Sept. 27 vs. New Jersey Devils at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7
New Jersey Devils 4-1-1
Washington Capitals 1-3-0
After a day off and a couple days of practice, the Caps get back into the exhibition game swing on Wednesday night. Washington hosts the New Jersey Devils in the Capitals' last home preseason contest, a rematch of the first game of the preseason for both clubs some 10 days ago.
The Devils prevailed by a 4-1 count in that opener in Newark against the Capitals back on Sept. 18, but both teams have significantly trimmed their camp rosters since that time.
Video: Barry Trotz | September 26
"We've got three remaining games," said Caps coach Barry Trotz after Monday's practice. "So we're trying to pair some things and just take a look at different things, especially the next two games. We really have to make some decisions. And whatever decisions we make based on performance, based on what we see and feel, those will be the decisions that will be made. We're getting down to the point where we are going to have to make some decisions on guys."
For the Capitals, this past Sunday was the day after a set of home preseason games on back-to-back nights, a day of rest and relaxation for most of the team in the midst of its 2017 training camp. But for a group of 17 players, it was instead a day of reassignment.
The Caps reassigned 10 forwards, five defensemen and two goaltenders, with most being sent to their AHL Hershey farm team. Hershey opened up its own 2017 training camp on Monday. On Tuesday afternoon, the Caps announced another handful of roster parings. Forwards Riley Barber, Liam O'Brien and Zach Sill and defenseman Colby Williams were sent to Hershey while PTO defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka was released. The Caps also sent goaltender Parker Milner, who is under contract to Hershey, to the Bears.
That leaves 17 forwards, 10 defensemen and three netminders for a total of 30 players remaining in camp. In a perfect world, the roster would be settled by the weekend and those last two games would be a dress rehearsal, a tune-up for the 22 or 23 players on Washington's opening night roster. But the way things are shaking out here this fall, the Caps may need one or both of those last two games to help determine who will actually be on the roster.
We already know who the two opening night goaltenders will be, so that gets us down to 29 players, but those last three or four forward cuts and the last three defensemen cuts aren't as easy to discern.
The guys who are on the bubble are likely down to their last chance or two with which to open the necessary eyes, achieve the necessary separation from the pack, and nail down those final few roster spots.
Defensemen Aaron Ness and Madison Bowey are slated to suit up on Wednesday against the Devils. Ness will skate the left side of a pairing with John Carlson and Bowey will play on the right side of a duo with Brooks Orpik.
Video: Caps 365 | September 26
Washington will dress its usual group of four centers: Nicklas Backstrom, Jay Beagle, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller. All four of the Capitals' bottom six wingers for Wednesday night's game are bubble guys who are seeking to make a positive impression, or - in some cases - to continue making one: Travis Boyd, Tyler Gravoac, Anthony Peluso and Jakub Vrana.
Over the offseason, the Caps lost more than 60 goals worth of production. Thus far in the 2017 preseason, Washington has scored a total of six goals. Three were scored on the power play, one shorthanded and one was an empty-netter. Only one of the six - a Devante Smith-Pelly goal in Montreal last Wednesday - came at even strength.
With that in mind, the best way for a bubble guy to achieve some late separation from the pack is probably to score a goal or two.
It's also worth noting at this point that the opening night roster is given more weight than it should be by many of us in the media. Ultimately, it's just a one-day snapshot of a list of players that can and does change - sometimes wildly - over a six-month span. And we can certainly expect this season's Washington to roster to be more fluid than the last two seasons when the combination of an elite and healthy team made for very little in the way of back and forth between the District and Hershey as the seasons wore on.
More movement between D.C. and Hershey can and should be expected this season, so even recently cut players and those trimmed between now and opening night have plenty of impetus to leave a lasting positive impression. Just because you might not be in Ottawa on opening night doesn't mean you won't be in Washington for the lion's share of the 2017-18 season.
Video: Rinkside Update | Andre Burakovsky | September 26
For the Devils, Wednesday's game wraps up their slate of seven preseason contests. New Jersey lopped 19 players off its camp roster on Tuesday, and is down to 32 players (19 forwards, 10 defensemen and three goaltenders) as it heads to Washington for its exhibition finale.
New Jersey's Nico Hischier - the first player chosen in the 2017 NHL Draft - scored his first NHL preseason goal in that Sept. 18 meeting with Washington. The 18-year-old Hischier has scored in each of his other two exhibition outings as well. He is a cinch to make the roster, but the Devils obviously have some decisions to make. They have both more players on the roster and fewer preseason games remaining than the Capitals.
New Jersey has forged a 4-1-1 record in its six preseason contests to date, surrendering exactly one goal in each of the four victories. The Devils were last in action on Monday, playing a split-squad set of games. They drubbed Ottawa 8-1 up in Price Edward Island, but lost 3-0 to the New York Islanders in Brooklyn.