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Friday Brings the Blues to Town

Caps open home exhibition slate and three-game preseason homestand with a Friday night visit from the St. Louis Blues.

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

Sept. 22 vs. St. Louis Blues at Capital One Arena  

Time: 7:00 p.m. 

TV: CSN 

Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7

St. Louis Blues 1-1-0

Washington Capitals 1-1-0

After splitting a pair of road games to open up the 2017 preseason schedule, the Capitals now return home to start a three-game exhibition homestand. Washington's first home game is Friday night against the St. Louis Blues, and that contest also serves as the front end of a set of back-to-back home games. 

Washington dropped its exhibition opener on Monday against the New Jersey Devils in Newark, but evened its record with a 4-2 win over the Canadiens in Montreal on Wednesday. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jakub Vrana, Devante Smith-Pelly and Tom Wilson scored for the Caps in the win over the Habs, supporting the strong goaltending of Philipp Grubauer (20 saves on 21 shots) and Pheonix Copley (21 saves on 22 shots). 

The Caps took Thursday off from the rigors of training camp, and they also trimmed their camp roster. After returning forward Kevin Elgestal to HC Vita Hasten in the Swedish 1st division circuit on Wednesday, the Caps shaved 11 more players off their camp roster on Thursday.

Goaltender Adam Morrison, defenseman Dmitri Zaitsev, and forwards Robbie Baillargeon, Jimmy Devito, Tanner Jeannot, Kristian Marthinsen, Beck Malenstyn, Garrett Pilon, Damien Riat, Brendan Semchuk and Mark Simpson were all returned to their respective teams on Thursday. 

Thursday's cuts leave the Caps with 53 players still in camp. There are 30 forwards, 17 defensemen and six netminders remaining on the camp roster, with another large round of cuts looming this weekend. 

The AHL Hershey Bears open their training camp on Monday, so many of those 53 players will be headed to central Pennsylvania between now and then. In the meantime, several players will continue to vie for a handful of NHL roster spots this weekend as the Caps continue to prepare for the season ahead. 

Forward Chandler Stephenson was the only player to appear in each of Washington's first two preseason games, and he is expected to be in the lineup again on Friday against the Blues. After playing center in each of his first two games, Stephenson is slated to skate the left side of Lars Eller's line on Friday. 

Travis Boyd is a 24-year-old, third-year pro and one among several Hershey Bears trying to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL this fall. He'll get his second preseason viewing on Friday against the Blues, after faring well in Monday's opener against New Jersey. Boyd is one of many forwards who are trying to nail down a berth on the Caps' opening night roster.

"There are obviously a lot of people - especially among the forwards, probably at least 10 or 12 guys - who definitely have a chance," Boyd opines. "There is definitely a lot of competition."

A center by trade, Boyd totaled 21 goals and 53 points while playing all 76 games for the Bears in 2015-16, his first season as a pro. He racked up 16 goals and 63 points in another perfect attendance season in 2016-17. Heading into the final year of his entry level pact this season, Boyd will be hard-pressed to make the roster as a pivot with Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle entrenched in the middle of the ice in Washington.

Caps coach Barry Trotz has told Boyd and a couple of the other centers to expect to play some wing during camp this fall. That's where the job openings are. 

"He had mentioned to me that he might try me at wing here," says Boyd. "I'd love to try it. With how Washington plays their defensive zone system anyway, a lot of times as a center man you're not the low forward in the zone. Most of the time you are, because you're a center, but I'm a little familiar with playing wing because of how we play. 

"I played wing in Hershey for a couple of stretches both of the last two years. There are some little details about playing wing that I would need to work on, but I'm kind of looking forward to trying it out." 

Boyd is expected to line up in the middle of the ice on Friday, centering for Andre Burakovsky and Devante Smith-Pelly. But a shift to the wing could be in the offing for Boyd in one of his future exhibition outings. 

St. Louis changed coaches in midseason in 2016-17, replacing Ken Hitchcock with Mike Yeo, who led the Blues to a 22-8-2 record over the final 32 games. The Blues made the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth straight season, knocking Yeo's former employer - the Minnesota Wild - out in the first round. The Blues bowed out to Nashville in the second round.

Injuries have hampered the Blues early in camp. Ex-Caps center Zach Sanford underwent surgery for a dislocated shoulder and will be sidelined for 5-6 months. Veteran blueliner Jay Bouwmeester has a fractured ankle and will be evaluated again right around opening night. The Blues' main offseason acquisition was that of Brayden Schenn in a draft day deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. St. Louis sent center Jori Lehtera, a first-round pick in 2017 and a conditional first-rounder in 2018.

St. Louis will be bringing an extremely youthful lineup to Washington on Friday. Among the players the Blues are bringing to the District, 26-year-old Magnus Paajarvi carries the most NHL experience. The 10th overall choice in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Paajarvi has played in 308 career regular season games in the NHL.

Among the younger players coming to Washington are many of the Blues' top prospects. Five of St. Louis' recent first-rounders are expected to suit up here on Friday night, including both of the Blues' first-round choices from the 2017 NHL Draft, forwards Robert Thomas (20th overall) and Klim Kostin (31st).
 

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