Nov. 23 vs. Vancouver Canucks at Capital One Arena
Time: 12:30 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 FAN
Vancouver Canucks 11-8-4
Washington Capitals 16-4-4
The Caps start a three-game holiday week homestand on Saturday afternoon when they host the Vancouver Canucks. Saturday's game is the lone contest the Caps will play in a span of six days; most teams in the league have at least a couple of games in hand on them.
On Wednesday night in New York, the Caps dropped a 4-1 decision to the Rangers, their first regulation loss in more than a month on the road. That contest also finished up a string of six games in 10 nights. Currently, the Caps are in the midst of a lull in the schedule, but when this span of one game in six nights ends on Wednesday, Washington heads right back into another stretch of six games in 10 nights, starting with its Thanksgiving Eve contest against Florida.
The Caps were missing four regular players in Wednesday's game. Rookie winger Beck Malenstyn made his NHL debut in that game, and center Mike Sgarbossa made his regular season debut in a Caps sweater as well. None of the four missing regulars are expected back in the lineup for Saturday's game against the Canucks, and Washington has added a familiar face to its mix, too. On Friday morning, the Caps announced the recall of defenseman Christian Djoos from AHL Hershey.
As a corollary move, Washington reassigned defenseman Tyler Lewington to Hershey.
Salary cap constraints combined with a higher than expected award in salary arbitration combined to keep Djoos off Washington's opening night roster, so he has been anchoring the Hershey defense for the better part of the last two months. His recall doesn't seem related to an injury elsewhere among the defense corps, but rather a reward for a job well done with the Bears, combined with Washington's ability to bring him up as far as the salary cap is concerned.
"He has played really well down in Hershey," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of Djoos. "He has done what he is supposed to do, and the cap situation presented itself to where we can recall him, and he is well deserving of the opportunity to come back."
Djoos has 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 18 games with Hershey this season, tied for second on the team, and tied for 11th among all defensemen in the AHL.
"I'm excited to be back and see the guys," says Djoos. "I hope to get a game in, and go from there."
In Wednesday loss to the Rangers, the Caps actually played fairly well over the first 40 minutes, and trailed just 1-0 heading into the final period. A combination of two New York power-play goals - the first time the Caps have yielded more than one extra-man tally in a game this season - and a spate of goalposts and crossbars Washington hit with its shot bids sealed their fate, and ended a nine-game road point streak (8-0-1).
Prior to the Rangers game, the Caps had played two straight strong games in Boston and against Anaheim, but they suddenly found themselves skating without four regulars for the first time in recent memory.
"It seems like we haven't had that in a long time," says Caps defenseman John Carlson, "but it's something that in the NHL is pretty commonplace. It's something we have to work through, and we have to respond better than we did against New York."
Coming off two excellent games, Reirden would have almost certainly kept his forward lines the same going into the game against the Rangers. But with Nic Dowd (upper body) and Carl Hagelin (upper body) still out, and with Nicklas Backstrom (upper body) and Garnet Hathaway (NHL suspension) suddenly out as well, Reirden was forced to make adjustments to three of his four lines.
"How it all happened, it was a little shock to everyone," says Carlson, before amending, "I wouldn't say a 'shock' to everyone, but there is a change, and a lot of changes. As one of the older guys, you've got to make everyone feel comfortable and confident, because they're all good players that we all trust at any point of the game.
"That's from my point of view. I think the coaches and the organization do a good job of keeping things similar from here to Hershey now in terms of systems and all that, so there really isn't any catching up to do, other than just trying to make them feel as comfortable as they can so they can go out and not have to worry about all that extracurricular stuff."
The Canucks are making their third stop on a six-game road stretch that has them away from home for the better part of two weeks, the team's longest trip of the season. The journey started inauspiciously with a 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Stars in Dallas on Tuesday, but the Canucks downed the Preds in Nashville on Thursday night, winning 6-3 on the strength of five power-play goals and a shorthanded empty-netter.
Video: Todd Reirden | November 2
"They went through a little bit of a down patch the last little while," says Reirden of the Canucks, "but their power play [Thursday] night [in Nashville], I watched the game in preparation for [Saturday] and it was a thing to watch for sure with that many goals. They're doing a lot of good things when they go over the boards. They've got some confidence in their group, they've added some good pieces, young players are continuing to grow and get better. They're definitely one of the more improved teams in the Western Conference."
Vancouver's outburst of five power-play goals is the team's most in a single game since it had five in a 6-2 win at Chicago on Nov. 6, 2011. The Canucks' franchise record is six power-play goals, and that record was set in a 10-9 win over Minnesota on Oct. 7, 1983 and matched in an 11-0 win over Calgary on March 1, 1992.
The Canucks are 2-5-1 in their last eight games, with both victories coming at Nashville's expense.