The team faltered in its first test with a depleted lineup, falling, 4-1, at the New York Rangers on Wednesday, but it is still confident in its ability to rebound — as it has all year.
“I think we are upset with what happened,” defenseman John Carlson said. “I feel like there have been parts of our game … that we have to keep working on … and that was one of those games where we didn’t do too much that we would want to see on film the next day. You got to take it all in, good or bad, and assess it and see it for how it was and try to get better.”
New faces or not, the team has been able to overcome challenges in the past. But the injuries are piling up.
Center Nicklas Backstrom (upper body, day-to-day) missed Wednesday’s game and will be out for Saturday’s matinee against visiting Vancouver. Forward Garnet Hathaway will serve the second of his three-game “intent to injure” suspension for spitting. Forward Nic Dowd (hand, injured reserve) skated before Friday’s practice but will sit Saturday, although he can be reactivated when he is healthy. Forward Carl Hagelin (upper body, long-term injured reserve) is out and will be eligible to come back Dec. 3 at San Jose.
The team made an intriguing Friday morning transaction, calling up Djoos and reassigning Tyler Lewington to Hershey. With all six regular defensemen healthy, the move was made to reward Djoos’s play in the AHL rather than because of injury concerns on the blue line.
Djoos is expected to be a healthy scratch for Saturday’s game.
“He’s played really well down in Hershey, and he’s done what he is supposed to do, and the cap situation presented itself where we could recall him, and he’s well deserving of the opportunity to come back,” Coach Todd Reirden said.
Djoos has 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 18 games. He’s tied for sixth among AHL defensemen in assists.
“That’s good if you look at it that way, but you want to play in the NHL,” Djoos said. “That was my goal to do, and for right now I am excited to be here.”
The 6-foot, 180-pound defenseman played 45 games for the Capitals last year and recorded 10 points (one goal, nine assists). Djoos will not have to clear waivers if he is sent down before he plays 10 games or spends 30 days on the NHL roster.
According to CapFriendly.com, after Washington sent down Lewington ($675,000) and recalled Djoos, the Capitals are left with only $76,667 in their long-term injured reserve salary pool. When Hagelin was placed on LTIR on Wednesday, that cleared $2.75 million of cap space.
Malenstyn, who made his NHL debut on Wednesday, recorded 10:02 of ice time while on the fourth line with Chandler Stephenson and Brendan Leipsic. He spent 2:03 on the penalty kill, a depleted special teams unit with four typical forwards (Hagelin, Dowd, Hathaway and Backstrom) out for Wednesday’s game. The penalty kill thrived earlier in the season, but against the Rangers the unit allowed two opposing power-play goals for the first time this season. Sgarbossa had 8:12 of ice time centering the third line and was not used on special teams. He is expected to center the fourth line Saturday.
“These players will get more comfortable as we are using different players in different situations and try to find the right combinations to have success and win,” Reirden said.