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Caps come one step closer to opening lineup, cut roster to 26

Caps come one step closer to opening lineup, cut roster to 26

With the regular season set to start in a week, the Capitals’ opening night roster is slowly but surely coming into focus.

On Thursday, the team reassigned defensemen Jonas Siegenthaler and Tyler Lewington, forward Travis Boyd and goalie Pheonix Copley to Hershey of the American Hockey League.

RELATED: WHAT IS EVERY NHL TEAM'S GAME OF THRONES CHARACTER?

he moves reduced to the training camp roster to 26 players—16 forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies.

MORE CAPITALS: AFTER ANOTHER ROUGH PRESEASON GAME, IS IT TIME TO BE WORRIED ABOUT THE CAPS?

With two preseason games remaining—Friday at Carolina and Sunday at St. Louis—Washington GM Brian MacLellan has some tough decisions to make.

Up front, Jakub Vrana, Tyler Graovac, Nathan Walker, Alex Chiasson, Anthony Peluso, Devante Smith-Pelly and Chandler Stephenson are battling for jobs. Graovac, Walker, Peluso, Smith-Pelly and Stephenson all must pass through waivers to be sent down, while Chiasson is on a professional tryout agreement. 

Interestingly, the guys battling for jobs have been among the most productive. In fact, Vrana, Graovac, Walker, Chiasson and Smith-Pelly have accounted for five of the Caps’ meager seven goals in the first five exhibition games.

On the backend, rookies Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos as well as minor league veteran Aaron Ness are battling for two jobs. Djoos and Ness would need to clear waivers in order to be demoted.   

The Caps must get down to a maximum of 23 players by Tuesday at 5 p.m., though it’s possible they’ll keep only 22 players because of their tight salary cap situation and Coach Barry Trotz’s preference for keeping just one extra at each position.

“We’ll try to pick the team and let the management and the people who figure out all the salaries, they will let us know what we want to do,” Coach Barry Trotz said Wednesday. “That may dictate our early decisions. If there’s not much between a certain player and another player, the cap may decide that. That’s just part of the business.”

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby.

Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty-handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1.

It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps

4 reasons why the Panthers beat the Caps

The Caps looked like they had the win in hand as they led 2-1 late in the third period, but things went off the rails in the final four minutes in a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers

Here's how the Caps lost.

An emotional start for Robert Luongo

Before the game, Roberto Luongo took the mic during an emotional tribute to the victims of the tragic Stoneman Douglas school shooting. As a writer, it was hard to get into the game after that. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Luongo to focus to actually play in the game. But he did. He started off very well, making several strong saves in the first period. Washington scored late in the opening period after an offensive cycle of over a minute that completely wore out the Panthers' skaters. Otherwise, Luongo was brilliant turning aside 13 of the 14 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.

Another shaky start for Braden Holtby

This was the best game we have seen from Braden Holtby in a while as he made a number of phenomenal saves in the second and third period. In the first, however, he continued to struggle. Maxim Mamin scored his first career NHL goal and point as a puck trickled through Holtby and Mamin was able to slam it home. Holtby was dealing with a screen, but reacted late to the initial shot and late to Mamin.

Aleksander Barkov splitting Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson

With a 2-1 lead late in the third, the Caps looked like they had control. But with less than four minutes remaining, Aleksander Barkov was able to split Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson to set up Nick Bjugstad for the game-tying goal. Ovechkin was backchecking, Carlson stepped up on him and then...nothing. It looked as if both players thought the other would take Barkov and Ovechkin let up at the same time Carlson skated past giving Barkov a lane to the net.

A late penalty to Lars Eller

With the game tied late, the Caps were exerting their will in the offensive zone with the cycle that had been dominant all game long...and then Lars Eller tried to set a pick on Bjugstad, knocking him to the ice. It was an obvious interference call with just 42 seconds remaining in the game. Florida would score 22 seconds later to deny Washington not only the win, but a point as well.