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Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov team up for preseason game in Montreal

Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov team up for preseason game in Montreal

Two nights after opening the preseason with a loss in New Jersey, the Capitals will make a day trip to Montreal on Wednesday for Game 2 of the exhibition season.

And they’ll ice a completely new group of players.

Here’s how Coach Barry Trotz will have them line up:





A few notes and observations from the skate:

  • The Caps made the first roster move of the preseason Wednesday morning, returning 2014 seventh rounder Kevin Elgestal to HC Vita Hasten. On Monday night in New Jersey, Elgestal got pickpocketed by Devils first overall pick Nico Hischier on Hischier’s nifty goal.
  • Coach Barry Trotz said the first significant round of cuts is coming Thursday, followed by another round over the weekend. The roster currently stands at 39 forwards, 18 defensemen and 7 goalies.
  • The stakes are high Wednesday night for a handful of players who are battling for spots. Among them: Vrana, Smith-Pelly, Peluso up front and Bowey on the backend. Vrana’s getting a look on the top line, Smith-Pelly is coming off his best day of practice on Tuesday, Peluso has looked good so far and Bowey needs a strong showing in the preseason to lock down a spot.
  • Trotz on Peluso, who is vying for the right wing spot on the fourth line: “He’s got pretty good hands for a man that’s known for other qualities. He’s a student of the game, works on his game. I like what he’s done in camp. We’ll see how he does tonight.”
  • Stephenson, a prospect who’s appeared in 13 games for the Caps the past two seasons, is the only player who will have appeared in both of the first two exhibition games. Stephenson can play center and wing. He’s also got to clear waivers in order to be sent to the minors. “He’s got a skillset that is NHL ready,” Trotz said. “Now it’s just can he showcase and be very consistent. If he does and has production, I think his chances are very good.” 
  • After taking a pair of faceoff penalties Monday night, Trotz said the coaches reviewed some video with the centers. There was also discussion about slashing fouls after the Caps were whistled for three infractions in Newark. “Players are really smart, and they will adjust,” Trotz said.



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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

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Caps work on team building by fighting each other in FBI training

How much better would your work environment be if you had a chance to pin a coworker or get them in a chokehold? Probably a lot. That's what the Caps are banking on.

The team visited the FBI Academy on Wednesday in a team building exercise that included raming doors and, of course, hand to hand combat.

Let's break down some of these wrestling matchups.

Braden Holtby appears to be thanking John Carlson for playing 27:33 on Tuesday.

It seems dangerous to pit a goalie against a defenseman. Carlson spends all of his time on the ice trying to protect Holtby. Just how hard was Carlson really trying to take down Holtby?

It's no surprise seeing Tom Wilson enjoying himself with the hand to hand combat. Whoever went up against him (it looks like Jay Beagle) certainly drew the short straw.

And then there's this.

Nicklas Backstrom is having way, way too much fun. Maybe Andre Burakovsky was getting a bit chesty in the locker room after his first NHL fight. Well, it seems Backstrom certainly put him in his place.

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There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss


There are no moral victories, but Caps see a defensive effort they can build on in Tuesday's loss

The Capitals probably deserved a better result on Tuesday than a 2-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Coming into that game, the Leafs were averaging 5.20 goals per game and had scored no fewer than three in any of their five games to start the season. Yet, a Capitals team fresh off an 8-2 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers managed to hold Toronto’s offense to only one goal, the second coming only after Braden Holtby had been pulled for the extra attacker.

“There's a lot of improvements from our game in Philadelphia, that's for sure,” Barry Trotz said following the game.

Aside from a flurry of chances from Toronto early in the first, the game was largely even between the two sides until Connor Brown put the Leafs up 1-0 in the third period.


Despite their effort, however, do not take this game as proof that Washington has solved all of its blue line issues. Tuesday was just merely a step in the right direction.

“We did some things better [Tuesday],” Braden Holtby said. “The outcome could have been a little worse if luck wasn't on our side today on a few plays. We've got to keep a realistic mindset on that too.  But we did a lot of good things [Tuesday]. Our defense did a really good job at handling their speed and their size.”

Surprisingly, it was not the defense that cost Washington the game, but the offense. When the Caps needed a goal, they simply could not generate one against goalie Frederik Andersen.

Yes, the team needs to find more of a balance and get a full 60-minute effort on both ends of the ice, but there was also hope in the locker room on Tuesday that if they continue to improve in their own zone, it will ultimately lead to more offense in the other end.

“Everything is developed from the defensive zone,” Holtby said. “That's the way we've always had success scoring goals. If you're taking risks offensively, that's not a consistent way to play. You might win some games, but you're not going to win games consistently. That's what our foundation of our team is built around, our breakout, especially on our goal line and that what creates a lot of our offense.”


What the first seven games of the season has shown is that the Capitals’ fate rests on its blue line. Yes, they need more depth scoring from their third and fourth line, but this team’s weakness is its defense. How they respond to their early struggles will determine the fate of the season.

“We'd be kidding ourselves if we're not going to have some growing pains along the way,” Holtby said of the team. “It's just how we handle them and what we do with them. How do we fight through them and get better?”

Tuesday’s game may have ended in a loss, but it was an effort the defense can build around. That is the silver lining. If they do build on this game, the Capitals still have a playoff caliber roster. If they do not, well, there is no telling how far Washington can sink.