Wednesday night, Washington Capitals (4-2-2) return home for a primetime NBC matchup with Detroit (4-2-2), one of six at Verizon Center over their next eight, following a topsy-turvy western Canadian road trip that saw arguably their most complete victory of the season in Calgary and then a dud in Vancouver. Once again, Coach Barry Trotz rejiggered his line combinations, separating Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, promoting Andre Burakovsky to top-line center and quite possibly positioning Tom Wilson for his NHL season debut.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen, meanwhile, will play his 500th NHL game, on the seventh anniversary of his first NHL goal scored vs. San Jose while with Dallas. It was kind of a fluttering slap shot, Niskanen said. I dont know how the heck it went in. I was happy at the time.
Niskanen becomes the sixth Washington skater to reach the milestone, after Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera, Brooks Orpik, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, but admitted it might get forgotten once the puck drops.
As far as games played, milestones go, its kind of a cool one, 500s probably that first big one, maybe, Niskanen said. But its not spectacular. Its not 500 points like Nickie had. It is cool. It means Ive been relatively healthy, had somewhat decent success in the league. Im happy with that, but theres still a game to be played.
Trotz will coach against Detroits Mike Babcock in a regular-season game for the 62nd time, all previously while helming the Nashville Predators. In discussing the Red Wings, Trotz lauded their 200-foot game, ability to funnel pucks toward the net and persistence in all three zones, traits he has hoped the Capitals could adopt during his tenure.
Yeah, you want to create a culture, Trotz said. It takes time. It doesnt happen over night. Theyve had 20 some years at it. I think the successful teams in this business have the same thought process. It starts with the draft, then youve got to build a culture. Once you have your corps, you play a certain way, then keep doing it over and over. You make tweaks, but for the most part theyre self-sustaining.
The Capitals will also be wearing purple warmup sweaters for the Hockey Fights Cancer campaign, and bothgoaltenders willsport custom-painted helmets for the occasion.
The lines, goaltending matchup, injuries and links are below. Thanks for reading and enjoy the Wednesday night hockey, one of two NHL games on the docket.
Caps Insider: Capitals vs. Red Wings: Game 9 discussion thread