(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Capitals are trying to squeeze as much normalcy as possible into this compact week of preparation ahead of Saturday’s season opener at Tampa Bay, so they planned two practices for Thursday to simulate a game day routine.

The team held a light skate for a half-hour this morning, and tonight they’re holding a practice at Verizon Center, which is free and open to the public. The practice starts at 7 p.m. and is also part of the Capitals efforts to mend fences with fans following the 119-day NHL lockout.

Coach Adam Oates has said he doesn’t truly consider this week a training camp, given the compressed schedule, but he’s been pleased by how much of his new system the players have been able to absorb.

“I’ve got to compliment the guys because we’ve thrown a lot at them, myself and the other coaches,” Oates said. “We’ve talked to them a lot and they’ve handled it great, because it’s been a lot. It’s a lot in a short span of time, and I think they’ve done a great job with it.”

Doors open tonight at 6 p.m. Here’s a look at what the Capitals have planned for fans tonight, via the team’s press release.

Fans are invited to come celebrate the season with an open Capitals practice that includes complimentary hot dogs, fountain soda, popcorn, pretzels, nachos and ice cream that will be provided for all guests in attendance. The Capitals will host an open practice at 7 p.m. and select Capitals players will be available for a question-and-answer session with all fans in attendance after the practice as well as games, photo opportunities, a slap shot cage, face painting and autographs from Capitals legends Rod Langway and Peter Bondra. In addition the Verizon Center Team Store will be open for Capitals merchandise purchases with a 20% discount on regular-priced merchandise for all fans attending Thursday’s practice.