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Christian Djoos has added a few pounds, hopes to gain a bit more as Caps camp nears

Christian Djoos has added a few pounds, hopes to gain a bit more as Caps camp nears

Christian Djoos hit the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Friday morning, joining about a dozen veterans and prospects for the team’s informal practices.

Although training camp doesn’t begin until Sept. 15, players have been trickling back into town in recent weeks for a variety of reasons. Djoos’ reason for showing up early isn’t a hard one to figure out: The opportunity of lifetime is in front of him, and he wants to make sure he’s as prepared as possible.

“It’s a good chance for us,” he said, referring to all of the youngsters who'll be angling for an NHL job later this month. “We just got to make the best of it and take the chance. This year there's a bigger chance for us to play. We're happy about that.”

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When Djoos arrived a year ago, the Caps did not have an opening on the blue line. This year there’s a couple of ‘Help Wanted’ signs, if you count the spare, and Djoos has as good a chance as any prospect of earning a full-time job.

“I’m going to come ready to camp and see what happens,” the soft spoken Swede said after the 75-minute session, which included Braden Holtby, John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Jonas Siegenthaler, Connor Hobbs, Lucas Johansen, Vitek Vanecek and Devils’ forward Marcus Johansson.

No one questions Djoos’ skill or ability to produce points from the backend. In fact, he ranked third in the AHL in points by a defenseman last season, racking up 58 (13 goals, 45 assists) in just 66 games.

What no one knows about Djoos, however, is whether his body can stand up to the rigors of the NHL.

Djoos was listed by the Caps last season at 6-0, 164 pounds. He told reporters on Friday that he’s bulked up to 168 pounds and hopes to continue to add weight in the coming weeks. To put that into perspective, consider this: Even if he got up to 170, that would still leave him as the lightest defenseman on the roster…by a lot. Taylor Chorney was the lightest last year at 191.

“For sure, I need to get bigger,” he said. “We’re working on it every day here in the gym and back home over the summer. It feels good, getting bigger and stronger.”

The Capitals have him on a high calorie diet that requires him to eat much more than other players.

“You just got to eat everything almost,” he said. “Not the bad stuff but you gotta eat all the time. Just trying to do that every day.”

He then cracked: “I just got to keep eating, keep eating, work out, then maybe one day just explode and gain some pounds.”

Djoos said he’s learned to compensate for his slight build while playing in Hershey the past two years.   

“You kind of have to, especially over here with the smaller rink,” he said dodging big hits. “It’s faster. You got to move your head, look over your shoulder all the time. Of course, you get hit sometimes [but] that’s part of the game.”

Where exactly Djoos fits into the Caps’ plans is TBD. But considering the season he had last year, the team’s need to replace a puck-moving defenseman and the fact that he’d need to clear waivers in order to return to Hershey, there’s a good chance he’ll at least start the season in Washington.

“They want to see me keep playing the game as I did in Hershey,” Djoos said, asked what the coaching staff has told him. “Move the puck good. Good first pass. And still do what we’re going to do in the defensive zone, too. Just got to do the same things and step up a little bit, be a little bit better.”

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

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Capitals' T.J. Oshie had so much fun golfing, drinking through shirt again at celebrity golf tournament

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may have won the American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament this weekend, but T.J. Oshie definitely had the most fun.

Using the Modified Stableford scoring format for the tournament — which included several pro and retired athletes, such as Steph Curry, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, Charles Barkley and Joe Pavelski — Oshie finished with 11 points, tying for 48th with NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell. 

But the Capitals' winger's score didn't really matter because Oshie was out on the Lake Tahoe golf course in Nevada just having fun with his family and continuing the epic celebration as a new Stanley Cup champion. Obviously, that meant playing and chugging a beer through his t-shirt as 'We Are The Champions' played.

His brother, Taylor, was his caddy, and at one point, Oshie borrowed his brother's beer helmet while putting. He sunk it, and it was amazing.

Yeah, Oshie had a great weekend. Here's a look at some other moments from his weekend on Lake Tahoe.

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

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Key Caps questions: How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: How will the Caps look different under new head coach Todd Reirden?

Tarik: It’s an important topic, but let’s not overthink this one. Since winning the Stanley Cup on June 7, the organization has pretty much telegraphed EXACTLY what it hopes will occur in 2018-19. Consider:

  • Todd Reirden was promoted after spending four years as Barry Trotz’s assistant, including the last two years as an associate coach with an expanded role. Reirden already knows everyone, from the players to the trainers and other support staff. He knows what buttons to push and when to push them. There’s a built-in comfort level and trust that should allow everyone to hit the ground running in September.
  • Four of Reirden’s assistants are holdovers, too. The one newcomer, Reid Cashman, is joining the group from Hershey and is a Reirden disciple. So, no adjustment period there, either.
  • Assuming restricted free agent Tom Wilson re-ups (and that would seem to be a very safe assumption), the Caps are bringing back 11 of the 12 forwards that were on the ice for Game 5 in Las Vegas. They’re also bringing back five of six defensemen. And the starting goaltender. Chemistry is a hard thing to explain and/or quantify. But you know when a team has it. And the Caps had it at the end of last year.

So if you look at what GM Brian MacLellan has been doing in recent weeks—and have been listening to what Reirden has been saying publicly—you can only come to one conclusion. The decision-makers feel they discovered the right mix of personnel and systems play at the end of the playoffs, from the defensive structure to special teams. In fact, they were first in goals per game, second-best on the power play and the fourth stingiest team in the postseason.

“Many of my [philosophies] were involved in how we were going to play, how our team was going to look, the identity that we had,” Reirden said on The Junkies recently, referring to last year’s game plan. “So, from a systems standpoint, I would say not much is going to change, at least initially, just because it seemed to work. …You’ll see much of the same.”

That doesn’t mean Reirden won’t make adjustments. He will because he’ll have to over the course of an 82-game regular season and, hopefully, another long postseason run. But it does underscore the fact that the foundation upon on which last year’s championship team was built is going to look awfully familiar. And that's clearly by design.

JJ:  The message from the Caps ever since Reirden was promoted to head coach has been one of consistency as they try to make a seamless transition to the new head coach. In that sense, we probably won't see many changes at all to start the season.

The Capitals just won the Stanley Cup and general manager Brian MacLellan worked to bring almost the exact same roster back for next season. Coming into the locker room saying there's a new sheriff in town and making drastic changes is not the way to go here

But that doesn't mean Reirden will do things the same way.

Reirden has coached at the college, AHL and NHL level. He has seen firsthand how Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins and how Trotz did it in Washington. He also saw what didn't work.

Reirden got to this point by developing relationships with the players. He is much more of a players' coach than Trotz and that will be evident in training camp. I also expect there will be a much greater emphasis on development. Trotz famously said to the media that the NHL was not a development league, but a performance league. I expect Reirden to take a different approach.

After failing to win with veteran-laden teams, the Caps finally hoisted the Cup last season after getting significant contributions from young prospects such as Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey. Like it or not, the Caps' core will not last forever. Every year those players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson get another year older. I do not believe a coach who is as good at reaching players and developing them as Reirden is will be quite as reluctant to reach down onto the farm and sprinkle youth throughout his lineup whenever the team needs a spark.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of Reirden's new assistant coaches this year will be Reid Cashman, promoted from being an assistant with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. This is all good news for players like Lucas Johansen, Jonas Siegenthaler and Connor Hobbs, the team's three best defensive prospects who are hoping to have an impact at the NHL level sooner rather than later. The Caps roster is pretty loaded, but at the very least you can expect Reirden to have a hand in helping those players along at training camp.

Ultimately, the product on the ice is going to look almost exactly the same at the start of the season with the biggest changes coming off the ice. We won't see who Reirden is as an NHL coach, however, until we let the full 82-game season play out.

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