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Kuznetsov, Iorio Among Capitals To Watch In Preseason Game vs. Devils

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Capitals prospect Vinnie Iorio

The Washington Capitals are ready to take the ice for their second game of the 2021 preseason against the New Jersey Devils.

Washington’s roster for the game features 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders. There will likely be a couple of scratches, but here are some players to keep an eye on.

Kuznetsov And Capitals’ Likely Top-Line Trio

Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Anthony Mantha are on the roster for Wednesday’s tilt. The trio has been skating together through training camp and will likely start the season as the Capitals’ first line. In practice, the three of them have showcased their ability to generate speed, physicality and high-danger scoring chances. However, game action will present a different challenge and look at this combination.

READ MORE ON WHN: Mantha Explains Challenge That Comes With Playing On Capitals Top Line

This will also be Kuznetsov’s first game following a tough 2020-21 campaign that he appears ready to put behind him. He’s looked impressive in camp and says he’s in great physical shape, and general manager Brian MacLellan agrees. There are heavy expectations for the Russian pivot this season, and getting off on the right foot in the preseason will be key.

Hendrix Lapierre

Lapierre will suit up yet again for Washington, and he’s making quite the case for a longer tenure in the District. The 19-year-old picked up two secondary assists in the team’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Bruins and has been one of the best players at camp. He was skating on a line with T.J. Oshie and Aliaksei Protas on Tuesday that is expected to suit up against New Jersey.

He’s playing the game with great speed and solid skating, and he’s moving the puck effectively. However, he needs to get better in the face-off dot, which is something he’s been working on since Sunday’s defeat.

Look for him to dig in yet again at center as he looks to improve on his draws and get on the scoresheet yet again.

Michal Kempny

Kempny was a healthy scratch on Sunday, something head coach Peter Laviolette said was always the plan. He’s expected to play in Wednesday’s tilt and will play in his first NHL game since the 2020 playoff bubble.

RELATED: Michal Kempny Details Ice Shovel Incident, Road To Recovery and Capitals Comeback

The Czech blueliner has been dealing with several injuries to his left leg over the last couple of seasons, and it looks like he’s ready to put that behind him. He’s been working on his skating in camp and is in great shape, and with two vacancies on the left side — and one on the top-4 — Kempny is ready to make the most of his NHL comeback. Expect that to begin Wednesday against New Jersey.

Matt Irwin

Also listed on the roster: Matt Irwin. The 33-year-old is “definitely in the mix” as a depth defenseman, according to head coach Peter Laviolette, and has been a solid presence so far. He signed a one-year, two-way deal with Washington this summer and has 383 NHL games under his belt. Irwin’s still looking to show he belongs with the big club, and Wednesday will be a big test, especially with the defensive race tightening.

Vinnie Iorio

The WHL blueliner is the only member of the Capitals’ 2021 draft class left at camp. He has played with Dmitry Orlov and other top defenders at camp and will make his preseason debut on Wednesday. Look for him to make the most of his opportunity as he looks to leave a strong impression.

Ilya Samsonov

Like Kuznetsov, Samsonov also has plenty to prove this season, and he’ll get some time in goal against the Devs on Wednesday. The Russian netminder struggled with COVID-19 last season and experienced bouts of inconsistency while also getting benched due to disciplinary reasons down the stretch. However, he returned with a strong performance in net for Washington for the team’s final three games against Boston.

Samsonov said he feels “unbelievable” entering this season and also worked with a mental coach this summer. Look for him to make a strong impression as he and Vitek Vanecek battle for the No. 1 spot heading into the season.

Other Game Notes:

Connor McMichael is expected to suit up again and continue to make a case for the NHL; Lucas Johansen is listed on the game roster; Zach Fucale will start; former Capitals blueliner Jonas Siegenthaler will make his return to Capital One Arena with the Devils.

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