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There's a spot on the Caps' blue line waiting for Madison Bowey. Will he seize it?

There's a spot on the Caps' blue line waiting for Madison Bowey. Will he seize it?

As the battle for the two open jobs on the Capitals’ blue line intensifies, one guy you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on is Madison Bowey.

His ankle is 100-percent.

He dropped a dozen pounds over the summer in an effort to get quicker.

He’s also as determined as he’s ever been.

“You have that extra motivation because you know [that] this year there’s a chance it’ll be your year,” said Bowey, who is expected to make his preseason debut Wednesday night in Montreal. “This year is my best opportunity.”

Indeed, it is.

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Bowey might have made his NHL debut a year ago, but a gruesome ankle injury caused by an opponent’s skate blade sidelined him from late December him until mid-March. A week after the 2013 second round pick returned to the Bears’ lineup, he took a puck off the face, suffering two small fractures near his orbital bone in the process.

“Wearing a fishbowl a week after you just got back [from being out] three months was tough,” he cracked.

It wasn’t a completely lost season, though.

“It was the [second round] playoffs series against Providence when I really felt like myself again,” he said. “It was tough. I came back [in the regular season] and felt good and then I started kinda feeling it again. But in that Providence series, I really felt like that was my best, that I was getting back to my game. It was our last series and I ended off on a good note and I felt really good about my game heading onto the offseason.”

Bowey also entered the offseason knowing that he had some serious work to do in order to get his ankle back to 100-percent.

“Injuries happen,” he said. “Obviously, it’s what you do after that injury and how you bounce back. This summer was huge for me in that regard. I really got three months of hard training on and off the ice and I think that went a long way for me. I feel great.”

In addition to rehabbing the ankle, Bowey skated regularly with fellow Winnipeg residents Cody Eakin, Eric Fehr, Jonathan Toews and Travis Hamonic, among others.

Bowey also focused on dropping some excess body fat. Although he already considered himself nutrition conscious, he managed to lose a dozen pounds by cutting carbs and giving up ice cream.

As a result, he’s now listed at 6-2, 198.

“I felt 210 [pounds] was too much for my legs to handle,” Bowey said. “I feel a lot better on the ice and more explosive. I feel more mobile for sure. My cardio is way better than it was a year ago. I can skate well, and that’s huge in this league. Right now you can see the teams that are successful, their ‘D’ are mobile, they like to join the rush and contribute offense.”

He added: “There are two spots open and there’s a lot of great guys competing for it. I feel really confident in myself right now going into the preseason. It’s up to me to really just focus on the little things that I do right and not try to do too much and make sure I know when to pick my spots when the time is right. Hopefully I can help contribute to this team this year.”

One doesn’t have to look very hard to find a spot for Bowey in the lineup. As a right shot, he could fit very nicely on the third pairing alongside Brooks Orpik, a 15-year veteran who could also serve as a mentor for the 22-year-old.

Bowey has put himself in position but it’s no slam dunk that he'll make the opening night roster. He doesn’t have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors, the competition is stiff and Coach Barry Trotz is still waiting to see if he's able to put it all together.

“Probably like all of the defensemen, he’s had some really good moments and he’s had some moments of uncertainty or not so good moments,” Trotz said. “Tomorrow he’ll get an opportunity to be in a game and show what he can do. That’s really what separates everything. He practices well. He moves well. He’s got the skillset to do the right things. But can he make the strength and the skill and the skating translate into productive play in an NHL game? That’s the next step for Madison.” 

MORE CAPITALS: NESS' SKATING ABILITY GIVES HIM A CHANCE TO EARN A SPOT IN THE LINEUP

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

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In just one week, Madison Bowey already looks like a much improved player

Madison Bowey’s second game went a lot better than his first and it’s not just because the Caps allowed only two goals as opposed to eight.

Despite being thrust into a significant role in his first taste of NHL experience, Bowey seemed to settle in a bit in his second contest even as it came against the NHL’s best offense in the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Just everything in the first game felt like it happened so quick, I think,” Bowey said Thursday after the team’s practice. “It was obviously nice to come back in Washington and play in the home in front of the home crowd, get a practice in on Monday before the game Tuesday with the team. Just all the little factors that went into it definitely helped and I think it definitely felt a lot smoother out there on the ice.”

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Playing at home definitely has its benefits for the coaching staff as they try to protect the rookie defensemen. Home teams get the chance to change after the visiting team allowing the coaches to pick the matchups they want for Bowey.

More favorable matchups certainly helped him, but Bowey also seemed to play with more confidence and a level of calm that was not there against Philadelphia. For Bowey, the difference was having time to settle in and practice with the team.

“Obviously this team is one of the veteran teams in the league so to be able to practice against top players in the league, it goes a long way,” Bowey said.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS SHOULD NOT TRADE PROSPECT IIYA SAMSONOV

Bowey was called up for a Saturday game in Philadelphia after Matt Niskanen suffered a hand injury Friday in New Jersey. That means he quickly had to join the team and jump into the lineup for his first ever NHL game without any practice with the Caps at all.

Bowey now has two practices and two games under his belt and even a team-building day at FBI training. The effect that has had on his game was noticeable on Tuesday. It should be even more clear on Friday as the team travels to face the Detroit Red Wings.

“I feel myself improving every day,” Bowey said. “It forces you to really work hard and be on your top every day you come to the rink so for me, just having those two practices already have been huge. I feel the development's getting a lot better early.”

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Game 8: Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 8: Capitals at Red Wings Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals at Detroit Red Wings

Where: Little Caesar's Arena, Detroit, Mich.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET. Coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with Capitals FaceOff.

How to Watch: Capitals at Red Wings will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals at Red Wings game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?

The Capitals (3-3-1) take on the Red Wings (4-3-0) Friday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Little Caesars's Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME ON?

The Capitals-Red Wings game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. Capitals FaceOff gets things started at 6:30 p.m. ET followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington Plus following the game for Caps Extra followed by Caps Overtime and Caps in 30 for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:30 p.m. — Capitals @ Red Wings
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps OverTime
 

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?

The Capitals-Red Wings game, as well as the pre and postgame shows, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-RED WINGS GAME?

Here are the projected lines:

Forwards
Tom Wilson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Jakub Vrana
Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky
Devante Smith-Pelly - Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Defense
Brooks Orpik - Madison Bowey
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Taylor Chorney

Goalies
Braden Holtby starts with Philipp Grubauer as backup

Scratches
Nathan Walker, Aaron Ness, Tyler Graovac (injured), Matt Niskanen (LTIR)

CAPITALS-RED WINGS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.