Oct. 8 vs. Dallas Stars at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7
Dallas Stars 0-3-0
Washington Capitals 2-0-1
The Caps finish off a two-game homestand on Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars. After opening the season with two straight road games and coming home with four points, the Caps let a 2-0 third period lead slip away on Saturday night, dropping their home opener to Carolina by a 3-2 count in overtime.
Tuesday's game is the first of two against the Stars this week - the Caps visit Dallas on Saturday - and it will also mark the return of center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who will be back in the Washington lineup after serving a three-game NHL suspension.
"Obviously he is an elite player, he has been through some difficult times, and it will be exciting for him to get back out there," says Caps coach Todd Reirden of Kuznetsov's return. "I'm happy for him to get back to the life that he knows and loves, and to take advantage of this opportunity to get back to doing the things he does best, and that's playing hockey. I'm looking forward to watching him [Tuesday]."
Kuznetsov is most needed on the power play right now. Lars Eller did a typically stellar job of standing in for Kuznetsov in the middle of Washington's second line, but the Caps' power play is in need of his skill and playmaking ability. The Capitals scored a power-play goal in each of their first two road games, but they went 0-for-6 and looked sloppy in doing so in Saturday's loss to the Hurricanes. A Washington power-play marker earlier in that game may have made the difference in holding off a late Carolina rally.
Eller did so well centering for Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie in Kuznetsov's absence, that the Russian pivot may find himself manning the middle of the team's third line - with Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik - upon returning on Tuesday.
Video: Todd Reirden | October 7
"That's possible that he'll start there," says Reirden. "Eller has played really well with Vrana and Oshie, and Kuzy has not played a game for a while. That line I think has been really solid for us, so we would like to keep some of that chemistry together right away. But we'll take a look at it, and talk about it as a coach staff, and decide officially [Tuesday] morning if that's what we're going to do or not."
Defenseman Michal Kempny, still rehabbing from a serious lower body injury he suffered in March that required subsequent surgery, continues to improve. Kempny practiced with his teammates on Monday, but isn't quite ready for game action yet.
"That was the most intense practice he has gone through," says Reirden of Kempny and the team's Monday practice session. "Drills were set up by design both for him and for Kuzy, because of not being in five-on-five situations where there is contact. That was a lot of the focus today of our practice, so that they could go through some difficult and more game-like situations."
To bring Kuznetsov back to the active roster and put his salary back on the books, the Caps returned defenseman Martin Fehervary to AHL Hershey on Sunday, and they placed center Travis Boyd on waivers. Boyd cleared waivers on Monday, and will be sent to Hershey as well.
Tyler Lewington is expected to make his 2019-20 debut on defense for the Caps on Tuesday against Dallas, playing alongside Radko Gudas in a tandem that features a pair of right-handed shots. The more experienced Gudas will man the left side of that pairing.
Dallas is finishing up a three-game road trip here in the District on Tuesday. After opening at home last week against the Bruins, the Stars hit the road for a weekend set of back-to-backs in St. Louis and Detroit, respectively. They limp into town with an 0-3-0 record, having dropped all three games by a single goal in regulation.
When we say "limp into town," we almost mean it literally. The Stars' list of wounded is lengthy for this early juncture of the campaign; half a dozen players missed the 4-3 loss to the Red Wings on Sunday because of injury.
Dallas lost veteran forward Jason Spezza, trade deadline acquisition Mats Zuccarello and Brett Ritchie to free agency over the summer. Sixty-nine seconds into the season opener against Boston last week, Ritchie scored for the Bruins against his old team, wasting no time in biting the hand that once fed him.
The Stars compensated by signing veteran free agent forwards Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry, but Perry is one of the half dozen Stars who are currently missing because of injuries.
Sophomore forward Roope Hintz has accounted for half of the Stars' early season attack. Dallas has six goals on the young season, and Hintz has scored three of them. Dallas is still seeking its first power-play goal of the season; the Stars are 0-for-6 with the extra man through their first three games.