The Washington Capitals announced a second round of training camp cuts Saturday, returning 10 players to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, Pa., before the Bears begin their preseason preparation Monday. Washington’s roster is now at 41 players, and an opening-night roster of no more than 23 will be due by 5 p.m. on Oct. 2.
There were no surprises in the list of players reassigned Saturday: forwards Mathias Bau, Grant Besse, Hampus Gustafsson, Beck Malenstyn, Mason Mitchell and Brian Pinho; defensemen Kristofers Bindulis and Tobias Geisser; and goaltenders Parker Milner and Adam Morrison. Additionally, forward Mark Simpson was released from his tryout agreement.
The Capitals play their fifth exhibition game Tuesday in St. Louis, but with 18 of 20 players from the Capitals' Stanley Cup finals lineup returning, most of the roster is already set. Pheonix Copley is expected to replace Philipp Grubauer as goaltender Braden Holtby’s backup, and Travis Boyd and Nic Dowd are the front-runners for the fourth-line center vacancy. There could be a spot for a 14th forward should Washington choose to start the season with a 23-man roster as opposed to one with 22 players.
With the training camp competition limited, the final 10 days of training camp might focus on some concerning play through the first four exhibitions, in which the Capitals are winless. Preseason game rosters are watered down with young players getting their first taste of the big leagues, so they’re rightfully taken with a grain of salt, but Washington has been plagued with sloppy, turnover-laden play. As the training camp crowd gets thinner and the preseason lineup starts to see more veterans, the quality of the outings should improve.
“Just breaking pucks out and stuff, we really don’t give ourselves a ton of chance to have success,” Coach Todd Reirden told reporters after the Capitals 5-1 loss in Carolina on Friday night. "Once we do and we start pushing our forwards out of the zone, we start to look like a fast team and how we want to play. ...
“We’ll get closer and closer to our lineup now. You can talk about nerves and [it being] the first time for some guys and second games and on the road and playing against good players, but that’s part of the process. If you really want to be committed to developing young players, you have to see them, and you can’t just shelter them the whole time and go through training camp and say, ‘Oh, I think he can play.’ Well, we’re finding out if guys can play or if they can’t, and they’re making the decisions for us so far.”
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