As they push for success to kick off the month of October, the Washington Capitals will square off against the Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday, with their ongoing rivalry and memories of Game 7 still fresh in mind.
“Just hatred,” Barry Trotz jokingly said when asked what the Capitals face heading into Wednesday’s matchup. “You hate the guys that bump you out. All the credit to the Penguins. They’ve been the standard for the past two years.”
Making a Debut
In addition to their first big game of the year, as well as their first Metropolitan division matchup, defenseman Christian Djoos will draw into the lineup, making his NHL debut in one of the Capitals’ biggest games to begin the year.
“It’s huge, it’s going to be fun,” Djoos said. “It’s a big game for the organization, and they’re a great team.”
The Swedish defenseman led all Hershey blueliners with 13 goals and 58 points through 66 games last season. He will take Taylor Chorney’s place on the third defensive pairing, skating alongside Aaron Ness.
As Djoos makes his debut, Ness took the time to discuss his ability and offer advice to him prior to his debut.
“He’s a great hockey player, so he’ll be fine,” Ness said. “Just simplify as much as possible and be solid and play your game, that’s what got him there, so that’s the biggest thing. Have fun and enjoy it.”
Trotz offered a similar message to Washington’s young blueliner, saying that it is a huge opportunity but a moment that he will cherish and remember for years to come.
“It’s only going to come by once in your lifetime,” Trotz said. “Enjoy the moment, because it’s a fantastic moment. It’s something that you start out trying to get your first game as a player, you get that opportunity to do it, so enjoy what it brings. It’s a first accomplishment, hopefully, one of many. But it’s a lot harder to stay than it is to make it.”
After weeks of working to make the team out of training camp, and after watching a few games from the press box as a healthy scratch, the 23-year-old blueliner said that he has gotten a lot of advice and help on the way to his first NHL game.
“They’re good guys, the coaching staff, just keep working hard every day, even if you don’t get to play,” Djoos said. “At some point, the chance to play is going to come, and today is the day.”
Tyler Graovac will also slot in on the fourth line, taking Nathan Walker’s place on the left wing. This also marks Tom Wilson’s final game out of the lineup; he was suspended for four regular season games following a hit in a preseason game against the St. Louis Blues. Chorney, of course, is the other healthy scratch, but according to Barry Trotz, it was a tough decision when it came to what to do with the bottom-pairing.
“We want to get [Djoos] in,” Trotz said. “We’re going to move Ness over to the right side… [it’s] just the right time, home game, we can control that a little bit, and a good challenge. We got, obviously, the Stanley Cup champions coming in, get him into the fray with some rivalry here.”
Braden Holtby will start between the pipes for the Capitals, following a standout performance from Philipp Grubauer in Washington’s losing effort Monday.
Sammi Silber covers the Capitals beat for The Hockey Writers and is an NHL contributor with Sporting News. She has also contributed to USA TODAY College, Huffington Post, FanSided and the Nation Network. Silber has written four books and recently worked on graphics for the film, The California Golden Seals Movie.