Chandler Stephenson is still looking for his first NHL point after nine games with the Capitals. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

When Chandler Stephenson got called up to the Washington Capitals, he didn’t know how long his first stint in the NHL would last. It could just be a few days, so Stephenson was practical, bringing along two suits while secretly hoping they wouldn’t be enough.

A month later, Stephenson is still using the same two suits, still clinging to his NHL dream. He has rotated with Michael Latta as the team’s fourth-line center, and Capitals Coach Barry Trotz intends to alternate between the two in the lineup depending on the matchup.

“A lot of dry cleaning,” Stephenson admitted.

With openings at third- and fourth-line center, Stephenson, who played 54 games last season with Washington’s American Hockey League affiliate in Hershey, stood out in training camp as a dark-horse candidate to make the opening-night roster. But he was among the last cuts, understandably disappointed. At the time, Trotz told him to be proud for making it that far and not to be surprised if he made his NHL debut this season.

His first NHL game came less than two weeks later. In the wake of an embarrassing 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks, Stephenson was recalled and centered the Capitals’ fourth line in an Oct. 15 game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Stephenson stayed in the lineup during the team’s five-game winning streak through its western Canada trip. There, his family attended all three games, driving upward of five hours from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to see him. They have watched every game he’s played in, streaming games online when they can’t find them on television.

Nerves would have been understandable after the Capitals lost for the first time with Stephenson in the lineup. Against Pittsburgh, he had his fewest minutes of the season, and after the 3-1 loss, Trotz said the fourth line needed to play better. It was evident a change was coming, and with Stephenson being waiver-exempt, it was reasonable to wonder if his first NHL stay was done.

“You can’t really think like that,” Stephenson said. “Obviously, you have that little doubt. At the same time, you’ve got to do what you can to stay up here and not give them a reason to send you down.”

Latta got in the lineup for the next game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Stephenson stuck around. It was the first sign of how Trotz intended to rotate the two, with Latta being reserved for more physical opponents, and Stephenson, who’s one of the speedier players on the team, better suited for teams heavier on skill. In nine games, Stephenson has yet to record his first NHL point.

The fluctuation wasn’t easy on either player at first, especially Latta, a 24-year-old who had hoped to carve out a stable spot in the lineup. After being scratched for six straight games, Latta got less than four minutes of ice time against the Blue Jackets, which he said was “the least I’ve ever played in my life in this league.” Stephenson was back on the ice the next night against the Florida Panthers.

“I think it’s really difficult for Latta and any player, because he’s been couple years a pro now,” Trotz said last week. “You want to establish yourself as a guy that rarely comes out of the lineup or never comes out of the lineup unless you’re injured. At this point, we haven’t gotten him to that point.”

Trotz said he’s talked to Latta about also playing wing because he can play the wall well, has good hands and brings a “get under your skin” element. His ability to play multiple positions as a utility option could also help him stay in the lineup.

Stephenson said he and Latta don’t view it as a competition against each other, and Latta’s been like “a big brother” to him. In the last month, Stephenson has gotten more comfortable with all of his teammates, and in Florida, Alex Ovechkin Instagrammed a photo of Stephenson with a caption about welcoming him to the team.

Stephenson’s friends sent him excited text messages about how cool it was that one of the league’s top players posted on social media about Stephenson, but he didn’t want to read too much into it, still trying to stay practical.

“I don’t want to get too comfortable with it,” Stephenson said.