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Nate Schmidt making case to stay in Capitals lineup

Capitals coach Barry Trotz seemed to sense a message from Nate Schmidt on Wednesday night, when in Game 4 against the Maple Leafs, he got a second assist in as many games and could have had a goal were it not waved off for goaltender interference. “Should have been his goal,” goaltender Braden Holtby said.“Right now, he’s making a statement going, ‘You’re not getting my spot back,’ ” Trotz said after the Capitals’ 5-4 victory. “That’s good on Nate.”Schmidt got into the lineup for Game 3 of this first-round series between Washington and Toronto because defenceman Karl Alzner was ruled out with an undisclosed upper-body injury. The best skater on the Capitals’ blue line, Schmidt has impressed in the past two games against a young, speedy Toronto team. On Monday night, Schmidt was on the ice for every Washington goal. On Wednesday night, he assisted on Washington’s first of the game, and he was on the ice for the game-winner by T.J. Oshie.Alzner is considered to be day-to-day and skated Wednesday afternoon. But even when he does get healthy, it’s unclear if Schmidt will come out of the lineup because his speed is well-suited in this series.For Schmidt, this is a sort of reward for his steadfastness. A year ago, Washington traded for Mike Weber at the trade deadline, cutting into Schmidt’s playing time down the stretch. When Schmidt had a costly turnover in the post-season, he was benched. He played regularly this season, one of the Capitals’ most-improved players on the blue line, but got pushed out by the trade-deadline addition of defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk.Article Continued BelowHe remained patient as the team’s seventh blueliner, and he’s played even better in the opportunities he’s had since the trade.“Nothing for me to lose,” Schmidt said earlier this week.“He’s stepped in and played phenomenally,” Holtby said. “Ever since the other game here in the regular season, he’s flying, using his legs, making the quick plays. He’s a great player, and I think it hasn’t been an easy road for him the last couple years with deadline moves and such. I think this time, he’s much more nature. He says, ‘You know what, I’m a good player, and I’m just going to show it when I get an opportunity.’ That’s what he’s doing. He’s going to be a good player for a long time, and he’s showing what he can do.”

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