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Thumbs up, thumbs down: Defense fails Caps early against the Devils

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Thumbs up, thumbs down: Defense fails Caps early against the Devils

The New Jersey Devils scored all four of their goals in the first period to bury the Caps early. Washington was not able to recover and fell in their home preseason finale 4-1 on Wednesday. Here is who stood out for Washington:

Thumbs up

Tyler Graovac: On a night that featured a lineup as close to the team’s regular lineup as we have seen this preseason, Graovac was still the Caps’ best player on the ice. He played with a lot of energy even when the score was 4-0 for the Devils and managed to get the Caps on the board in the second period with his first goal of the preseason. Graovac is in the thick of the roster competition and added another solid performance to his resume. It will be hard to keep him off the roster at this point.

The fourth line:  Propelled by Graovac's performance, the fourth line was easily the Caps' best on the night. Jay Beagle and  Anthony Peluso played well with Graovac and brought some much-needed energy to a game that looked like it was quickly getting out of hand.

RELATED: OVECHKIN NAILS 30-YARD FIELD GOAL

Thumbs down

The first period: We have seen sloppy play throughout the course of the preseason and that's to be expected. The players are shaking the rust off and the lineup is full of prospects and players who ultimately will not make the roster. Wednesday's game featured an NHL roster and the Caps had their worst start of the preseason. New Jersey took a 4-0 lead in the opening frame drawing the ire of the Capitals faithful.

The defense: How did the Devils score four goals in the first period? Because the Caps defense looked completely out of sync, specifically on the penalty kill. Washington took three penalties in the first and the Devils scored on all three opportunities. Even in five on five play, Washington spent far too much time in its own zone as the Caps just could not clear the puck and break out. Considering the team has been working on the penalty kill in practice and that the defensive pairs have remained consistent since Monday, you would expect some level of chemistry. There was none to start and it was blatantly evident.

MORE CAPITALS: CARLSON IS REALLY TRYING NOT TO THINK ABOUT HIS CONTRACT

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What does Andre Burakovsky's injury mean for the Caps?

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What does Andre Burakovsky's injury mean for the Caps?

While the Caps got some good news on Alex Ovechkin, the outlook wasn’t as positive for Andre Burakovsky on Monday.

Burakovsky, who suffered an upper-body injury late in Saturday’s game, could be sidelined, according to Coach Barry Trotz.

“I think he’s going to miss a little bit of time,” Trotz said after Monday’s practice, adding that he'll know more on Tuesday.

RELATED: DON'T PANIC, ALEX OVECHKIN SHOULD BE JUST FINE

Without Burakovsky, the Caps’ forward lines were as follows:

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

The changes include Chiasson moving to the second line, Vrana dropping to the third and Walker drawing back into the lineup.

As for Burakovsly, the nature of his injury remains unclear. The 22-year-old winger, however, appeared to hurt his left hand in the closing minutes of the Caps’ 4-1 loss to the Panthers. After drawing a hooking infraction, he removed his glove and began flexing his hand.

MORE CAPITALS: AFTER ROUGH START, CAPS NEED A SPARK OUT WEST

If Burakovsky is unable to suit up—the Caps make stops in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary later this week—Washington would likely recall Chandler Stephenson from Hershey, Trotz said.

The Caps have 12 forwards, but the team would not want to be on a five-day trip to Western Canada without an extra forward. (Tyler Graovac is week-to-week with an upper-body injury and Trotz said he will not travel with the team).

Stephenson was one of the last cuts at Caps training camp and has a Hershey-best five goals in six games after recording a hat trick over the weekend.

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After injury scare, Caps' Alex Ovechkin says he expects to be fine

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After injury scare, Caps' Alex Ovechkin says he expects to be fine

Alex Ovechkin said he doesn’t expect to miss any time, despite limping off the ice late in Monday’s practice.

Ovechkin, who was attending a photo shoot for the annual Caps Canine Calendar shortly after practice, said he “tweaked” something but that “it’s not a big deal.”

RELATED: Upper-body injury keeps Burakovsky out of practice

Ovechkin said he expects to be available to practice on Tuesday morning. 

The Caps' captain is tied with Auston Matthews for the league lead in goals (10). 

Speaking before the photoshoot, Coach Barry Trotz said he thought Ovechkin would be “okay” but did not elaborate.

Toward the end of Monday’s spirited practice, Ovechkin said he got tangled up with a teammate, lost an edge and went down hard. Although he limped to the locker room in the immediate aftermath, Ovechkin was not walking with any discernable difficulty at the photoshoot.

MORE CAPITALS: CAPS IN SEARCH OF A SPARK AS THEY HEAD OUT WEST