Sept. 20 vs. Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7
Washington Capitals 0-1-0
Montreal Canadiens 0-1-0
Two nights after opening their seven-game 2017 preseason slate with a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils in Newark, the Caps take to the road once again. This time, they'll venture further north to face the Canadiens in Montreal.
Washington's preseason schedule is made up of three sets of home-and-home games with New Jersey, St. Louis and Carolina - plus Wednesday's game against the Habs in Montreal.
Monday's opener against the Devils wasn't much of a hockey game. Thanks to a total of 20 minor penalties scattered equally among both teams and spread liberally over the full 60 minutes of the contest, there was very little in the way of flow or continuity and significantly less five-on-five time than is seen in most games.
Caps goalie Vitek Vanecek suffered a lower body injury late in Monday's game, and he is expected to be out for the remainder of the week.
"It's nothing major that will keep him out any length of time," says Caps coach Barry Trotz of Vanecek's ailment.
After Tuesday's practice sessions at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Trotz also dropped some hints as to the makeup of the playing roster for Wednesday's game in Montreal. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana will comprise the Caps' top line, and newcomer Devante Smith-Pelly will also be among the dozen forwards the Capitals will bring to Montreal. Philipp Grubauer and Pheonix Copley will handle the goaltending chores.
Video: Barry Trotz | September 19
Four of the six Washington blueliners dressed for Monday's game were culled from a rather large group of players vying for one of two openings on the backline, and Trotz indicated that he would also be bringing a youth-laden six-pack of defensemen with him to Quebec on Wednesday. None of the 20 players who went to Newark are currently slated to go to Montreal.
With the offseason departures of Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams, the Caps also have two openings in their top six. Andre Burakovsky is expected to fill one of them, and Vrana - the Caps' first-round pick (13th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft - may have the inside track on the other.
"We've got to find who is going to go in that other top six spot," says Trotz. "Is it going to be [Brett Connolly]? Is it going to be a guy like Vrana? Is it going to be a guy like [Chandler] Stephenson or [Travis] Boyd? Who is going to be that guy? By putting those two together, you could put a young guy on both of those lines and have two veteran guys who have high-end skill and hopefully be pretty productive."
Vrana has totaled 35 goals and 75 points in 88 games at the AHL level, and much of that production came before he celebrated his 21st birthday last February. Vrana put up three goals and six points in 21 games with the Caps last year, but most of the minutes he got with Washington came in a third-line role.
Video: Rinkside Update | Jay Beagle | September 19
The Canadiens also opened their exhibition schedule with a loss, falling 3-2 to the Boston Bruins at Videotron Centre in Quebec City on Monday.
All five goals in the game were scored in the second period. The Habs took a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals from Brendan Gallagher and Jeremy Gregoire, respectively, less than 90 seconds apart early in the second. But the Bruins dented the Canadiens for three goals in a span of under four minutes in the middle of the middle frame.
Al Montoya and Zach Fucale split the netminding duties for the Habs in the opener, so there is a strong chance the Caps will see Carey Price in goal for at least part of the game when they visit Quebec on Wednesday.
The Canadiens experienced a busy summer personnel-wise, swinging a deal with Tampa Bay to bring creative and speedy forward Jonathan Drouin to Montreal. The 22-year-old Drouin was the third player chosen overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, and the Habs inked him to a six-year, $33 million contract immediately after the deal.
Montreal also signed longtime Caps blueline stalwart Karl Alzner, inking the veteran ironman to a five-year pact worth just over $23 million. Alzner fills out a Canadiens blueline that is virtually certain to be comprised of players drafted by other teams.
The Habs also added veteran winger Ales Hemsky and depth blueliners David Schlemko and Mark Streit.
Last season, the Canadiens finished atop the NHL's Atlantic Division, but were ousted in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, losing to the New York Rangers.