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Preseason Game Preview #4: Washington Capitals @ New Jersey Devils

The preseason rolls on as the Devils look for their fourth straight win. This game preview looks ahead to tonight’s matchup with the Washington Capitals and who may or may not play in this game.

NHL: Preseason-New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
Dawson Mercer has scored 2 goals in 2 preseason games. Can he make it 3-for-3?
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Matchup: The New Jersey Devils host the Washington Capitals. SB Nation blog: Japers’ Rink

The Time: 7:00 PM ET

The Broadcast: Radio: Devils Hockey Network. There should be a livestream available on the Devils & Capitals websites as well

The Opposition

The Washington Capitals sent their JV lineup to Philadelphia Saturday night. Predictably, things did not go well for them as they fell 3-1 to the Flyers, with Aliaksei Protas scoring the lone goal for Washington. However, they did get plenty of practice in the 9-round shootout that they “won”.

Ilya Samsonov suffered some sort of lower-body ailment and didn’t participate in practice on Sunday. He will NOT play Monday, as the Capitals PR staff has released a roster for tonight’s game.

Our old friend Tom Gulitti notes that goaltender Vitek Vanecek is expected to play the entire game for Washington. That would make sense as we’re approaching the end of the preseason and the goaltenders are more likely to finish what they started. The rest of the Washington roster looks like standard stuff for this point of the preseason, as they’re sending a solid mix of veterans with NHL experience and prospects to Newark. We should have an idea what their line combinations will look like after the morning skate.

Who will play for the Devils?

Interestingly enough, the Capitals PR staff also released a roster for the Devils, consisting of 10 forwards, 8 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders.

Forwards: Alex Holtz, Nico Hischier, Jimmy Vesey, Dawson Mercer, Michael McLeod, Miles Wood, Janne Kuokkanen, Jesper Bratt, Jesper Boqvist, Tomas Tatar

Defensemen: Colton White, Dougie Hamilton, Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, Mason Geersten, PK Subban, Christian Jaros, Kevin Bahl

Goaltenders: Mackenzie Blackwood, Scott Wedgewood

I’ll preface the rest of this section by saying its unlikely the Devils dress 10 forwards when they have 25 remaining in camp (26 if you count one of them as a recent waiver claim who played left wing in a preseason game as recently as this past weekend.....more on that shortly), so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Devils add a few more forwards for tonight’s game. That said, the names listed make a ton of sense. With the exception of the goaltenders and Christian Jaros, none of the players have played since Friday. Holtz and Mercer are getting another opportunity to impress the coaching staff in a live game setting. Jimmy Vesey gets another opportunity to turn his PTO into a contract. The Devils get another opportunity to put new acquisitions Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves, and Tomas Tatar in front of the home crowd and generate some buzz in the building. And if this lineup is accurate, Jesper Bratt would be making his preseason debut after dealing with a non-COVID related illness. This lineup makes sense. We’ll see how it ultimately shakes out when the puck drops.

Jack Hughes is notably absent from this Devils lineup after leaving Saturday’s game early due to injury. Given that it is the preseason and we still have yet to learn what his long-term prognosis is, the team taking every precaution and keeping him out of the lineup is the right call and the only call. Ty Smith is also absent from the lineup as Lindy Ruff revealed on Saturday that he’s dealing with some sort of undisclosed injury and doesn’t expect him to skate for “a number of days.” Again, this is the right call and the only call given the circumstances.

The Devils Make Moves

The Devils players were off on Sunday, but they were still conducting business as usual behind the scenes. Lindy Ruff said after Saturday’s game in Bridgeport that the Devils would be making more cuts. On Sunday, the Devils announced those cuts. Chase Stillman was loaned to Sudbury of the OHL and Nate Schnarr was loaned to the Utica Comets, while Robbie Russo and Brian Flynn were placed on waivers with the intention of assigning them to the AHL if they clear. None of these moves should be surprising.

In addition to those cuts, the Devils claimed Mason Geersten off of waivers. If that name sounds familiar to you, its because he played for the Rangers against the Devils in Friday’s preseason game. He’s listed as a 6’4”, 227 lb left-handed defensemen (forward?), although he skated as a 4th line winger in that aforementioned game. He is a big boy coming to a team that spent the offseason looking to add more size on the backend. He also has a bit of a reputation for being a face puncher. I do not expect Geersten to make the Opening Night roster, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him get into a preseason game or two for the Devils this week to act as an enforcer. Former Devils captain and MSG broadcaster Bryce Salvador notes that with the upcoming schedule in the preseason, the Devils might want a player in the lineup who will stick up for the boys and have their back.

After those cuts and with the Geersten claim, the Devils have 43 players remaining in camp.

Forwards (25): Alexander Holtz, Andreas Johnsson, Tyce Thompson, Nico Hischier, Mark Jankowski (PTO), Jimmy Vesey (PTO), Yegor Sharangovich, Dawson Mercer, Michael McLeod, Nolan Foote, Joseph Gambardella, Pavel Zacha, Freddy Gauthier (PTO), AJ Greer, Miles Wood, Chase De Leo, Fabian Zetterlund, Janne Kuokkanen, Jesper Bratt, Marian Studenic, Jesper Boqvist, Aarne Talvitie, Jack Hughes, Tomas Tatar, Graham Clarke

Defensemen (13): Colton White, Dougie Hamilton, Ty Smith, Damon Severson, Reilly Walsh, Ryan Graves, Tyler Wotherspoon (PTO), Jonas Siegenthaler, PK Subban, Nikita Okhotiuk, Christian Jaros, Kevin Bahl, Mason Geersten

Goaltenders (5): Mackenzie Blackwood, Akira Schmid, Scott Wedgewood, Jonathan Bernier, Nico Daws

Final Thoughts

We’re now entering the second half of the preseason slate and the players are running out of opportunities to make their case for the few roster spots available. I expect to see Dawson Mercer further solidify his claim to be on the Opening Night roster. I want to see Alex Holtz make the most of these chances he’s getting and press the issue for the Devils braintrust. I hope to see all the players the Devils dress continue to play well and make the decisions for Lindy Ruff and his staff as difficult as possible.

What do you think of the game tonight? What will you be looking out for as the Devils continue their preparations for the regular season? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below and thank you for reading.