September 16 vs. Boston Bruins at TD Garden
Time: 1:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7
A mere two days into their 2018 training camp, the Capitals are road-tripping up to Boston for a Sunday matinee match against the Bruins. It's the earliest anyone can recall the Caps ever playing a preseason game after the start of camp; the norm has been three days in recent seasons.
"It's a unique situation," admits Caps coach Todd Reirden. "It's something that's determined a year in advance. Ideally, I wouldn't necessarily like to have this type of situation. It did make me adjust how [Friday]'s practice was; some players are going to be playing in two days, so we were really forced to put some systematic stuff in and then show a little bit of different video than maybe we would have in the past."
Video: Todd Reirden | September 14
The contest is the first of seven this fall for the Caps, and it comes with a slight asterisk. Under normal circumstances, road teams are required to dress eight "veterans." But because Boston has part of its squad in China for a couple of exhibition tilts with Calgary, that requirement has been relaxed to six for this game only.
For the purposes of the preseason, the NHL defines a veteran player as any player who meets any of the following criteria:
- a forward or defenseman who played in 30 or more NHL games during the previous season
- a goaltender who either dressed in 50 or more NHL games or played in 30 or more NHL games during the previous season
- a first-round draft choice from the most recent NHL draft
- any player who has played 100 or more career NHL games.
For Sunday's game, the Caps will bring the bare minimum of six "veterans," and the bulk of that veteran presence will be concentrated among the team's forward ranks.
Five of Washington's 12 forwards and one of its six defensemen for Sunday's game are players who skated for the Caps at the Prospect Showcase tourney in Estero, Fla. last weekend. The Caps' kids showed well at the tourney in Estero, so it's good to see some of them getting rewarded with an early preseason look.
Goaltender Pheonix Copley, who is being penciled into the role of Braden Holtby's backup this season, will get his first preseason test on Sunday, too. The backup gig was left vacant when the Caps traded Philipp Grubauer to Colorado in June, and with Copley on a one-way deal in 2018-19, he will be given every chance to grab the job. The 26-year-old Copley has four years of pro experience under his belt, but has seen action in only two NHL games to date, one in 2015-16 and one in 2016-17.
Video: Brian MacLellan | September 14
"It was a luxury last year for us to have those two goalies," says Caps general manager Brian MacLellan, "and Grubauer played great for us. I don't know what it was, 33 games? I don't think too many teams get to have that every year.
"It's going to be a different environment. It's not going to be where we can go to Grubi when we want to, or he is playing well. We are going to have to ease Copley into it, we're going to have to challenge him and see how he handles it."
Sunday exhibition tilt with Boston starts a set of home-and-home games between the two clubs. The Bruins come to the District on Tuesday to supply the opposition for Washington's first home preseason game. Expect to see more actual Caps veterans in that game.
"I like that it has challenged me and my staff a little bit with how we prepare for that situation," says Reirden, "but it will be one where we won't have very many veterans playing in it, especially with Boston having a large number of their players in China as well. So it will be an opportunity for young players."
Among the 18 skaters the Caps are bringing to Boston are their two second-round choices in the 2018 NHL Draft, defenseman Martin Fehervary (No. 46 overall) and winger Kody Clark (No. 47). Both are less than a month away from their 19th birthday, and both will be getting their first taste of the NHL preseason.
Here's how we expect the lineup to look, with these things being fluid and extremely subject to change at this time of year:
65-Burakovsky, 14-Sgarbossa, 10-Connolly
13-Vrana, 40-Pilon, 61-Ikonen
18-Stephenson, 15-Megna, 79-Walker
47-Malenstyn, 64-Pinho, 71-Clark