Aube-Kubel Back In Mix For Capitals & Ready To ‘Do Everything’ To Keep It That Way
Washington Capitals forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel has gotten back into the lineup and plans to do what he can to remain in the mix for head coach Peter Laivolette.
After scoring in back-to-back games for the Washington Capitals to open January, Nicolas Aube-Kubel found himself as the odd man out with Nicklas Backstrom and Tom Wilson rejoining the mix following eight months away. After four games as a scratch, he's back in the mix after winning a spot over good friend Anthony Mantha. Now, the goal for him is to keep it that way.
Aube-Kubel said that he's feeling good since making his long-awaited return to action, as he earned a jersey with Nic Dowd "out for a bit" and the team needing another physical two-way forward up front. He has been on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Dylan Strome over these last few games. In his return against the Minnesota Wild, there was some rust to shake off, but overall, he liked the chances he had.
"I felt I had good legs. I could've ended up with a few scoring chances more, but not too bad overall," he said, adding, "I feel like some plays where we created a turnover, I tried to pass too quick where I can just skate a little more. Then things will open. But I think that's part of being in and out of the lineup, where you kind of want to get rid of the puck a little faster than you should."
In his two games back skating on that top unit, his expected goals-for percentage is at 70.38, and he ranks third behind Dmitry Orlov and Marcus Johansson in high-danger Corsi-for percentage (70), and he also has two shots and six hits over that span. Through 16 total games this season, he has two goals and four assists, as well as 34 hits and a +/- of plus-7 while leading all forwards with a 59.31 Corsi-for percentage and 58.84 xGF%. He also ranks fourth among forwards in scoring chances-for percentage (53.69).
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The 26-year-old said that head coach Peter Laviolette putting him on the first line has given him some confidence, too.
"For sure it motivates me," he explained. "Shows some faith in me."
When it comes to keeping his spot in the lineup, Aube-Kubel has a plan, and it's to bring something unique to the table night in and night out and force Laviolete's hand when it comes to earning a jersey. No. 96 said it's all about making himself noticeable each shift, and that he'll do "everything" to remain in the mix.
"Be physical, bring that type of game," NAK said. "As I said, I feel like on those small turnovers, takeaways, I should've maybe skated a little more before trying to pass or move my feet before."
Aube-Kubel and the Capitals will pay a visit to the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday and get a couple days off before facing his former Colorado Avalanche, where he won — and famously dropped — the Stanley Cup back in June with Darcy Kuemper.
"For sure I'm excited to go back there," Aube-Kubel said. "See some friends, some teammates. It's cool we have a day off there, too, so I get to relax and enjoy with my friends there."