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20 Burning Capitals Questions: Who plays more in 2019-20 - Christian Djoos or Jonas Siegenthaler?

20 Burning Capitals Questions: Who plays more in 2019-20 - Christian Djoos or Jonas Siegenthaler?

The long, endless summer is only halfway done. The Capitals last played a game on April 24 and will not play another one until Oct. 2.

But with free agency and the NHL Draft behind them now, the 2019-2020 roster is almost set and it won’t be long until players begin trickling back onto the ice in Arlington for informal workouts.

With that in mind, and given the roasting temperatures outside, for four weeks NBC Sports Washington will look at 20 burning questions facing the Capitals as they look to rebound from an early exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs, keep alive their Metropolitan Division title streak and get back to their championship form of 2018.

The list will look at potential individual milestones, roster questions, prospects who might help and star players with uncertain futures. Today, we look at the upcoming training camp fight for playing time on the third pair alongside veteran Radko Gudas. 

The Capitals made some changes on their blueline this summer with Matt Niskanen dealt to Philadelphia for Radko Gudas. With John Carlson and Nick Jensen, that gives three veteran options on the right side. With the hopeful return of Michal Kempny (torn hamstring) and also Dmitry Orlov both on the left side, that leaves one spot for two obvious candidates: Christian Djoos and Jonas Siegenthaler. 

That becomes maybe the most interesting battle of camp next month. The top nine is basically settled. There could be a good push on the fourth line. But Siegenthaler and Djoos are two young defensemen in an organization that has invested heavily at that spot in recent years. 

The Capitals will have 2018 first-round pick Alex Alexeyev, 2018 second-round pick Martin Fehervary – both 19 - and 2016 first-round pick Lucas Johansen all at AHL Hershey this year, among others.

That means this season is critical for Siegenthaler and Djoos to establish themselves lest a younger prospect swipe that spot sometime over the next year. You don’t take players that high in the draft and not give them a shot in the NHL at some point. All three aren’t going to be total busts – although Johansen, 21, has some work to do this season as the oldest prospect of the three. 

Djoos, 25, looked like a mainstay after playing in 22 of 24 Stanley Cup playoff games in 2018. At 6-foot, 170 pounds, he’s never going to be much of a physical presence. But he’s a fine skater and has provided good value already as a seventh-round draft pick in 2012. 

But after playing in 63 games in 2017-18, including most of that Stanley Cup run, Djoos appeared in just 45 last season. A Dec. 11 thigh injury turned into compartment syndrome, a scary issue where blood becomes trapped in the muscle and immediate surgery is needed. He eventually returned to the lineup after missing 24 games but wasn’t totally right in his first eight games back. Djoos then sat for 11 of the next 12 before jumping back into the lineup for eight of the final nine games and the first three of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

The problem: He was eventually benched for Siegenthaler after Game 3 of the first-round series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes and didn’t play again. Maybe an offseason healing will get Djoos back on track. 

But Siegenthaler, 22, will have his chance, too. He held his own in rough circumstances in the Hurricanes series. Kempny had been lost for the season on March 20 and the Capitals were scrambling to keep their blueline together. Siegenthaler played on the top pair with Carlson.

That experience left a better taste after an up-and-down rookie season where he made his NHL debut on Nov. 9 before being sent back to Hershey. He played 26 games, a pretty small sample size. Djoos got in 63 as a rookie even before the Stanley Cup playoffs that spring.

So who will actually win this battle? If both are on the roster, you could easily see a scenario where both players get into 50-plus games, especially as they fill in for any of the five veterans if/when they get hurt, suspended, etc. What’s harder to tell is which one will take advantage. They’re two different players. Djoos could be a better matchup against certain teams while Siegenthaler at 6-3, 206 could be better against others. 

One caveat: Djoos was awarded a one-year, $1.25 million contract in arbitration in July. That means he and the Capitals couldn’t come to an agreement on his worth and he is probably being paid more than the team is comfortable with. 

Needing to shed more than $1.37 million in salary-cap space before the final roster is set at the end of the preseason, Washington could deem Djoos expendable in a trade. A defenseman like Tyler Lewington, 25, could take that No. 7 spot and would cost only $675,000. That’s big savings for a team where every penny will count to get some breathing room. But before that happens, Djoos should at least get to prove his worth in training camp. His salary isn’t the only way for the Capitals to get out of cap jail. 

But whether it’s just during camp or throughout most of the season, Djoos and Siegenthaler will both have their chance. With prospects lining up behind them, it’s time to take advantage of the opportunity. 

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4 things to know for the Capitals’ matchup against undefeated Colorado

4 things to know for the Capitals’ matchup against undefeated Colorado

The Capitals (3-1-2) snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday and will look to stay in the win column on Monday in a game against the Colorado Avalanche (4-0-0). You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Washington with Caps FaceOff Live kicking things off at 4 p.m. before Caps Pregame Live begins at 4:30 p.m. to bring you up to the 5 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington afterward for Caps Postgame Live, D.C. Sports Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here are four things to know for Saturday’s game.

Colorado is undefeated

The Avalanche is one of two teams left in the NHL that has not suffered a loss of any kind. Of their four wins, only one of them was not in regulation and that also happened to be the only game Philipp Grubauer did not play in net.

All four wins also happen to be at home as Monday’s game will be Colorado’s first on the road this season.

Washington will face former Caps Andre Burakovsky and Philipp Grubauer

Things seem to be going well in Burakovsky’s first season with the Avalanche. The winger has two goals and two assists in four games and has scored the game-winner in each of the past two games.

Burakovsky was a restricted free agent in the offseason and his contract carried a large qualifying offer which the Caps could not afford. The team traded his rights to  Colorado for a second and a third-round draft pick as well as a prospect on an expiring contract.

In net, Grubauer enters his second season with Colorado and first as the undisputed starter of the team. He earned the job after last year’s playoff performance in which he won seven games, posted a .925 save percentage and brought the Avalanche to within one win of advancing to the conference final.

In three games this season, Grubauer is 3-0-0 with a .931 save percentage.

The best line in hockey?

Colorado boasts one of the top lines, if not the outright best line in hockey with Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. All three players have had their fair share of success against Washington in their careers.

Landeskog has scored 14 points in just 13 games against the Caps, MacKinnon has 13 points in 11 games and Rantanen has seven points in five games.

The Caps have historically been a difficult matchup for Colorado

Washington’s last three games were against the Dallas Stars (twice) and the Nashville Predators, two teams the Caps have not fared well against historically. The roles are reversed for Monday’s game as this time it's the Caps who have been the thorn in the side of their opponent.

Colorado has lost nine of its last 10 meetings with Washington with its last win coming back on Nov. 16, 2017. The last win before was four years prior in November 2013.

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How to watch Capitals vs. Avalanche: Time, TV channel, live stream

How to watch Capitals vs. Avalanche: Time, TV channel, live stream

The Washington Capitals bounced back from a disappointing loss to the Nashville Predators, where they gave up four leads in a 6-5 contest, with a commanding 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Saturday night to end a three-game losing skid. Now, they welcome the Colarado Avalanche to town Monday night. 

The Avalanche have gotten off to a perfect 4-0 start this season, a record which was preserved in a 3-2 overtime win against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night. Ex-Capitals left winger Andre Burakovsky netted the game-winner while goaltender Pavel Francouz stopped 34 of 36 shots. 

Washington's John Carlson notched a goal and an assist while Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his second goal of the year in the win against Dallas, while Ilya Samsonov impressed in his second career start in net. He's now stopped 49 of the first 51 shots faced in his young NHL career. The Caps will look for their key contributors to perform against the undefeated visitors.

Here's everything you need to know about Monday evening's game, with the opening face-off coming at 5:00 p.m. live on NBC Sports Washington.  

Capitals vs. Avalanche: How to watch

What: Washington Capitals vs. Colarado Avalanche, Game 7 of the 2019-20 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C. 

When: Monday, Oct. 14, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Avalanche game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (NBC Sports channel finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Capitals at Predators on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

RadioCaps 24/7 Radio

CAPITALS vs. AVALANCHE TV SCHEDULE

4:00 PM: Caps FaceOff Live

4:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live

5:00 PM: Avalanche @ Capitals Live

7:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live

8:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

8:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live

Capitals vs. Avalanche Injury Report

Capitals: D Michal Kempny, hamstring injury, day-to-day

Avalanche: C J.T. Compher, lower body, day-to-day; D Ian Cole, hamstring, day-to-day

CAPITALS vs. Avalanche PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Michal Kempny, D, Washington Capitals: The defender could make his season debut as he recovers from a hamstring injury. He felt good after an optional practice on Sunday and said if he doesn't play Monday, he'll be back soon enough. His return will bring a boost to the defensive backline for the Caps. 

John Carlson, D, Washington Capitals (2 G, 8 A, 10 Pts): Carlson has been quite the provider from up top on offense, leading the NHL in assists along with points leader Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. Nobody else has more than four assists on the Capitals. 

Andre Burakovsky, LW, Colarado Avalanche (2 G, 2 A, 4 Pts): Burakovsky not only scored the game-winner Saturday night against Arizona, but also nothed an assist and had four shots on goal. After spending his first five seasons in the nation's capital, the Avalanche traded second and third-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft and forward Scott Kosmachuk for his services in June. 

CAPITALS vs. AVALANCHE SERIES HISTORY 

Number of meetings: 85

All-time series record: Caps lead 44-32-9

Last meeting: Caps won 4-3 (OT) (4/7/19)

Last 10: Caps lead 9-1

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