Back To The Metro –
After starting the season with three straight games against Atlantic Division opponents, the Caps now face three games in four nights against Metropolitan Division foes. First up are the Pittsburgh Penguins who make the first of their two visits to Capital One Arena on Wednesday night.
After facing the Pens on Wednesday, the Caps will depart for a quick, two-game, back-to-back road trip to New Jersey on Friday and Philadelphia on Saturday.
Djoos Debut –
Wednesday’s game marks the NHL debut of Caps defenseman Christian Djoos, who will skate the left side of Washington’s third defensive pairing tonight. The son of former NHLer Par Djoos, Djoos was the Capitals’ seventh-round choice (195
overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Last season, he totaled 13 goals and 58 points in 66 games with the Hershey Bears, finishing third in the league in scoring among defensemen.
“It’s huge, it’s going to be a fun night to finally play the first game.” says Djoos.
Djoos will play alongside Aaron Ness tonight. The two have been teammates in Hershey for the last two seasons, but haven’t played much together, with both of them being lefties.
“We’ve played on the same team for two years,” says Djoos of Ness. “I know the kind of player he is, and he knows what kind of player I am, so that feels good to have.”
The Caps are anxious to see what they have here in Djoos, who is seen as an eventual contender for the left side spot on the team’s second pairing, opposite of John Carlson.
Prior to the start of the season, we had a lengthy conversation with Caps associate coach and defensemen coach Todd Reirden. Here’s what he had to say in regards to Djoos:
“He has been a real interesting case study,” says Reirden. “Our scouts and staff did a great job of recognizing a guy who has a really high hockey IQ and an ability to make plays. I think that as he is getting more and more comfortable with our system and some of the things that are expected of him, and how we’re going to be able to slot him into our lineup. He is an intriguing player for sure.
“In today’s NHL, it’s more important how you move the puck and distribute it, how you understand the game, and how you take advantage of situations and opportunities – how you play them when they’re against you, and how you take advantage of them when you’re on them offensively. I think he is coming into the NHL and getting his opportunity right at the perfect time.
“His puck movement is quick, and it’s always to the right place, and there are some things that are really underrated about his game. Many players at the NHL level and prospects can pass the puck onto someone’s stick, but when he passes to a guy, he is passing to the proper guy and he’s hitting him at full speed. He does a great job of choosing the right option when he is distributing the puck and he is either putting it on the player’s stick or oftentimes to space to use speed. He is able to create odd-man rushes with his puck distributing.”
Drawing Board –
Jay Beagle has been the Capitals’ best face-off man throughout most of his career in Washington, and Caps coach Barry Trotz has been taking advantage of Beagle’s prowess on the dot. Early in the season here, Trotz has used Beagle to take right dot draws in the defensive zone, since he is Washington’s lone right-handed center.
“The face-offs are so important, and I’ve got a lot of trust in Backy and all of the other guys,” says Trotz. “But when you get an opportunity to be on your strong side, the way the NHL is set up right now in terms of the face-off. There is not a lot of cheating anymore. Some guys aren’t able to use their feet like they used to, and tie up guys like they used to. Having a strong-side face-off guy is helpful, and Beags is one of the better guys in the league.”
For Beagle, it’s a matter of taking those draws and getting to the bench, but only sometimes. Occasionally, what happens with that draw will ultimately determine how long he stays on the ice. In Saturday’s win over the Canadiens, Beagle won a defensive zone draw for a line other than his own, then carried into Montreal ice and nearly scored.
“If he puts me out there for those draws,” says Beagle, “I’ve got to try to win them and I’ve got to get off [the ice]. But if I have a chance like that, I think I can do a better job of changing and staying out until the right time, rather than just changing to keep the lines together.
“It’s actually something that I talked about with [T.J. Oshie] a little bit, that maybe sometimes I’m changing a little bit too early. You’ve just got to find that balance. I obviously like that right side draw; it’s where I make a living. So I want to be out for all of them.”
In The Nets –
Two nights after Philipp Grubauer turned in a strong performance to help the Caps earn a point in a 4-3 overtime loss in Tampa, the Caps will go back to Braden Holtby in goal for Wednesday’s game against the Pens. Holtby won his first two starts of the season over Ottawa and Montreal, respectively, and is now seeking to win each of his first three starts of the season for the first time in his NHL career.
Lifetime against the Penguins in the regular season, Holtby is 7-7-2 with a 2.77 GAA and a .914 save pct. in 17 career appearances.
For the Penguins, it will be Matt Murray in goal tonight against Washington. The 23-year-old netminder carries an impressive lifetime regular season mark of 42-12-6 into Wednesday’ game, and he is coming off his first shutout of the season and the sixth of his NHL career on Saturday against Nashville.
Lifetime against the Capitals in the regular season, Murray is 2-2-0 with a 4.43 GAA and an .863 save pct. in four appearances.
All Lined Up –
Here’s how we expect the Caps and the Penguins to look on Wednesday night when they take to the ice at Capital One Arena for yet another one-game Capitals homestand (Get used to it; there will be four more one-game homestands before the Caps have a longer stay at home):
8-Ovechkin, 92-Kuznetsov, 13-Vrana
65-Burakovsky, 19-Backstrom, 77-Oshie
10-Connolly, 20-Eller, 39-Chiasson
91-Graovac, 83-Beagle, 25-Smith-Pelly
59-Guentzel, 87-Crosby, 17-Rust
62-Hagelin, 71-Malkin, 81-Kessel
43-Sheary, 33-McKegg, 72-Hornqvist
34-Kuhnhackl, 37-Rowney, 75-Reaves