The Capitals' training camp process kicks into a higher gear tonight in Newark, as Washington takes on the New Jersey Devils in Newark in the first preseason test for both Metropolitan Division teams. It's the first of seven exhibition games for the Capitals, and the first of four games in six nights, including back-to-back home games this weekend.
The Caps host St. Louis on Friday night and Carolina on Saturday night at Capital One Arena, and they'll host the Devils a week from Wednesday in the last of three home preseason tilts.
Morning Scrimmage - Before a group of 20 Caps embarked for Newark on Monday afternoon, the remainder of the players in camp split into two groups (the Bondra group and the Hunter group) and played a two-half, running clock scrimmage of 35 minutes a half.
The Hunter group prevailed by a 5-0 count, getting goals from Garrett Pilon, Mathias Bau, Chris Bourque and Anthony Peluso. The fifth goal was credited on the basis of a brief shootout exhibition conducted between the two halves.
Caps coach Barry Trotz said before camp opened last week that he thought the scrimmages would be "a little more nasty," and tempers in the Monday scrimmage boiled over to the point where defenseman Hubert Labrie and forward Jimmy Devito dropped the gloves and scrapped for a minute or so. Both players emerged none the worse for wear, and both were back on the ice later in the scrimmage.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for goaltender Adam Morrison. Morrison suffered what appeared to be a lower body injury with 3:23 left in the first half of the scrimmage. He was helped off the ice and did not return for the second half.
Video: Barry Trotz | September 18
Special Stuff - Washington will dress the minimum of eight NHL veterans for Monday's game, and the Caps will suit up only six players (three forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender) who spent the entirety of the 2016-17 season with Washington.
The dearth of veteran talent available for tonight's game will make for an interesting mix of players on special teams for the Caps tonight against New Jersey.
"We sort of look at people that we might use going forward," says Trotz, in explaining how the staff decides which players to deploy on special teams in a game like this. "When we see a junior kid or someone like that who plays those positions, we try to put him in that sort of [position]. And we just make it up a little bit with the roster that's given. We try to give everybody a role, for the most part. There are usually one or two guys who may not have a big, big role, but we try to have everybody have some sort of role so you're not extending your veteran players for the most part.
This One Goes To Eleven - Eleven of the players Washington is bringing to New Jersey on Monday are Capitals draft choices that have yet to establish themselves as NHL regulars. Seven of those players are forwards, three are defensemen and one is a goaltender. Only one of the 11 players - defenseman Lucas Johansen - was a first-round draft choice.
The other 10 players were all chosen in the second round or later, and only two of them - forwards Chandler Stephenson and Riley Barber - have seen any regular season NHL action to date.
Tonight's roster includes prospects from as far back as the 2011 NHL Draft (Travis Boyd, sixth round) and include a pair of players from the 2016 Draft (Johansen and Damien Riat).
Washington has made the playoffs in nine of the last 10 seasons, and that successful run has been largely fueled by first-round draft successes such as Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Marcus Johansson and others of more recent vintage. But the Caps haven't drafted a forward after the first round who has played as many as 100 games with Washington since sixth-rounder Mathieu Perreault in 2006.
Seven guys who are in Washington's lineup tonight would love to be the ones to improve upon that recent history.
Video: Rinkside Update | September 18
Nico Night In Newark - The New Jersey franchise had the NHL's first overall draft selection this past summer, and the Devils chose Swiss center Nico Hischier with that top choice. The 18-year-old Hischier will make his preseason NHL debut on Monday against Washington, centering a line with John Quenneville on the left side and PTO invitee Jimmy Hayes on the right.
Hischier piled up 38 goals and 86 points with Halifax of the QMJHL last season.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Capitals to look for tonight's preseason opener against the Devils in Newark:
94-Riat, 18-Stephenson, 77-Oshie
65-Burakovsky, 72-Boyd, 39-Chiasson
79-Walker, 20-Eller, 71-Elgestal
47-Malenstyn, 91-Graovac, 24-Barber
4-Hall, 90-Johansson, 21-Palmieri
47-Quenneville, 13-Hischier, 10-Hayes
63-Bratt, 64-Blandisi, 23-Noesen
52-Baddock, 40-Coleman, 36-Lappin