Oct. 13 vs. New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center
Time: 7:00 p.m.
TV: NBS Sports Washington
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, Capitals Radio 24/7
Washington Capitals 2-1-1
New Jersey Devils 3-0-0
Washington heads out on its first multi-game road trip of 2017-18, but it's as short as a multi-game road trip can be. The Caps are in Newark to take on the New Jersey Devils on Friday night, and then they head back south to take on the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
The Caps are heading into New Jersey on the heels of Wednesday night's 3-2 home ice loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, a game in which the Capitals were dented for three power-play goals in six penalty killing missions. After starting the season with 13 straight successful kills, the Caps have now been nicked for four goals in their last seven kill attempts.
Video: Rinkside Update | Lars Eller | October 12
"The [penalty-kill] is a strength of our team," says Caps center Lars Eller. "We were good last year and I expect us to be very good this year as well. Taking five penalties or more like we've done in the last couple of games, we can't keep doing that. We've got to find ways to play more five-on-five and less a man short."
The Caps have faced 20 penalty-killing missions in their first four games this season. It is the most they've faced in the first four games of a season since lockout-abbreviated 2012-13, when they were tasked with 24 shorthanded situations in the season's first four games. The Caps started that season 0-3-1; they're 2-1-1 this time around, so they can't count themselves fortunate in that regard.
Washington took three penalties in the first and three more in the second, and the Pens scored a power-play goal in each of the game's three periods to hand the Caps their first regulation loss of the season. The parade to the box has disrupted the flow of Washington's lines at five-on-five, and has kept the Caps from getting into a consistent rhythm here in the early going.
"I don't think it's too hard to kill penalties," says Eller. "You like being on the ice. But it interrupts the flow of every line every time we have to kill a penalty. I think it's more that."
The penalty parade took some of the luster off of what was an impressive NHL debut for Caps defenseman Christian Djoos, the team's seventh pick (195th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Video: The Week Ahead | October 12
After sitting out the season's first three games, Djoos drew into the lineup for the first time against the two-time defending champs on Wednesday. He garnered more ice time as the game wore on, playing with a variety of different blueline partners. And the more he played, the more comfortable he looked.
Djoos was nailed for a tripping violation in the second period, a call that led to a Patric Hornqvist power-play goal, but he more than made up for that with a goal of his own in the last minute of the second period, and a helper on Alex Ovechkin's third-period goal.
"I had a good first [period], a pretty good first I think," recounts Djoos."The guys told me I played pretty good, so I felt good with the support of teammates.
"I just kept playing, and got a goal there in the second."
Video: Barry Trotz | October 12
Djoos finished his debut with a goal and an assist in 13:20 worth of ice time, all at even strength. He is the first Caps defenseman to score a goal in his NHL debut since Steve Poapst did so in an April 10, 1996 game against the New York Rangers, this according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Djoos is also the first defenseman in Washington's franchise history to record two points in his debut.
Friday's game against the Devils will mark the 2017-18 season debut of Tom Wilson, who incurred a pair of suspensions for preseason hits in games against the St. Louis Blues. The second of those came in the Caps' preseason finale on Oct. 1, and Friday will mark Wilson's first game action since then.
"The same Tom Wilson," says Caps coach Barry Trotz, when queried as to what to expect from Wilson on Friday. "He is going to be a big body, hard to handle, he's going to be physical, be a good penalty killer, [be] detailed, all those things. I don't expect him to change, other than just some decisions.
"He's a big man, he's a huge man who can really get around the ice, and he hits like a truck."
Video: Caps 365 | October 12
With Wilson returning to the lineup, Alex Chiasson - who had been manning the right side of Washington's third line with Eller and Brett Connolly - will slide down to the left side of the fourth line with Jay Beagle and Devante Smith-Pelly. Tyler Graovac and Nathan Walker had shared that spot through the first four games, with each appearing twice.
"Consistency," responds Trotz when asked why Chiasson stays in the lineup, given the other options Washington has for that lineup slot. "He plays a big game in terms of puck protection and he's got good detail. He's got the ability to make plays and score. Every time he goes to take a draw, he's been pretty good actually, on the right side. I didn't know that was an asset for him, but apparently it is."
New Jersey is ostensibly in rebuild mode, but the Devils are off to a solid start to the young season. They're out to a 3-0-0 start, and they've rolled up a plus-10 goal differential (16-6) in those three victories, over Colorado (4-1) at home, and Buffalo (6-2) and Toronto (6-3) on the road, respectively.
The Devils have five players with at least a pair of goals, including ex-Cap Marcus Johansson. New Jersey's leading scorer is the surprising young Jesper Bratt, the Devils' sixth-round pick (162nd overall). The 19-year-old native of Stockholm, Sweden has rolled up three goals and six points in his first three NHL games.