In between Thursday night’s Caps Alumni Game and Saturday’s fourth annual Caps convention, the team managed to carve out just enough time to host its first home preseason game on Friday night at Verizon Center. The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will be here in the District to supply the opposition.
Each of Washington’s first three preseason games has required a shootout to settle. The Caps won 4-3 shootout decisions last Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets in Belleville, Ont. and then won another shootout by the same score on Monday in Philadelphia against the Flyers.
The Caps dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Boston Bruins in Baltimore on Tuesday night, a skills competition that required eight rounds to determine a winner.
After starting camp with 70 players, the Capitals lopped eight players off their camp roster on Thursday to bring the squad down to a more manageable 41 players (23 forwards, 14 defensemen and four goaltenders). Teams have until Sept. 30 to cut down to the required minimum of 23 players.
For the first time in the 2013-14 preseason, Washington’s top line of Marcus Johansson, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin will be able to showcase its wares on an actual NHL ice surface. The Backstrom unit played on an Olympic-sized sheet on Saturday in Belleville and played on a old minor league sheet in Baltimore on Tuesday.
“I think you work on the small, little details a lot,” says Johansson on the process of getting ready for the regular season, “trying to be in the right spots at the right times and stuff like that. If you do the right things for your team, the hands and the skating and everything like that will come naturally.
“With playing games and practicing everything is going get back to normal. Those details of timing and being in the right spot and supporting each other are the things you think about most when you’re out there.”
Eric Fehr gets another spin at center on Friday against Chicago. He’ll man the middle of a unit that features Jason Chimera on the left and Joel Ward on the right. A right wing by trade, Fehr gave a more than credible performance in his first spin as an NHL pivot on Monday against the Flyers in Philly. He logged nearly 19 minutes, picked up a pair of assists and won seven of the 13 face-offs he took.
Prior to Monday’s game, Fehr had taken a grand total of 22 face-offs in his eight seasons of action in the NHL.
Washington fans will also get their first look at 2013 first-round pick Andre Burakovsky. The 18-year-old Burakovsky skated in his first NHL preseason contest on Monday in Philadelphia. He’ll be playing the 2013-14 season in the opposite corner of the state of Pennsylvania for the Erie Otters of the OHL.
Chicago won its first preseason game over former Central Division rival Detroit at United Center on Tuesday. The Hawks downed the Wings 2-0 in that contest, getting goals from Patrick Sharp and Ben Smith and a 19-save shutout effort in goal from Corey Crawford.
Chicago is without right wing Marian Hossa, who has an upper-body injury. The Hawks believe Hossa will be ready for the regular season opener against the Caps.
The Blackhawks will play six preseason games this fall with Friday’s visit to Washington being the third of those. The Hawks hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Windy City on Thursday night.
Chicago will entertain Washington in the final preseason tune-up for both clubs on Sept. 28 at United Center. The Capitals and Blackhawks will also face-off in the regular season opener in Chicago on Oct. 1.