Defenseman Christian Djoos will arrive back in Washington sometime Thursday afternoon, resigned to watching another Capitals game. He’s been out of the lineup for two months and 24 games, a streak that could end as soon as Saturday. Djoos had left thigh surgery for compartment syndrome in December, and after a long recovery, he played two games in the American Hockey League this week as a conditioning stint.
“He’ll be an option for us for Saturday,” Coach Todd Reirden said. “We’ve gotten positive feedback on, first and foremost, the health, and then secondly his overall game. He’s a guy that we’ve had a lot of success with in the past, and I want to put him in a situation to succeed and get in there whenever the right time is.”
With Djoos set to be activated off long-term injured reserve soon, the Capitals could have a fully healthy lineup for the first time all season, and they’ll need to make a roster decision in the next few days to clear roster and salary-cap space. His return will give Washington eight blueliners, and the most likely scenario is that the team will re-assign rookie Jonas Siegenthaler to the AHL until after the trade deadline, when clubs have to be salary-cap compliant but can carry more than 23 players on the roster. Siegenthaler is the only Capitals player who doesn’t have to clear waivers to be sent down.
Since veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik returned to the lineup from a right knee injury, Siegenthaler has played in 13 of the team’s 16 games, most of them on a third pairing with Orpik, while Madison Bowey has appeared in just five during that span. Bowey will be to Orpik’s right on Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
“Bowey’s been sitting out for a while,” Reirden said. “I think a few games ago, when he had played, a little bit of some erratic play, and the last game he played, for me, was better. I just want to have solid play from him tonight and be difficult to play against down low."
The last time Bowey played was Jan. 23 against Toronto, when Orpik was scratched in what the team called a “scheduled maintenance day.” It was a third game in four nights and the second of a back-to-back set, so the Capitals wanted to give Orpik a night off and avoid putting too much strain on his right knee, on which he had arthroscopic surgery in November. Orpik said he didn’t travel to Toronto for that game; “I stayed here for something else, which I won’t get into,” he said. In the NBA especially, it’s pretty typical for some players to sit out the occasional game for rest, but it’s practically unheard of in the NHL.
Orpik said he’s felt his best of the season since returning from the bye week, so it’s unlikely he’ll have another night off like that one for a while, if at all.
“I don’t think it’s one of those things where you say, ‘Yeah, definitely, the third game in four nights is an automatic day off,’” Orpik said. “I think we just honestly go day by day and just see how it responds. If it feels good, I’d like to play, but if it’s something where they think it’s beneficial to not play, I’ve just got to listen to them.”