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Caps face big decisions on Roy, Laich, others

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Caps face big decisions on Roy, Laich, others

The Capitals have some big – and potentially very expensive -- decisions to make before turning in their 23-man roster on Tuesday.

One of those decisions came before Sunday night’s preseason finale when 21-year-old center Chandler Stephenson was assigned to the Hershey Bears.

But just because Stephenson was sent to Hershey, don’t rush out to buy your Derek Roy Capitals jersey just yet.

Roy, 32, was not in the Caps’ lineup against the Islanders, and neither was forward Brooks Laich, scratched in favor of forwards Sean Collins and Liam O’Brien, each of whom impressed the Caps’ coaching staff enough to stick around the entire preseason.

In fact, it’s possible that aside from the absence of veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik, who missed the entire exhibition season while recovering from wrist surgery, the Capitals’ lineup Sunday night will be the one fans see when they open the regular season Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.

And that could mean Collins and O’ Brien are in and Roy and Laich are out.

Roy, a veteran of more than 700 NHL games, signed a professional contract with the Caps just before the start of training camp and picked up a goal and an assist in four preseason games.  Theoretically, the Caps would have room to sign him once they assign one of their goaltenders, presumable Justin POeters ($950,000) to Hershey.

But there could be mixed opinions about whether Roy is worth signing to a one-way contract, especially if the Caps hope to have Nicklas Backstrom back before the end of this month. As Trotz pointed out a few days ago, it’s always nice to have cap space when the trading deadline rolls around and signing Roy to a deal in the $700,000 range would eat up much of that space.

And then there’s the Laich dilemma. The Caps’ versatile 32-year-old forward can kill penalties, but at $9 million over the next two seasons the Caps need him to deliver more than he has on the bottom two lines.

The Caps could make a bold move by placing Laich on waivers, much like the Chicago Blackhawks did with veteran left wing Bryan Bickell on Friday, but like Bickell, Laich almost certainly would clear. The Caps could also stand pat on their roster and see which players become available on the waiver wire on Tuesday.

If Roy is better than anyone else on that list, the Caps may decide to sign him. Any way you look at it, there will be a lot of long conversations behind closed doors over the next 48 hours.

MORE CAPITALS: Trotz preaching patience with Orlov

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

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USA TODAY Sports

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.​

A quick start

Strong stars go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a team in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the first.

Andre Burakovsky snapping second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked at points this season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo just would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play form the office. He would later add a deflection goal late to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 893 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first was a power play goal from the office. No need for a one-timer on this one, as the Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner. He added a late 

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net. It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole. Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but could not slow him down at all.