Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he went into Sunday night’s 6-2 preseason victory over the New York Islanders 90 percent sure of which roster moves the team would make leading up to Tuesday, when teams must submit their 23-man rosters to the NHL by 5 p.m.
“To be quite honest with you, we made the decisions in the last day here,” Trotz said. “We were just hoping we got through the game with no injuries and if there were injuries we might rethink a couple things.”
Caps third-line center Jay Beagle suffered what Trotz called a “slight” lower body injury early in the third period in Sunday night’s victory, which was propelled by Alex Ovechkin (two goals), Evgeny Kuznetsov (one goal, three assists), T.J. Oshie (one goal, two assists) and John Carlson (one goal, three assists).
Trotz said there was “good competition” in battles for the 13th forward and seventh defenseman, adding “we’ll see what we’ve got” when the team resumes practice on Tuesday.
Before the game the Caps assigned 21-year-old center Chandler Stephenson to the AHL Hershey Bears, taking him out of the competition for the role of depth center.
“Where he was last year to where he is right now is a tremendous accomplishment for him,” Trotz said. “He went from being a little but suspect to being a real good prospect. I think he left here slightly disappointed but he realizes he can play.”
Chandler’s re-assignment theoretically opens the door for the Caps to sign free-agent center Derek Roy, but he was scratched from Sunday night’s lineup, along with veteran Brooks Laich, and Troitz was noncommittal when asked about Roy after the game.
“That’s a joint (decision),” Trotz said. “To be quite honest, we want to know where we are as a team and also have the right role for Derek. That’s really important for us, too, not only for Derek.”
If Andre Burakovsky begins the season as the Caps’ second-line center – and all indications are he will – then Roy would slide down to a temporary fourth-line role, possibly between wingers Michael Latta, Sean Collins or Brooks Laich.
If the Caps do not sign Roy, Latta would likely open the season as the club’s fourth-line center between Collins and Laich.
Trotz said both O’Brien and Collins, a pair of hard-nosed wingers, impressed him in the preseason.
“I’m really happy with where Liam has come from,” Trotz said. “His skating and his ability to play the game at a quicker level, I’m really excited about.
“Sean’s not going to wow you as a sexy player. He’s going to wow you with his consistency and he does a lot of the detail things Joel Ward used to do here for many years.”
As for the role of seventh defenseman, Trotz said he was pleased with the play of veteran Taylor Chorney, who appears to have the upper hand over Aaron Ness and Ryan Stanton, who are likely to start the season in Hershey.
Here is one guess at how the Caps’ 23-man roster will look on Tuesday. (Remember, Nicklas Backstrom would be forced to miss at least 10 games if the Caps placed him on long-term injured reserve, which is why they probably won’t):
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov - T.J. Oshie
Marcus Johansson – Andre Burakovsky – Justin Williams
Jason Chimera – Jay Beagle – Tom Wilson
Brooks Laich – Michael Latta – Sean Collins
Injured: Nicklas Backstrom
Extra: Liam O’Brien or Derek Roy
Brooks Orpik – John Carlson
Karl Alzner – Matt Niskanen
Nate Schmidt – Dmitry Orlov
Extra: Taylor Chorney
Braden Holtby – Philipp Grubauer
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