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Caps Close Out Preseason vs. Flyers

Two Metro rivals meet up for one final tune-up before the regular season starts next week

by Mike Vogel @vogscaps / washingtoncaps.com

October 8 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at Capital One Arena

Time: 7 p.m.

TV: NBCSW

Radio: 106.7 FAN and Caps Radio 24/7

 

Philadelphia Flyers (2-2-1)

Washington Capitals (1-3-1)

The Caps conclude their six-game exhibition schedule on Friday night when they host the Philadelphia Flyers at Capital One Arena. Washington earned its first win of the preseason in its most recent game, a 4-3 overtime victory over the Bruins in Boston on Wednesday night.

Washington dressed essentially a veteran lineup for Wednesday's game in Boston and it is expected to do the same for Friday's exhibition finale. Injuries to goaltender Ilya Samsonov (lower body) and defenseman Martin Fehervary (upper body) could impact the respective availability of those players, but the Caps and Flyers will both be using Friday's game as a final preseason tune-up for most of their regular players.

Friday's game ends a string of three straight road exhibitions for Washington, which dressed mostly regulars in only the last of those three games.

"We'll play our guys again," says Caps coach Peter Laviolette of Friday's game against the Flyers. "That was the plan just going through camp, to keep the guys at home as much as you could, split them in the first two games [at home], try to keep them away from the middle games [on the road] and then play them at the end and make sure we're ready to go."

Video: Peter Laviolette | October 7

Connor McMichael centered a line with Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie in the win over Boston, and Hendrix Lapierre is expected to get that assignment in Friday's game against Philly. Nicklas Backstrom (hip) is still rehabbing an injury and hasn't been on the ice in camp, and either McMichael or Lapierre is expected to fill Backstrom's lineup slot while he remains sidelined. Only 27 players remain in camp, and that includes Backstrom.

In these final days of camp, the Caps are seeking to establish and settle their roster while also getting their veterans ready to roll for the regular season, which opens on Wednesday against the Rangers. The offseason departures of defensemen Zdeno Chara and Brenden Dillon created a couple of blueline openings that are likely to be filled by some combination of Fehervary, Matt Irwin, Michal Kempny and Trevor van Riemsdyk. The Caps have spent the entire preseason looking at various pairings and defensive permutations, and it's not yet clear how they're leaning in that regard or what form their opening night blueline pairings might take.

"We've got one more exhibition game, so I think we'll look at it one more time," says Laviolette. "There are a couple of big pieces that left and so we'll see. [Wednesday] was the first game with the majority of the [defense] in there, and so it's a chance to get a look at it.

"Maybe Marty [Fehervary] will get back in there in the next game - if he's available - and we'll see what he can do. But we're still working through that as well."

The 22-year-old Fehervary was the Caps' second-round choice (46th overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft, and he got into six games with Washington in 2019-20.

Irwin is a 33-year-old undrafted free agent who has amassed 383 games worth of NHL experience over nine seasons with five different organizations. Roughly half of those games were played in four seasons in Nashville when Laviolette was the bench boss there, and he would seem to be a virtual certainty to make the roster.

Video: Matt Irwin | October 7

Kempny, 31, missed all of last season while rehabbing from surgery for an Achilles' heel injury, and he is in the process of gradually ramping his game up in camp. This fall's exhibition games represent his first NHL action of any kind in more than 13 months, and he has shown improvement each time he has taken the ice during the preseason.

van Riemsdyk turned 30 over the summer. He is another undrafted free agent who has carved out a good NHL career, cracking the roster of the 2015 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks as a rookie and remaining in the league since. van Riemsdyk has been the most impressive of the group this fall, and the Caps protected him from Seattle in the July expansion draft. One of four holdover righties on the Washington blueline, he will almost certainly be in the team's top six this season.

"I feel good about it," says Caps defenseman Nick Jensen, another of the team's quartet of right-handers. "All of our D are NHL defensemen, so it makes it easy when you get thrown in with different partner. Everyone seems to play pretty well of each other, so that never seems to be a problem when our lines get a little mixed up, because we all kind of feed off it. It's been good so far."

Philadelphia hosted the Caps on Saturday night, downing them 3-1 after Washington took an early lead in the game on an Aliaksei Protas power-play goal in the first. The Caps and Flyers were all even heading into the third period of that game, one in which the Flyers dressed their varsity lineup while the Caps suited up a number of players who have since been reassigned to AHL Hershey.

The Flyers play their regular season opener on Oct. 15 vs. Vancouver in the opener of a four-game homestand.

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