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Thumbs up, thumbs down: Nathan Walker impresses in preseason opener

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Thumbs up, thumbs down: Nathan Walker impresses in preseason opener

The Capitals struck first Monday, but were shutdown the rest of the game in a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Here are the players who stood out for Washington.

Thumbs up

Nathan Walker:
The young Aussie made the most of his opportunity on Monday with the Capitals’ lone goal on the night. Walker streaked up the ice along the boards, passed it to Lars Eller then crossed to the front of the net. He was in good position for the rebound and showed quick hands to get the puck and shoot it past goalie Keith Kinkaid for the shorthanded goal. It was a pure effort play and showed the exact type of spark the team is looking for in a fourth line winger. There were various times throughout the game when a Devil would try to muscle Walker out of the play and he would respond with a few shoves and slashes of his own. He did not back down from any challenge.

Braden Holtby: If you were worried Holtby’s rough postseason would follow him to the fall, that does not appear to be the case. The Caps netminder looked smooth as he turned aside 18 of 19 shots. The only goal came on a long distance slap shot through a screen. Granted, it’s a preseason game against a quasi NHL roster, but a solid performance for Holtby nonetheless.

Alex Chiasson: A player on a PTO cannot afford to have a quiet night. The team has every reason to want to play their prospects or other players already signed to a contract. Chiasson had a solid game, was in good position throughout the night and used his body well. His lone penalty of the night was a goal-saving slash on Kyle Palmieri so you can’t really hold it against him. He played like a dependable veteran player who the team could rely on as a bottom-six forward.

RELATED: WHY NESS' SKATING ABILITY GIVES HIM A LEG UP

Thumbs down

The refs: I understand that the NHL wants to emphasize slashing penalties and faceoff violations, but this game was absurd. I cannot remember if I have ever seen a penalty called for a faceoff violation ever. There were three in this game alone. Add in another six slashing penalties and you’ve got yourself a long night. In total, there were 20 penalties called. No one is expecting that to carry over into the regular season, but this felt unnecessary and made all the more frustrating by the multiple times in which play was whistled prematurely when the wrong team had possession of the puck.

Lars Eller: Eller assisted on the Capitals’ lone goal of the game, but he also had an unnecessary boarding penalty in the first period that brought the ire of the Devils players. He took two penalties for the game and, while the refs were certainly trigger happy with the whistles, considering the penalty issues he had at the beginning of last season this is not a pattern the team will want to see again.

Chandler Stephenson: Stephenson has 13 games of NHL experience under his belt meaning he should have a leg up over some of the younger players competing for a roster spot. And yet, Stephenson was essentially a non-factor on the night. He took two penalties in the first period and finished without a single shot attempt.

Christian Djoos: Djoos is in a battle to make the roster and he had essentially no impact on this game. He established himself as a playmaker in Hershey, but finished with a very pedestrian night in which he managed only one shot on goal despite over five minutes of power play time. He will need to do better than that to make the roster.

MORE CAPITALS: NATIONALS SLUGGER DANIEL MURPHY VISITS CAPS PRACTICE

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

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USA TODAY Sports

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