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Caps Get Started Against Sens in Ottawa

Washington starts the season in Canada for the first time since 1997-98

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

Oct. 5 vs. Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Center 

Time: 7:30 p.m. 

TV: NBC Sports Washington 

Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, WJFK FM 106.7

Washington Capitals 0-0-0

Ottawa Senators 0-0-0

Washington opens the 2017-18 season north of the border on Thursday night, traveling to Ottawa to take on the Senators in clash of nation's capital cities. This season opener marks the first time in two decades that the Caps have played their opener on the road in Canada. The last time they did so previously was Oct. 1, 1997 when they earned a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs in Toronto, back when the Leafs still called Maple Leaf Gardens home.

Along with the other 30 NHL teams, the Capitals set their opening night roster ahead of Tuesday's 5 p.m. deadline to do so. But on Wednesday morning, the Caps adjusted that roster. Washington waived center Chandler Stephenson, the team's third choice (77th overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft, and it signed veteran winger Alex Chiasson to a one-year contract worth a total of $660,000.
Video: Alex Chiasson Signs One-Year Deal
"It's official now," said Chiasson upon the conclusion of Wednesday's practice. "I signed a contract this morning. So I'm excited to be here, to be part of this group and to continue to progress as a team. We'll see how that goes."

Chiasson totaled 12 goals and 24 points in 81 games with the Calgary Flames last season. The 27-year-old native of Montreal was a second-round pick (38th overall) of the Dallas Stars in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. 

He has also played for Dallas and Ottawa over the course of a 320-game NHL career in which he has registered 50 goals and 106 points. After last season, Calgary chose not to extend a qualifying offer to Chiasson, making him an unrestricted free agent as of July 1.

Unable to procure an NHL contract in free agency over the summer, Chiasson agreed to a professional tryout (PTO) agreement with Washington on Sept. 9. After a strong training camp performance, he officially signed and was placed on the roster on Wednesday morning. 

"I'll be the first one to say that it was a little bit of a long summer regarding that [contract] stuff," admits Chiasson. "But I like my opportunity here. For me this summer, even with what was going on, I still trained and prepared like I would for the season. And then I had a little more of a chip on my shoulder. 

"I came into camp in good shape, and it's been a great camp. I got to know the guys a little bit. I'm really excited to earn a spot on the team here. I'm just trying to take it day-by-day here, progress with the team and see where that goes." 

Washington lost a trio of forwards over the summer, so the Caps had some jobs available up front, and Chiasson was able to secure a contract and a roster spot.

"He's had a good preseason," says caps coach Barry Trotz. "He worked for his opportunity and he deserves it. Now, he got himself a contract. Good on him. He took advantage of the situation. He worked diligently every day and was noticed in every game or scrimmage that he played in."
Video: Barry Trotz | October 4
A right-handed shooting right winger, Chiasson skated on a line with Brett Connolly and Lars Eller at practice on Wednesday, but he has also skated in Washington's top six at times this fall.

If Stephenson clears waivers - and the Caps will know if that's the case or not by noon on Thursday - he will report to AHL Hershey.

Late on Tuesday afternoon, the Caps also learned that right wing Tom Wilson will be suspended for the first four games of the 2017-18 regular season. Days after being suspended for two preseason games - the first suspension of his NHL career - for a hit on St. Louis forward Robert Thomas in a Sept. 22 game, the league came down on Wilson again. 

Wilson's second suspension in less than two weeks comes in the aftermath of a hit on Blues forward Jay Blais in an Oct. 1 game.

"With the [hearing on Tuesday], I felt like the conversation went well," says Wilson. "Then sitting at home you hear the news, and it's pretty disappointing. But I respect their decision.

"In my mind the severity of the suspension is a long time, four games. Obviously I want to be out there on the ice with my team and helping them win hockey games and contributing in any way I can. So four games and a week-plus seems like a lot, but it's their ruling. That's a standard that's going to be kept I'm sure throughout the whole year.

"I think they're trying to send me a bit of a message here, and I've got to listen to it and adapt."
Video: Tom Wilson on Four-Game Suspension
Wilson's absence for the first four games opens up an opportunity for another player to enter the lineup. Chiasson skated in Wilson's usual lineup slot on Wednesday.

Thursday's season opener also kicks off a stretch of six games in 10 nights for Washington at the outset of the campaign, Four of those six will be played on the road. The Capitals played eight of their 12 October games away from Capital One Arena, so a strong start won't be easy to achieve.

"It's important to have a good start," says Caps center NIcklas Backstrom. "I feel like we have the same core group that has been here for a while, and we added some young people into the hockey team, which I think might be a good thing. This is a part of the business; players leave. If you look at it, we're still a good team. But I think it's really important that we start off good and take as many points as we can in the beginning." 

None of the three games played between the Capitals and the Senators last season was particularly scintillating. Washington scored a grand total of three goals in the three games, but managed to win two of the three, taking 2-1 and 1-0 decisions.
Video: Rinkside Update | Jakub Vrana | October 4
Ottawa came to within a single tally of reaching the Stanley Cup final last spring. The Sens dispatched with the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers in the first two rounds of the 2017 postseason, but they were ousted at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final. 

The Sens were able to take that leap in Guy Boucher's first season behind the Ottawa bench, but they may be hard-pressed to return to the postseason in 2017-18. Divisional foes such as Toronto, Tampa Bay and arguably Boston have improved to make the upper reaches of the Atlantic Division more competitive.

Two of Ottawa's top players - defenseman Erik Karlsson and center Derick Brassard - are nearly ready for action after undergoing offseason surgery. Karlsson (foot) seems doubtful for Thursday's opener, but Brassard (shoulder) could play if he gets clearance from the team's medical staff.

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