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Capitals have decisions to make with another round of cuts looming

Capitals have decisions to make with another round of cuts looming

The next round of training cuts for the Capitals could be made in the coming 24 to 48 hours, coach Barry Trotz said.

The Capitals play their fourth preseason game Monday night against the Blues at Verizon Center, where they’ll ice a lineup that features Alex Ovechkin and seven other World Cup stars, as well as a few players hoping to snag a spot on the opening night roster.

Among the hopefuls are forwards Zach Sanford and Nathan Walker, both of whom have earned praise from coaches for their performance thus far in camp.

Here’s the lineup (based on the morning skate):

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Oshie

Sanford-Eller-Burakovsky

Winnik-Beagle-Connolly

Walker-Sill-Carey

Alzner-Niskanen

Orlov-Carlson

Chorney-Schmidt

Holtby

Grubauer

Trotz said he’d like to start whittling down the roster, which currently stands at 42, as soon as Tuesday. But as he noted, there are a couple of variables that could affect the timing of some cuts. For one, there could be a player Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan want to see in game action once more. It’s also possible that the injuries to Marcus Johansson (lower body) and Tom Wilson (upper body) could require them to keep a player or two around a bit longer.

“We’ve got a couple of young guys in there tonight, [and] we’ll see where we are tomorrow,” Trotz said. “Guys that we want to take one last look at, we’ll [keep around]. If not…I would say before the Kansas City game, we want to get down a little bit, or right after that, and get our team a little more together.”

The Capitals’ fifth preseason game is Wednesday night against the Blues in Kansas City.

In reality, there probably aren't going to be any surprises as Trotz and Co. pare down the roster. The Capitals’ depth chart features 21 players on one-way contracts. Make that 22 if you count Andre Burakovsky, who is not going anywhere. Which leaves open just one spot, most likely for a 14th forward.  

Trotz said he’s eager to begin working with a smaller group because he wants to start fine tuning his regular season lineup. With the regular season set to open in Pittsburgh only 10 days from now, the group must begin focusing on special team chemistry, etc. And that’s tough to do with so many bodies divided into two practice groups.

“We want to get down, ideally, to one bigger group,” Trotz said. “You don’t want to make it too big because then you don’t get the reps that you need. …There are some guys that we’ll probably have to decide on, that we’re actually quite happy with, but we have to just go in that direction right now.”

RELATED: Marcus Johansson, Madison Bowey both day-to-day and will not play Monday

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Three reasons the Capitals lost to the Panthers

panthers-goal-caps-usat.jpg
USA Today Sports

Three reasons the Capitals lost to the Panthers

Friday’s game had a little bit of everything. After spotting the Florida Panthers a 4-1 lead, the Capitals furiously battled back to tie the game at 4, then tied the game at 5 with just 1:25 remaining in regulation to earn an improbable point. The comeback ultimately fell short, however, as the Panthers earned the 6-5 shootout win.

Here are three reasons the Caps lost.

Bad puck management

A disastrous first period saw the Panthers score four goals and the biggest reason for that was the Caps’ puck management. They were sloppy with the puck leading to a number of costly turnovers, and Florida took advantage.

A good illustration of this game with Washington already trailing 2-1: Jakub Vrana made a lazy pass in the defensive zone that was easily intercepted by Jonathan Huberdeau, who forced a really nice save from Braden Holtby.

Whew, bullet dodged. Actually, not so fast.

Brett Connolly won the resulting faceoff, but Michal Kempny attempted a backhanded pass behind the net that was easily stolen away by Vincent Trocheck. Florida went tic-tac-toe with Trocheck to Huberdeau to Colton Sceviour who finished off the play for the goal.

No control in front of the net

Trocheck scored a rebound goal from the slot that bounced off of Lars Eller and into the net. Evgenii Dadonov scored from the slot on the power play. Sceviour scored from the high-slot after what was a generous pass from Huberdeau who looked like he could have scored from closer in…from the slot. Jared McCann pounced on a loose puck in the slot to beat a sprawling Holtby and Huberdeau scored off a rebound right in front of Holtby.

See a pattern?

The Panthers had complete control in front of the Caps’ net and all five of their goals came from in close.

Penalties

The Caps had a pretty good start to the game, but that was derailed by a Jakub Vrana penalty just 6:10 into the game. Evgeny Kuznetsov was called for hooking about 10 minutes later and Dadonov scored to put Florida up 2-1.

Despite the penalties and going down 4-1 in the first, the Caps battled back to a 4-4 tie in the second. Then the penalties popped up again.

Alex Ovechkin was called for interference on Aaron Ekblad late in the period. It was a tough call as the puck as was at Ekblad’s feet, but Ovechkin made no attempt to play the loose puck at all and simply hit Ekblad, drawing an interference call. Less than a minute later, the Caps were called for too many men giving Florida 1:15 of a two-man advantage to work with and Huberdeau scored the go-ahead goal.

After three-straight goals, the Caps’ penalties completely derailed them and swept momentum back in the Panthers’ favor.

But wait, there’s more.

With the time ticking away on the too many men penalty, Kuznetsov was tossed out of the faceoff dot. He argued with the linesman and apparently argued a bit too hard because the linesman went to the referee and Kuznetsov was booked for unsportsmanlike conduct giving Florida another 10 seconds of 5-on-3.

Despite all of that, the Caps still managed to tie the game with just 1:25 remaining in the game. Matt Niskanen, however, took a penalty with just 23 seconds left. With a 4-on-3 power play to start overtime, 

Overall, Washington gave the Panthers seven power play opportunities including two 5-on-3s, gave up two goals on the man advantage and completely killed their own momentum.

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3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

The Capitals play their last home game of October on Friday as they host the Florida Panthers (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Here’s what you need to watch.

Dmitrij Jaskin is back in

Todd Reirden has made one adjustment to the lineup for Friday’s game, putting Dmitrij Jaskin back in on the fourth line in place of Nathan Walker. Jaskin has yet to record a point since joining the Capitals, but that has a lot to do with where he was coming from.

“This team is based on being creative and it's probably something that I missed in the last few years,” Jaskin said following Friday’s morning skate.

In St. Louis, Jaskin was coached by Mike Yeo and, before him, Ken Hitchcock. Both coaches preach a hard-nosed offensive style based more on effort and being defensively responsible than skill. Coming to a team like Washington then, a team that encourages skill and creativity on offense, is a pretty dramatic change.

Jaskin has played a very safe style since coming into the lineup. It’s good to be defensively responsible, but not if it completely chokes the life out of the offense. Jaskin is hardly generating any offense at all thus far since coming to Washington.

After a few more practices, can it finally spark some skill and creativity from Jaskin?

Can the Caps get the bottom six back on track?

The Caps have gotten only two goals in six games from their bottom six and both came in the team’s blowout opening win against Boston. The third and fourth lines generated some chances on Wednesday, but afterward, Reirden stressed that the team needed to see more production from its depth forwards.

“We've got to continue to get scoring depth wise if we want to have success in this league,” he said. “That's where everything's headed is you can't rely on your top guys to come through for you every night and we'll continue to focus on finding the right chemistry with that third and fourth line to be able to give us some added offense there as well.”

Florida could provide a good opportunity for those players to get some points on the board.

Starting goalie Roberto Luongo is out with an injury and James Reimer will get the start on Friday. In three games, Reimer has a GAA of 3.62 and save percentage of .885.

As a team, the Panthers currently rank 24th in goals against per game with 3.50.

Two teams in need of a win

Florida is still searching for its first win of the season with a 0-2-2 record. It is still early, but this is a Panthers team with playoff aspirations and you don’t want to dig yourself in too deep a hole to start or it becomes very difficult to dig out.

The Caps, meanwhile, will be playing in their final home game of October. They leave Saturday for Vancouver to kick-off a three-game Western Canada trip. They then will face the Canadiens in Montreal on Nov. 1 before finally returning home.

Washington’s next home game will not come until Nov. 3. That makes Friday’s game a big one for the Caps as they try to secure two points before hitting the road.

“It's definitely a big game,” Reirden said. “We want to build on some of the things we were able to accomplish last game. It's difficult anytime you go out west with time changes and different stuff. We know that [Florida is] going to be a desperate team that hasn't had the start that they want and they're talented so it's an important game for us to go on the road on a winning note.”

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