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Caps Host Hawks in Exhibition Opener

Four days into their 2019 training camp, the Caps start off a three-game preseason homestand against Chicago

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

September 16 vs. Chicago Blackhawks at Capital One Arena

Time: 7:00 p.m.

TV: NBCSN

Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7

Washington opens up its six-pack of preseason games on Monday night in the District when it hosts the Chicago Blackhawks at Capital One Arena. The Caps will play their first three exhibitions at home, facing Chicago, St. Louis and Carolina in that order. Next week, they'll take to the road to face the same three opponents in the same order.

Typically, the Caps have had seven or more preseason games in most recent training camps, but with only a few roster spots up for grabs, they should be able to manage with six.

Entering camp, the Caps faced a bit of a salary cap quandary as perhaps their biggest roster issue. But on Saturday, the NHL announced it would suspend Caps center Evgeny Kuznetsov for three games at the outset of the 2019-20 season. Kuznetsov will not appeal the suspension, a development that offers the Caps a measure of temporary relief from their cap constraints. Kuznetsov's annual salary cap hit of $7.8 million won't start until he is on the active roster, giving the Caps an extra few games and days to determine how they want to shape their roster after Kuznetsov's suspension has been served. Opening night rosters are due to the league office on Oct. 1, while Kuznetsov won't be eligible to suit up until a week later when the Caps host the Dallas Stars on Oct. 8.

Video: Evgeny Kuznetsov | September 14

As you would expect, the rosters for Monday's preseason opener are largely packed with prospects. The Caps will have a fairly representative group of blueliners, with four of the six having at least some NHL experience. Blueliner Bobby Nardella, signed as a college free agent in March, is slated to suit up for his first ever NHL exhibition action.

Of the dozen Washington forwards expected to dress on Monday, seven have NHL experience. Caps fans will get their first look at 2019 first-round draft choice (25th overall) Connor McMichael on Monday, as he is expected to center a line with Chandler Stephenson and Damian Riat. That trio skated together in a Sunday intrasquad scrimmage at MedStar Capitals Iceplex, accounting for all three of its team's goals. Stephenson scored twice and Riat once, with McMichael helping to create all three.

Additionally, local product Joe Snively will get his first ever exhibition showing in front of the home folks on Monday. Snively, who hails from Herndon, Va., will suit up in a Caps sweater and skate the right side of a trio with Beck Malenstyn and Aliaksei Protas. Snively signed with Washington - the team he rooted for while growing up in the area - in March after four seasons as a standout at Yale.

Like McMichael, Protas is a 2019 draftee (third round, 91st overall) who will be getting his first taste of NHL exhibition action. Offseason free agent additions Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic will also don their new Washington sweaters for the first time on Monday against the Blackhawks. 

Pheonix Copley is expected to start in goal for the Caps, and Ilya Samsonov will dress as the backup.

Like the Capitals, the Blackhawks occupy one of the league's most competitive divisions. After finishing at or near the bottom of the NHL's Central Division in each of the last two seasons, the Hawks are hoping to climb the standings ladder in 2019-20.

Video: Caps 365 | September 13

Prior to missing the postseason in each of the last two campaigns, Chicago put together a run of nine straight playoff berths. That span of prosperity included three Stanley Cup titles and a pair of trips to the Western Conference final. After a slow start last season, the Hawks jettisoned longtime coach Joel Quenneville, who is now running the Florida Panthers' bench. Jeremy Colliton took over the coaching reins in Chicago last November, and he is now running his first training camp.

Chicago is in the midst of a busy month of September. The Hawks participated in the Center Ice rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich., the granddaddy of all the preseason prospect tourneys. Later this month, the Blackhawks will embark upon a trip across the Atlantic Ocean for the finale of their seven-game exhibition schedule, a Sept. 29 contest against Eisbaren Berlin in Germany.

From Berlin, the Hawks head to Prague where they'll face the Philadelphia Flyers in their season opener on Oct. 4. After that game against Philly, the Hawks will return home and will enjoy a lengthy respite. On the same night Chicago plays its second regular season game - and its home opener - against San Jose on Oct. 10, the Caps will be in Nashville for their fifth game of the young season.

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