Caps Face Blues in St. Louis
The Caps finish off a two-game Midwest exhibition trip on Friday night in St. Louisby Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com
September 27 vs. St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7
The Caps conclude a two-game preseason road trip on Friday night in St. Louis against the Blues, the second exhibition match between the NHL's two most recent Stanley Cup champions. Washington downed the Blues 3-2 in Washington on Sept. 18 in the first of those two meetings.
Washington brought a total of 34 players with it on this two-game trip to the Midwest, and most of those players are going to see game action. The Caps head home immediately after Friday's game with the Blues, and they'll conduct a Saturday practice session at MedStar Capitals Iceplex before finishing off their preseason slate on Sunday afternoon against the Hurricanes in Carolina.
On Wednesday night in Chicago, the Caps started the trip with a 6-0 whitewashing of the Chicago Blackhawks. Washington dressed a representative group of forwards in that game, but went with a mostly youthful group of defenseman in front of goaltenders Pheonix Copley and Braden Holtby. The two goalies split time virtually evenly in the game, but Copley faced 17 shots - including 10 in the first 10 minutes and 12 seconds of the second period - while Holtby needed to make just five stops in slightly less than 30 minutes in the crease.
Lars Eller scored twice against the Blackhawks, and he and linemate Jakub Vrana each had three points to lead the Caps' attack. Washington got at least one even-strength goal from each of its top three lines, and Tom Wilson added a shorthanded strike.
"We talked about being more aggressive," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "We were able to cause some turnovers and force them to be out of structure, and then we were able to take advantage by creating some shot lanes and having some people at the net front."
For several players, Friday night will be a final chance to leave a positive lasting impression with the brass. Defensemen Martin Fehervary and Tyler Lewington are expected to play against the Blues, and they're the only two defensemen from Wednesday's game who are slated to be in Friday night's lineup as well.
Up front, Brendan Leipsic, Liam O'Brien and Chandler Stephenson played in Chicago and they are also scheduled to suit up in St. Louis. Braden Holtby is expected to start and go the distance in net, and that's likely to be the case on Sunday afternoon as well when the Caps finish off the exhibition season against the Hurricanes.
The Caps will almost certainly make some roster trimmings before leaving for Carolina on Sunday morning, but their final opening night roster doesn't have to be set until Tuesday afternoon, when they must also be in compliance with the 2019-20 salary cap ceiling of $81.5 million.
St. Louis is in the midst of a busy eight-game preseason schedule. The Blues are 3-2-0 to date; they play the Detroit Red Wings in Calumet, Mich. on Thursday in the Kraft Hockeyville Game, they host the Caps on Friday, and they conclude the exhibition season on Sunday afternoon in Columbus.
The Blues made a big deal earlier in the week, shipping defenseman Joel Edmundson, prospect forward Dominik Bokk and a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft to Carolina for blueliner Justin Faulk and a fifth-round choice in the 2020 Draft. Upon making the deal, the Blues signed the 27-year-old Faulk to a seven-year contract extension that carries an annual salary cap hit of $6.5 million.
Starting next season, Faulk's salary cap hit will be identical to that of Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, whose own contract expires at the end of this season. The addition of Faulk is a solid insurance policy for St. Louis in the event it is unable to extend the 29-year-old Pietrangelo's contract beyond 2019-20.