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Capitals at Senators preview

Karlsson to miss opener for Ottawa; Washington looks for boost from Burakovsky, Vrana

by Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Correspondent

CAPITALS (0-0-0) at SENATORS (0-0-0)

7:30 p.m. ET; RDS2, TSN5, NBCSWA, NHL.TV 

 

The Game 

The Ottawa Senators will begin the season against the Washington Capitals on Thursday without defenseman Erik Karlsson. The two-time Norris Trophy winner and Senators captain had surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot on June 14.

Karlsson, who has been practicing since Sept. 23, did not skate Thursday with his teammates, but Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said there is a chance Karlsson could play Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings at Canadian Tire Centre.

Defenseman Mark Borowiecki said the Senators must adjust to play without Karlsson, who has led Ottawa in scoring the past four seasons.

"I don't think you want to be playing outside of yourself and searching for aspects of Karl's game to add into yours," Borowiecki said. "I think that's just silly. Just stick to your strengths and play that much harder, that much tighter."

The Capitals have won the Presidents Trophy the past two seasons with a veteran team, but after a series of offseason changes, coach Barry Trotz said it's going to take some time for them to find their way.

Washington traded forward Marcus Johansson, 26, to the New Jersey Devils for two picks in the 2018 NHL Draft, and forward Justin Williams, 36, was signed as a free agent by the Carolina Hurricanes on July 1. Trotz said he is looking for players to take their place.

"Those are real key pieces, especially in our top six, and allowed everybody to play lower against lesser competition in the third and fourth hole," Trotz said. "When those top players move on, you're looking for guys to step up."

Trotz said he is hoping forward Andre Burakovsky, 22, can replace Johansson and rookie forward Jakub Vrana, 21, can replace Williams' production.

"I think that's the evolution of most teams and that's the salary cap era," Trotz said.

 

Players to watch

Vrana is getting a chance on Washington's second line with forward Alex Ovechkin and center Evgeny Kuznetsov. Vrana was the No. 13 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Senators center Derick Brassard will play his first game since having surgery on his right shoulder to repair a torn labrum June 6. Brassard had 39 points (14 goals, 25 assists) in 81 games in his first season with Ottawa after being acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers on July 18, 2016.

 

They said it

"It's a new system for the young guys coming in and a lot of new stuff on their brain they have to learn. The last game we were better. We played a lot better for 60 minutes than the previous game so hopefully we can build off that and have a good feeling when we play tonight." -- Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom

"We're ready to go without him and we know it's going to be difficult without him, but we've had to deal with high-end players missing all last year, so it's just a new adversity to start the year." -- Senators coach Guy Boucher on starting the season without Karlsson

 

Capitals projected lineup

Andre Burakovsky -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Alex Ovechkin -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Jakub Vrana

Brett Connolly -- Lars Eller -- Alex Chiasson

Tyler Graovac -- Jay Beagle -- Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik -- John Carlson

Aaron Ness -- Taylor Chorney

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Christian Djoos, Nathan Walker

Injured: None

Suspended: Tom Wilson

 

Senators projected lineup

Zack Smith -- Kyle Turris -- Mike Hoffman

Bobby Ryan -- Derick Brassard -- Mark Stone

Jean-Gabriel Pageau -- Nate Thompson -- Tom Pyatt

Ryan Dzingel -- Logan Brown -- Alexandre Burrows

Johnny Oduya -- Cody Ceci

Dion Phaneuf -- Fredrik Claesson

Mark Borowiecki -- Chris Wideman

Craig Anderson

Mike Condon

Scratched: Alex Formenton

Injured: Erik Karlsson (left foot), Colin White (left wrist)

 

Status report

Brown, selected by the Senators with the No. 11 pick in the 2016 draft, will make his NHL debut. … Borowiecki signed a two-year, $2.4 million contract with Ottawa on Thursday. The contract, which has an average annual value of $1.2 million, takes effect next season. … Wilson will serve the first game of a four-game suspension for an illegal body check on St. Louis Blues defenseman Sammy Blais during a preseason game on Sunday.

 

Stat pack

Ovechkin has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 12 career season-opening games. … The Capitals are 4-4-2 in their past 10 season-opening games. …The Senators are 14-7-3 in regular-season home openers.

 

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