For the first time all season, 55 games in, the Washington Capitals have their full lineup available. Defenseman Christian Djoos is ready to make his return from injury against the Florida Panthers on Saturday night after missing the past 24 games following left thigh surgery for compartment syndrome. That means the team has no one hurt or suspended. With the Feb. 25 trade deadline less than three weeks away, Washington will be able to get a better sense of what its needs are for the postseason.
“I’ve been waiting 50-plus games to at least have the option of playing all our guys that we looked at in the summer and felt like we had a good chance of repeating [as Stanley Cup champions] with,” Coach Todd Reirden said.
To activate Djoos off long-term injured reserve, the Capitals cleared roster and salary cap room by reassigning rookie Jonas Siegenthaler, who has played in 25 games this season, to Hershey of the American Hockey League. Siegenthaler was the only player on the team who could be sent down without having to pass through waivers. The 23-man roster limit goes away after the trade deadline, so if Washington has salary cap space then, Siegenthaler could be recalled.
“He’s done some good things, but as of right now, it’s a roster and salary cap situation, and he’s done all he can do at this point in terms of putting himself in a situation to continue to have success and grow in our organization,” Reirden said of Siegenthaler. “He’s set a standard for how he played, and now the people that will be taking his spot have to match that standard, or we’ll be looking to have him back here as soon as we can.
“That being said, when he’s down, he’s got some things to work on. I think there’s some areas in his game that have dropped a little bit, and that’s stuff that he’s got to make sure and continue to improve on.”
Djoos has played in 28 games this season, tallying four assists and skating an average of 13:13 on the third pairing beside Brooks Orpik. The duo was together for all but two games during last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, and according to Natural Stat Trick, in the more than 168 minutes they’ve both been on the ice together this season and last, the Capitals have taken roughly 52 percent of the shot attempts.
“We like his ability to move the puck, to get it into our forwards’ hands as quick as possible and move it to them at the right time,” Reirden said of Djoos. “His hockey sense and his offensive awareness with the puck, he gives it to the players at the right times. They, for the most part, really enjoy having him as an option back there, and we can use him in different areas, whether it’s four-on-four and areas where we can create a little bit more offense.
“I thought his ability to defend was beginning to be really solid as the year was going on until the injury. The stick-on-puck detail was better, and he’s finding ways to be physical when he has the chance. Obviously, he’s not going to play the same physical style that Brooks Orpik is going to play, but he still can box guys out and he can still finish and separate with his body. But for me, his stick detail and his hockey sense are difference-makers at this level.”
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