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Who will drop the gloves for the Caps this season?

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Who will drop the gloves for the Caps this season?

For many fans, fighting is one of the major aspects of the game of hockey. Only in the NHL can two players actually square off and wail on each other. It's what sets the sport apart from all the others. 

While there may be some who believe that the day of the hockey fight has come and gone, so long as it remains a part of the game, teams have to have players willing to drop the gloves. For the Caps in the past two seasons, that player has been Tom Wilson.

According to hockeyfights.com, the Caps have had 67 fights in the past two regular seasons combined. Wilson has been in 26 of them.

Now the team loses players John Erskine, Tim Gleason and Aaron Volpatti and even Troy Brouwer who dropped the gloves three times last season and brings in two players in Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie who have never had more than one fight in a single NHL season. That could put more pressure on Wilson to protect his teammates.

That is not an ideal situation for him, however.

RELATED: Caps likely to rotate at third line center this season

Though Wilson has primarily been used as a tough guy, bottom-six enforcer in his first two full NHL seasons, let's not forget that he was a first-round draft pick in 2012, selected before notable players such as Tomas Hertl and Teuvo Teravainen and just five spots behind Filip Forsberg. Teams do not take enforcers in the first round. Yes, George McPhee was the one calling the shots at the time, but Brian MacLellan was the assistant general manager. That doesn't mean he saw in Wilson what McPhee saw, but it's also not as if he simply inherited Wilson either.

The point is that this is a contract year for Wilson and he needs to start showing some of the offensive potential this team saw when they drafted him and it's hard to do that if you're sitting in the penalty box all the time.

"I don’t see him as a fourth-line winger for the Washington Capitals," head coach Barry Trotz said in May. "To me he’s better than that."

But with some of the other team's enforcers on their way out of D.C., who will the Caps turn to when other teams begin agitating?

That responsibility may fall on Michael Latta. Despite limited NHL action the past two seasons, Latta recorded 10 NHL fights. Latta may have some competition to make the roster, however, given how well Stanislav Galiev played last season and the addition of Zach Sill.

Another option is to fight less. The Caps' 31 fights last season tied them for seventh most in the NHL. For those who believe that good teams need to fight, it turns out that's not necessarily true. Playoff teams last season averaged 24.9 fights last season while teams that missed the playoffs averaged 27.2 fights. In fact, Chicago had the second fewest fights in the NHL last season with 15 and it didn't seem to hurt them on their way to their third Stanley Cup in six seasons.

Teams are actually fighting less in general across the league. Last season the NHL saw the lowest rate of fights per game since hockeyfights.com began keeping track in the 2000-01 season.

Whether fighting is actually on its way out in the NHL is a debate for another day, but it would be fair to say that fighting does not seem to be as important as it once was. If the Caps want to drop the gloves as much as they did last season, however, they will need someone other than Wilson will have to answer the bell.

MORE CAPITALS TALK: NHL 16 adds new feature that should excite Caps fans

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

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Trade to Caps potentially offers Jerabek what he never got in Montreal

Defenseman Jakub Jerabek is really happy about the opportunity to play with the Washington Capitals, but it could have come at a better time. The trade came with his parents already on their way from the Czech Republic to visit him.

“It was crazy days past three days because I had my parents on the way to Montreal and they didn't know so it was a big surprise for them,” Jerabek told reporters Saturday after his first skate with the team.

A native of the Czech Republic, Jerabek signed his first NHL contract with the Montreal Canadiens in May 2017. After spending some time in the AHL and struggling to consistently earn a spot in the Canadiens’ lineup, he knew a trade was possible.

“My family, maybe we expected some trade. When its come with Caps and it was Washington, I was really happy.”

RELATED: TRADE DEADLINE STORY TIME WITH ALAN MAY

Jerabek said he came into the NHL with no expectations and was simply happy for the opportunity, but it is fair to wonder if he was not just the least bit frustrated with how he was utilized by Montreal.

For a player with experience playing for the national team, the Czech league and the KHL, getting only 25 games with a bad Montreal team seems a bit low.

“In first two weeks, I didn't know what's going on because the coaches just told me that I played well, but we just make some competition between the [defensemen] and that I have to wait for my next chance,” Jerabek said. “It was hard, but now I'm happy down here.”

Washington now offers a very different opportunity. In need of help on the blue line, Jeraebek has the chance to earn consistent playing time for a team on pace to reach the postseason.

Jerabek will not play in Saturday’s game against Buffalo, but he was hopeful he would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

MORE CAPITALS: IS IT TIME FOR GRUBAUER TO START IN PLACE OF HOLTBY?

For now, Jerabek and head coach Barry Trotz are unclear as to what his ultimate role on the team will be. With eight defensemen now on the roster, Trotz cautioned any lineup decision could not be rushed because of the trickle-down effect it will have on the other players.

“You always look at chemistry and all that with your group depending how high that player goes up the lineup, it affects different people,” Trotz said. “In a forward group, if you get a guy that you all of a sudden stick on the first line, there's four other guys that are bumped down and one guy's bumped out.”

The addition of Jerabek, however, offers the Caps another defenseman who can quickly move the puck out of the defensive zone, something the team has struggled with immensely throughout the season. Though he shoots left, he also said he is comfortable playing on the right said and has played there regularly over the past few years. That provides the lineup with some flexibility on the third pair behind Matt Niskanen and John Carlson.

As for Jerabek’s parents, they will be arriving in Washington on Saturday.

“I tried to figure out the situation with them to get them to here and they will come today,” he said. “So I'm really happy.”

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 62: Capitals vs. Sabres Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Sabres will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Sabres game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals (34-20-7) take on the Sabres (18-32-11) Saturday, February 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Capital One Arena.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME ON?

The Capitals-Sabres game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Sabres
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:00 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

Here are the projected lines for the Caps-Sabres game:

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

Defensemen
Christian Djoos - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Michal Kempny

Philipp Grubauer starts with Braden Holtby as backup

Scratches: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-SABRES GAME?

The Capitals-Panthers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, 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.

CAPITALS-SABRES 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.