The next round of training cuts for the Capitals could be made in the coming 24 to 48 hours, coach Barry Trotz said.
The Capitals play their fourth preseason game Monday night against the Blues at Verizon Center, where they’ll ice a lineup that features Alex Ovechkin and seven other World Cup stars, as well as a few players hoping to snag a spot on the opening night roster.
Among the hopefuls are forwards Zach Sanford and Nathan Walker, both of whom have earned praise from coaches for their performance thus far in camp.
Here’s the lineup (based on the morning skate):
Trotz said he’d like to start whittling down the roster, which currently stands at 42, as soon as Tuesday. But as he noted, there are a couple of variables that could affect the timing of some cuts. For one, there could be a player Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan want to see in game action once more. It’s also possible that the injuries to Marcus Johansson (lower body) and Tom Wilson (upper body) could require them to keep a player or two around a bit longer.
“We’ve got a couple of young guys in there tonight, [and] we’ll see where we are tomorrow,” Trotz said. “Guys that we want to take one last look at, we’ll [keep around]. If not…I would say before the Kansas City game, we want to get down a little bit, or right after that, and get our team a little more together.”
The Capitals’ fifth preseason game is Wednesday night against the Blues in Kansas City.
In reality, there probably aren't going to be any surprises as Trotz and Co. pare down the roster. The Capitals’ depth chart features 21 players on one-way contracts. Make that 22 if you count Andre Burakovsky, who is not going anywhere. Which leaves open just one spot, most likely for a 14th forward.
Trotz said he’s eager to begin working with a smaller group because he wants to start fine tuning his regular season lineup. With the regular season set to open in Pittsburgh only 10 days from now, the group must begin focusing on special team chemistry, etc. And that’s tough to do with so many bodies divided into two practice groups.
“We want to get down, ideally, to one bigger group,” Trotz said. “You don’t want to make it too big because then you don’t get the reps that you need. …There are some guys that we’ll probably have to decide on, that we’re actually quite happy with, but we have to just go in that direction right now.”