a pro,” teammate Justin Schultz said. “Every day, he comes in and makes sure he’s ready to go. You can see the way he stepped in [and] didn’t miss a beat. He’s been playing unbelievable for us... we’re lucky to have him.”

The 29-year-old’s resurgence in April has helped him make quite the case to stay in the lineup. He returned to game action for the first time in over a month for a tilt with Boston on April 18, and after shaking off the rust, hasn’t looked back.

He’s suited up for the Caps in five straight games and has made his mark in each matchup. He has one assist, six hits, eight blocks and a plus-minus rating of plus-2, while his ice time has increased with each matchup. Van Riemsdyk also had a season-high 27 shifts and skated 21 minutes — the most minutes he’s played since Feb. 7 — in the team’s 5-4 overtime defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

MORE: In defense of Trevor van Riemsdyk

“When you’re out for a little bit and you haven't played — and he was out quite a bit — everything about him was the way things should be done,” head coach Peter Laviolette explained in regards to van Riemsdyk’s approach while being scratched. “He worked hard every day, he never complained, he was a great teammate. He’s an extremely capable player; we just didn't get him in there. He came back into the lineup and he was a really major contributor.”

Van Riemsdyk also praised his defensive partner in Brenden Dillon for helping him get back into game mode.

“He’s awesome. He does all the little things really well,” van Riemsdyk said, adding, “He’s a great communicator. Just staying sharp and staying on the same page... he’s made my life really easy coming back.”

With the Capitals officially playoff-bound, van Riemsdyk’s mindset hasn’t changed: whether he’s in or out of the lineup, he’s ready to rise to whatever occasion he’s called upon for.

“You never know what can happen in the playoffs when stuff really gets ramped up... it’s nice to get these games,” van Riemsdyk said.