Sept. 23 vs. Carolina Hurricanes at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7
Carolina Hurricanes 2-1-0
Washington Capitals 1-2-0
Video: Two-Man Advantage | September 23
With three preseason games in the rear view, and three more ahead after Saturday, tonight's home ice tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes marks the midpoint of the Capitals' seven-game preseason. For the Caps, Saturday's game against the Canes is also the second of back-to-back games. Washington suffered a 4-0 whitewashing at the hands of the St. Louis Blues on Friday night in the District.
Tonight's tilt against the Hurricanes also marks the 2017 preseason debuts of a couple of Washington's veteran stalwarts - defenseman Matt Niskanen and center Jay Beagle. Niskanen will skate alongside rookie defense hopeful Christian Djoos and Beagle will center a line with wingers Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly.
Connolly will be replacing Tom Wilson, who was originally slated to occupy that lineup slot. Instead, Wilson will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety for a hit he made on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas in Friday's game. Whether Wilson is disciplined or not remains to be seen, but Connolly took part in the morning skate while Wilson performed in a later scrimmage on Saturday morning/early afternoon.
Video: Rinkside Update | Matt Niskanen | September 23
"I'm excited for it," says Niskanen of skating in his first exhibition tilt. "Camp has been pretty good. We have a lot of guys around, and with a different type of roster situation this year, it has a different dynamic to it with the organization trying to get some young guys a chance here. I had to sit out the first couple, but I'm excited to get back in there tonight and to get back into the swing of things.
"The regular season is not that far away, so there isn't a ton of time to just wade into the water. You've got to jump right in, and try to get up to speed."
Djoos played with John Carlson on Monday in New Jersey, and he played with Taylor Chorney on Friday night in the loss to St. Louis. He'll get his third partner in as many games tonight when he skates alongside Niskanen.
"Djoos has done well so far," says Niskanen. "He has showcased his skills and the type of defenseman that he has got to be to be a player in the league. I think he has shown that so far.
"He uses his positioning and his stick skills to defend very well, and then he is a slick mover of the puck. He can transition it quickly, he moves really smoothly along the blueline, creating offense that way. He's got a pretty good shot.
"I'll be partnered with him tonight, it sounds like. I'll just try to be a really good partner for him; let him do his thing, use his instincts, try to always give him an easy out as a partner, be available for a pass to make his life easier and showcase his skills."
Djoos played 18:26 in Friday's game. He hasn't been involved in the attack much in his two-game trial, but there hasn't been much offense to be involved with, either.
Video: Barry Trotz Pregame | September 23
"We've scored one five-on-five goal in three games," notes Caps coach Barry Trotz. "I know there was a lot of special teams in the first two games, but come on. It's not good enough."
Carolina comes into town with two victories in its three preseason games. Both of the Hurricanes' victories have come on the road, at Buffalo and at Tampa Bay.
Veteran winger Justin Williams was here in Washington for the last two seasons, but he departed for a second tour of duty in Carolina, signing with the Canes as an unrestricted free agent in July. Williams, who will celebrate his 36th birthday on the opening night (Oct. 4) of the NHL season, will return to the District with his new team to face the Caps in Saturday's contest.
At opposite end of the age spectrum, Carolina will also be bringing along center Martin Necas, the team's first choice (12th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft. Necas, a terrific skater who is also blessed with skill and creativity, will be skating in his third preseason game on Saturday in D.C. He has picked up an assist while averaging 14:10 in ice time per night over his first two outings.