The Washington Capitals announced their roster for their final preseason game, a home tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena. The lines and pairings will look very close to the team’s opening lineup per head coach Spencer Carbery.
Matthew Phillips is the most notable inclusion on the roster. Phillips has impressed in Training Camp as he looks to earn a full-time NHL job for the first time in his career while veteran winger Anthony Mantha will sit out.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) October 7, 2023
“Veteran heavy, one last look,” Spencer Carbery said of roster after the morning skate. “Some certain competition stuff, whether it’s roster wise or Opening Night lineup wise that we’re going to get a look at. Very close to an NHL regular season opening night lineup. …It’s a good test. It’ll be our most ‘NHL veteran game’ we’ve played thus far.”
Phillips has recorded three points in his four preseason games for the Caps. His most impressive venture onto the scoresheet was his overtime, game-winning goal against the Boston Bruins, where he walked around Bruins star David Pastrnak and won the game with a wicked wrister.
“He’s done a really good job through Training Camp – put the coaching staff more on notice of what he does,” Carbery said earlier this week. “You’re starting to see a player that is obviously undersized but it doesn’t affect him a whole lot when it comes to his compete level, ability to get in on the forecheck, and win loose pucks.
“He’s going to get bumped around a little bit but we’ve just found his game to be really effective of keeping pucks alive, making plays when they’re available, and being in good spots within the structure part we talked about. He’s been dialed in. He’s doing a good job of making a case for himself.”
Mantha, on the other hand, has posted one point in his four appearances, a primary assist on a Sonny Milano goal September 24 against the Sabres.
Here for the Mo-Milano connection pic.twitter.com/erIgH6cNo1
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 24, 2023
Mantha was determined to start this season fresh and turnaround his stint with the Caps.
“[The Capitals] came to get me two and a half years ago already and I feel like I haven’t been the player they wanted so far,” Mantha said earlier in the preseason. “So that’s my goal this year, to prove to them that that player’s here (now) and he’s ready to play.”
“I thought his last game was his best I’ve seen from him,” Carbery said. “And I know he’s probably extremely frustrated that nothing goes in for him — hits the crossbar, hits the post on the one at the end of the game, which, he just feels like a lot of bad puck luck for him right now. But that process for him last game is exactly what we need from him. And so if he continues to play that way, those pucks will go in for him. And he’s a skilled player and he needs those to go in for him. But if he continues with that same process, good things will happen for him.”
Outside of Mantha, most of the Capitals’ key veteran names will be in the lineup. That includes all four of their cemented names down the middle in Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dylan Strome, and Nic Dowd. Captain Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, TJ Oshie, and John Carlson will all get jerseys as well.
The younger names that will dress and look to seal their roster spots include Connor McMichael, Beck Malenstyn, Aliaksei Protas, Hardy Haman Aktell, Alex Alexeyev, and Lucas Johansen. On defense, the battle to make the team is still ongoing as Carbery has chosen not to dress starters Trevor van Riemsdyk or Martin Fehervary. Haman Aktell, Alexeyev, and Johansen will instead get their fifth games of the preseason as they fight to make the team.
Haman Aktell has been the standout among that trio so far. ““He’s been one of the pleasant surprises of camp because it’s hard to evaluate when we watch the film from the SHL,” Carbery said. “It’s really, really difficult because of the ice and the play. You can see him move around, his size, and his stick but you really don’t know. He’s been a real pleasant surprise. I’ve liked his game a lot.”
At forward, young star Ivan Miroshnichenko will not play, but remains on the team’s roster ahead of final cuts.
The team’s regular goaltending tandem of Darcy Kuemper and Charlie Lindgren will also dress. Kuemper has seen just one game in net so far this preseason, the 5-4 overtime win in Boston.
The Caps have won three of their five preseason games, posting a record of 3-1-1.
Headline photo: Katie Adler/RMNB
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