The Washington Capitals are set to take on the Detroit Red Wings at Capital One Arena on Wednesday night and they’ll have their new number one netminder in tow. Darcy Kuemper is expected to start and play his first full preseason game.
Kuemper, signed in July to a five-year deal, previously got into half a game against the Wings in Detroit last week. He stopped all nine shots he faced in the combined shutout effort with backup Charlie Lindgren.
The 32-year-old goaltender recently said that he doesn’t have a set specific number of games or minutes that he’d like to get in to prepare himself for the regular season. He’s leaving that up to the coaching staff.
“Whatever the coaches tell me,” Kuemper said. “Whatever they got on the schedule, that’s good with me.”
That flexibility is key as the Capitals enter a new season with a new goaltending battery. Per Mike Vogel, the 2022-23 season will be the first in Capitals franchise history that Washington enters a season without a holdover goaltender from the previous campaign. Kuemper and Lindgren were signed in unrestricted free agency after Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek departed the organization.
Kuemper already feels like the transition is seamless after his first game against Detroit.
“It was only a period and a half but I feel like we were all on the same page and the communication was great,” Kuemper said. “The guys were really talking back there which makes playing pucks a lot easier. The biggest thing has probably been practice but seeing it (the team) on TV and seeing the structure helps as well. Gives you a mental image of what to expect when you finally get in there.”
Notable names that will join Kuemper on the ice Wednesday night include Aliaksei Protas, Connor McMichael, Joe Snively, Henrik Borgstrom, and Lucas Johansen. All five of those players are battling for roster spots up for grabs in camp.
The Washington Post’s Samantha Pell reports that the healthy scratches are likely to be Erik Gustafsson, Matt Irwin, Brett Leason, Nic Dowd, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, and Marcus Johansson. Mantha will be missing due to the birth of his daughter.
Team captain Alex Ovechkin will lead the forward group and we’ll likely get the first glimpse at what could be the Capitals’ top line on Opening Night of Ovi, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Connor Brown. The inclusion of John Carlson, TJ Oshie, and Dylan Strome also means the top power play unit should get some more game practice. That’s something head coach Peter Laviolette is looking forward to.
“It will be good to get into some games with the group and to see what we’re doing,” Laviolette said. “But I think that could probably be said for everything that we’ve been working on. You get in and you work on defense and forechecks, and neutral zones and face-off plays. We tried to cover everything in training camp here, and now you put it to a test and see where you’re at.”
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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