New Faces - The NHL's trade deadline is now only two days away, and the Caps accomplished some shopping late on the trip, making two trades in the last two days. On Thursday in Toronto, the Caps obtained veteran left wing Carl Hagelin from the Los Angeles Kings, and Hagelin will make his Caps debut on Saturday against the Sabres, skating on the team's fourth line with Nic Dowd and Chandler Stephenson.
On Friday in Buffalo, the Caps made another swap. They sent defenseman Madison Bowey and a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft to Detroit for defenseman Nick Jensen and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Jensen joined the team in Buffalo late on Friday, and he met with media on Saturday morning before the game in Buffalo.
"I was excited to put a phone call in and talk to him [Friday] late afternoon," says Caps coach Todd Reirden. "And then I had a chance to visit with him here this morning as well. I'm just excited to have the player. We had a strong indication that we may be able to sign him to a long-term contract not long after the acquisition. To me, that's just a great addition to our blueline.
Video: Todd Reirden Pregame | February 23
"We need him to come in and play the same way he did in Detroit. We do some things systematically than they do, so we are going to ease him into that and set him up for success. It's an exciting time for the player."
Without benefit of a morning skate or any practice time with his new teammates, the Caps will have Jensen join in their preparatory meetings and take warm-ups, but he will not make his Caps debut until the team returns home to face the Rangers on Sunday. As they did after acquiring Michal Kempny from Chicago just over a year ago, the Caps are having their newly acquired defenseman watch the first game to get an idea of the team's system from watching before actually doing.
"We do some different things with our defense than other teams in the league," says Reirden. "He gets a chance to see it, take it all in, watch the game. He is not going to play tonight, so he will watch the game and see some of the things we talked about and then be ready to go in [Sunday]. Right now we're thinking about a number of different options with him fitting into our lineup, and we will re-evaluate that later tonight. But he will definitely be playing against the Rangers [Sunday]."
Jensen is leaving the only organization he has ever known. He was a fifth-round Detroit draft choice in 2009 and gradually built his game up to where it is now, where he was playing top four minutes for the Red Wings, averaging just under 21 minutes per night in ice time, and leading the team in shorthanded ice time among defensemen.
Video: Nick Jensen | February 23
"This is all new to me," says Jensen, "so obviously when I first got that call, my head was spinning a little bit. I've never experienced anything like this. It's tough to leave an organization that you've been with since you got drafted, but at the same time I'm excited to be going from one great organization to the next. I'm happy to be here and looking to help out in any way that I can."
Set To Debut - Hagelin will play today in Buffalo, and he spent some time catching up with media after Friday's practice here. Hagelin has been moved during the season twice previously in his career, including once earlier this season when he was traded from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles in November. That previous experience should help him get up and running with the Caps as they head into the final quarter of then regular season.
"It definitely helps," says Hagelin. "I think being through it before makes it easier and this was one of those trades that I kind of had a sense that it was going to happen. All of the other ones kind of shocked me, but this one I knew there was a big possibility of me getting traded since it's the last year of my deal. I'm happy that I ended up here."
Hagelin has spent most of his career in the Eastern Conference with the Rangers and the Penguins, but he did have two short stints in the West with Anaheim and Los Angeles. His production in the Eastern Conference has been much higher and more consistent than in his two brief terms in the Western Conference.
"Obviously I've had more success on the east coast so far in my career," says Hagelin. "At the same time, my stints on the west coast have been really short. It's a way lower number in terms of games, so it's hard to compare the two. But I'm happy to be back here. There is a lot of familiarity just from playing in all of the rinks and just knowing what to expect every night."
On Saturday in Buffalo, Hagelin will make his Caps debut and try to begin developing some chemistry with his new linemates and teammates.
"I think it's important to talk to your linemates, whoever it is you're going to play with," says Hagelin. "And then obviously just get some games in and get some practices in. Once you start feeling more comfortable, you start playing better. That's usually how it works."
Video: Two-Man Advantage | February 23
In The Nets - Braden Holtby gets the start for the Capitals today, two days after a 40-save effort against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Holtby is 4-3-1 in eight starts this month with a 2.64 GAA and a .922 save pct. He has permitted two or fewer goals against in five of his last seven starts. Lifetime against Buffalo, Holtby is 9-3-1 with a shutout, a 2.48 GAA and a .913 save pct.
For the Sabres, Carter Hutton gets the Saturday afternoon start against Washington. Hutton was 12-7-1 at the end of November, but has gone just 3-10-3 since. He is seeking to halt a personal four-game slide (0-3-1, 2.69, .912) since the All-Star break. Lifetime against the Capitals, Hutton is 2-3-2 with a 3.35 GAA and an .880 save pct.
All Lined Up - Here's how we expect the Caps and the Sabres to look when they meet for the third and final time this season on Saturday afternoon in the finale of Washington's season-long six-game road trip:
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 43-Wilson
13-Vrana, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
65-Burakovsky, 20-Eller, 10-Connolly
62-Hagelin, 26-Dowd, 18-Stephenson
53-Skinner, 9-Eichel, 71-Rodrigues
43-Sheary, 37-Mittelstadt, 23-Reinhart
49-Smith, 17-Sobotka, 72-Thompson
28-Girgensons, 22-Larsson, 29-Pominville
6-Scandella (upper body)