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Projecting the Caps’ opening night roster after first round of cuts

Projecting the Caps’ opening night roster after first round of cuts

The Capitals are a week into training camp and the opening roster is starting to come into focus. The first round of cuts was made on Thursday and while none of the names were all that shocking, it does tell us that the team does not intend to get cute with its roster makeup with Evgeny Kuznetsov out.

Here’s a projection of the Caps’ opening night roster through the first cuts and first week of camp.

Offense

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Travis Boyd - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnett Hathaway
Chandler Stephenson

Suspended: Evgeny Kuznetsov

The top two lines are all but set. They have been practicing this way for much of camp and it seems unlikely that Todd Reirden will start that way and then randomly shuffle his top six.

Stephenson did little to help his stock on Monday with an underwhelming performance in the preseason opener against a pretty bad Chicago lineup. I see him in Washington the first week but sent down to Hershey once Kuznetsov returns. He is someone who could probably clear waivers even if it not done on the traditional waiver dump right before the league season officially starts. Boyd did a little better than Stephenson on Monday and I think he will ultimately get to stick around this season in case the team wants to boost the offense of the fourth line. For now, he can be inserted in on the third line at center.

Defense

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Nick Jensen
Jonas Siegenthaler - Radko Gudas
Christian Djoos

The conversation around Kempny shifted a bit on Wednesday. The sense I was getting prior to that was that the team was all-in on Kempny being ready for the first game of the regular season. Reirden reiterated that on Wednesday, but also said he would like to get him into a preseason game if possible. To me, that may be a sign that Kempny is progressing. Even if he is not ready for the preseason, I do believe he is on pace for the start of the regular season at this point.

I felt Jensen looked pretty comfortable in the preseason opener on Monday. Granted that was against a bad roster, but he red plays well, jumped up into the offense and, critically, he was able to hold his own on the left side which is something he was really dreadful at last season.

Gudas scored a goal on Wednesday, but I thought he looked a bit slow in his own end. As of now, I still give Jensen the edge in that race and I think Gudas will be better off on the third pair anyway.

Djoos was better than Siegenthaler on Monday, but I feel Siegenthaler bought himself some time with his performance in the playoffs last year. It is going to be really hard for the Caps to justify Djoos’ salary as $1.25 million is too much for a No. 6-7 defenseman. Ultimately, the onus is on him to show the team he is someone they simply cannot afford to lose.

There is a way for the team to keep Djoos, but it depends on who backs up Braden Holtby.

Goalie

Braden Holtby
Vitek Vanecek

Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov played well enough on Wednesday that replacing Pheonix Copley seems like a real possibility. You need to see more from them than simply half a preseason game, but we will get that chance as the preseason rolls along. The problem here is Copley’s $1.1 million cap hit. If Vanecek and Samsonov can get the job done for less money -- and it looked like they could against St. Louis -- then Copley is likely headed to waivers.

Why Vanecek over Samsonov? First off, with this roster projection, the team could afford to keep Djoos with Vanecek as a backup with his $716,667 cap hit, but not with Samsonov's $925,000 cap hit. The cap is that tight. Getting Samsonov consistent playing time is also important for his development. He will get that in Hershey, but not in Washington. Vanecek is waiver exempt so the team will still be able to shuffle Samsonov and Vanecek to make sure they both get NHL playing time. That added flexibility is a plus as well. Otherwise, it would mean putting Copley on waivers in the middle of the season when he is probably more likely to get claimed.

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Lars Eller was 'not surprised to see that kind of acting' from Brad Marchand in Tom Wilson scrum

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Lars Eller was 'not surprised to see that kind of acting' from Brad Marchand in Tom Wilson scrum

During the first period of Saturday's game against the Boston Bruins, Michal Kempny gave Brad Marchand a little shove following a whistle with 20-seconds left in the frame. Marchand responded with an even greater shove to Kempny's face.

Caps' top line enforcer Tom Wilson came onto the scene immediately, taking exception to Marchand's tiff with Kempny. When Marchand saw Wilson coming after him, he immediately flopped to the ice before Wilson could lay more than an elbow on him. Lucky for Wilson, the referees didn't buy it and neither did anyone on the Caps.

"I'm not surprised to see that kind of acting from him," Lars Eller said of Marchand on The Sports Junkies Monday.

"I think it's good that we back each other up and Tom came over and Marchand...yeah, I don't know what he was doing," Eller said. "He just kind of turtled on the ice there and goes down and Tom barely even touched him."

The Caps came out of Boston with two points, beating the Bruins 3-2 in an overtime shootout victory. They host the Anaheim Ducks Monday night at 7:00 p.m.

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4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Boyd gets a promotion

4 things to know for Caps-Ducks: Boyd gets a promotion

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Capitals (15-3-4) saw their point streak snapped on Friday, but rebounded on Saturday with a come-from-behind win in Boston. They will look to stay hot on Monday as they host the Anaheim Ducks (10-9-2). You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Washington with Caps FaceOff Live kicking things off at 6 p.m. before Caps Pregame Live begins at 6:30 p.m. to bring you up to the 7 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Postgame Live, D.C. Sports Live and Caps Overtime Live.

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

Boyd gets a bump

Travis Boyd's strong play on Saturday did not go unnoticed by the coaches as he was moved up to the third line at Monday's morning skate, switching spots with Garnet Hathaway.

Here are the lines from the skate:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Richard Panik - Lars Eller - Travis Boyd
Brendan Leipsic - Chandler Stephenson - Garnet Hathaway

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Radko Gudas
Jonas Siegenthaler -  Nick Jensen

Carl Hagelin was on the ice in a non-contact jersey and will miss his sixth-straight game. Nic Dowd was not on the ice. Todd Reirden said both remain day-to-day, but Hagelin was closer to returning than Dowd. When asked, Reirden acknowledged that Dowd's injury was worse than previously believed.

Holtby vs. Gibson

Braden Holtby will get the start for the Caps. Since his "reset" early in the season, he has been lights out with an 8-0-1 record in his last nine starts with a .924 save percentage. 

Backing up Holtby will be Vitek Vanecek. He was recalled on Saturday to take the place of Ilya Samsonov. Vanecek has a lower cap hit and the team needed that space to recall Boyd.

The expected starter for the Ducks will be John Gibson, a netminder who has established himself as one of the league's best in recent years. This season he is 7-9-0 with a .915 save percentage and 2.83 GAA.

Anaheim’s putrid power play

The Caps have taken 83 minors this season already, tied for the second-most in the league. Limiting power play opportunities for the opposition should always be a priority, but even if Washington gets into penalty trouble this is a game where they may be able to get away with it.

Anaheim's power play is clicking at only 9.1-percent, the second-worst power play in the league. Only the Ottawa Senators struggle more to score on the man advantage.

The Caps’ epic collapse

The last time these two teams met in Washington was Dec. 2, 2018. Midway through the second, the Caps held a 5-1 lead and looked like they would be able to coast to the easy blowout victory. The Ducks had other ideas.

Andrew Cogliano sparked the comeback with a goal just 61 seconds after Dowd made it 5-1. Rickard Rakell scored less than a minute after Cogliano and suddenly a three-goal lead did not seem all that insurmountable. Anaheim would go on to score three more goals in the third period, five unanswered in total, as the Ducks stunned the Caps 6-5. Anaheim did all of this in regulation as well so the Caps did not even get a single point to show for their second period 5-1 lead.

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