<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Capital Games]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/capital-games http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:18:52 -0500 Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:18:52 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Fewell To Become 'Skins DBs Coach]]> Tue, 27 Jan 2015 19:34:09 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/175*120/158819187.jpg

Former New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will become the Redskins' defensive backs coach. 

The Giants fired Fewell, who joined them in 2010, at the end of the season, though they ranked among the NFL's top five in takeaways in each of his five seasons. Coincidentally, Fewell interviewed for Washington's head-coaching position before Jay Gruden ultimately filled it.

Fewell will work under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Two more coaching vacancies remain on defense: outside linebackers coach and defensive line coach. 



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<![CDATA[Raheem Morris Leaving 'Skins for Falcons]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:22:00 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/136322507.jpg

Washington Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris is leaving to join the Atlanta Falcons as an assistant head coach in charge of defensive backs, News4's Dianna Russini reports.

Morris, who spent three seasons with Washington, will join what soon will be Dan Quinn's staff. Quinn, Seattle's defensive coordinator, will reportedly be hired by the Falcons following the Super Bowl, where the Seahawks will face the Patriots. 

Morris did interview for the Redskins' defensive coordinator position vacated by Jim Haslett, but the team hired Chargers linebackers coach Joe Barry last week,

There will be only one holdover from last season's defensive coaching staff, according to ESPN: inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti.



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<![CDATA[Kobe Once Wanted to Join Wizards]]> Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:12:58 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/461976392.jpg

Kobe Bryant's 19th season with the Los Angeles Lakers is likely over after recently tearing a rotator cuff, leaving doubt that the 36-year-old will be able to resuscitate his legendary NBA career.

That career was very much alive more than a decade ago, when he was already a three-time champion. Bryant has never known anything other than Lakers purple and gold, but he apparently came close to trading those iconic colors for the Wizards' humdrum blue, black and bronze. 

From The Washington Post's Michael Lee:

Bryant wanted to get away from Los Angeles, and the team he wanted to join was the Wizards, where he would join forces with his mentor Michael Jordan.

Those plans evaporated when then-Wizards owner Abe Pollin parted ways with Jordan in 2003, a year before Bryant became a free agent, but as Wizards fans pine over the idea of Kevin Durant coming to Washington as a free agent, the near-miss that was Kobe-to-DC finally can be shared.

“That’s true,” Bryant confirmed recently. “A long time ago? Yeah.”

According to Lee, "the Wizards never had the assets to discuss a trade for Bryant, so the only chance the organization would have had to make a run at him was when he became an unrestricted free agent in 2004."

"Jordan, however, wasn’t allowed to recruit Bryant because Pollin decided in May 2003, not to let him continue running the team," Lee wrote. "While Jordan’s ability to land Bryant was no guarantee, a person close to him said Jordan was 'confident' he would have made it happen."

Plop Bryant onto this roster. Championship caliber? Far from it. More exciting? No doubt.



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<![CDATA[Scherzer Thanks Tigers, Fans In Full-Page Ad]]> Sun, 25 Jan 2015 08:09:55 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/461998782.jpg

The Nationals signed pitcher Max Scherzer last week to a seven-year contract, adding the 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner to what many already believed to be the best rotation in baseball.

Scherzer left the Tigers after five seasons and formally bid farewell to this former team in a full-page advertisement in the Detroit Free Press on Sunday.

"On Thursday, the Free Press received a call from the Boras Corporation (super agent Scott Boras is Scherzer's agent)," the paper said. "The corporation asked to purchase a full-page ad in today's Free Press so Scherzer could thank the fans of Detroit for his five seasons here."



Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wall To Start In NBA All-Star Game]]> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 20:14:21 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/461936076.jpg

Washington Wizards guard John Wall will start at guard for the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 15, the NBA announced Thursday.

Wall, who received 886,368 votes to lead all Eastern Conference backcourt players, will be joined by Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, Cavaliers forward LeBron James, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and Bulls center Pau Gasol. He is the first Wizards starter since Gilbert Arenas in 2007.

Wall averages 17 points and 10 assists per game, the latter of which leads the league. 



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<![CDATA[Caps GM MacLellan Discusses Free Agency]]> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 14:13:05 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/185*120/461833484.jpg

During a nearly 20-minute conversation with reporters Tuesday, Brian MacLellan marveled at how quickly his first season as Washington Capitals general manager has flown by.

Months -- how many obviously depends on how the Capitals perform upon reconvening after this week's All-Star break -- remain before this season ends, but soon MacLellan will be confronted with shaping future rosters. 

The Capitals have 11 pending free agents on their roster. Four are restricted: forwards Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov, defenseman Nate Schmidt and goaltender Braden Holtby. The rest are unrestricted: forwards Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle and Aaron Volpatti and defensemen Mike Green, John Erskine and Jack Hillen. In the minor leagues, the contracts of goaltender Philipp Grubauer (RFA), defenseman Steve Oleksy (UFA) and forward Chris Brown (RFA), all of whom have NHL experience with the Capitals, are set to expire. 

MacLellan would not and probably will not comment on specific contract negotiations, but said that he has begun to identify with whom those conversations would begin.

"I think we’ve got guys that have played well," MacLellan said. "The second 40 [games] here is going to determine a lot, too. We’re evaluating, we’re talking theoretically, but I think we need to be successful as a team moving forward too to cement what our thoughts would be going forward.”

“A lot of our guys, all of our guys have played better this year. I think the system, the structure, the coaching staff have all had a good influence on the performance of our players. To a man, I think they’ve improved.”

For those without the benefit of clairvoyance, it is impossible to predict exactly how MacLellan will proceed, though some of his upcoming decisions seem apparent. 

All four RFAs should return, with Holtby assuredly receiving a significant raise from his current two-year, $3.7 million contract after setting a franchise record with 27 straight appearances. Erskine (who underwent neck surgery in October), Volpatti (who has yet to play this season) and Hillen (who recently reentered the lineup after Schmidt fractured his shoulder blade) seem unlikely.

“Obviously, with an RFA, you’ve got a little more leverage in theory," MacLellan said. "And with a UFA, you don’t. I think it’s all situational. If we’re going to be successful and they’re a big part of our success, you don’t mind opening up negotiations early. Depending on the player and the agent, depending on their philosophy, if they like the situation, I think they're more open to negotiating before the end of the year."

Green presents the most intriguing case. He has thrived in his less strenuous role, resembling his former dynamic self. Yet it would be difficult to justify paying a third-pairing defenseman anywhere near Green's current $6.25 million salary, especially with $15.21 million of salary-cap space tied to Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and John Carlson.

Green has expressed his desire to stay and MacLellan was complimentary of his season to date. 

“I think he’s been good. I think he’s been really good," MacLellan said. "I think he’s had a good attitude. I think all our defensemen have had good attitudes. We have guys that are playing roughly 20 minutes a night, the five guys. Some teams have guys playing 30 minutes a night or close to 30 minutes a night. I think it’s benefitted our group as a whole to distribute the ice time more evenly. If we’re down a goal, Mike Green’s playing a little bit more. If we’re up a goal, he’s not playing as much.

"I think if you look at it as a group, it’s been a good experience for everybody. We don’t have anybody complaining about ice time."

While functioning as the Capitals' assistant general manager prior to his promotion in May, MacLellan had experience interacting with player agents, particularly in regards to free-agent contracts. Now, he has to field calls that may be a "little more confrontational" if an agent, for example, voices his client's displeasure about his particular role. 

Former general manager George McPhee's "adversarial relationship" with agents reportedly hindered Washington's ability to find long-term solutions. MacLellan, as he has since becoming general manager, stressed open lines of communication. 

"I'm easy to get along with," MacLellan said, chuckling. "I try to go about it as being as honest as I can. This is what your player is doing, here's where I see him, here's where he needs to improve and this is what the coaches see."


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<![CDATA[Young Forwards Will Dictate Caps' Deadline Approach]]> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 19:01:05 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/172*120/459729512.jpg

Having steamrolled through December and most of January prior to last weekend's winless road trip, the Washington Capitals are firmly entrenched in the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Playoff race. It would seem likely, barring a monumental bout of inconsistency, that Washington will qualify for the postseason after a one-year hiatus. 

The Capitals' dearth of postseason success has been widely recounted, the franchise without a conference final appearance since 1998. Coach Barry Trotz was asked Monday if he thought he oversaw a "playoff team that can win" and overcome that nearly two-decade hurdle. He said yes, adding that he felt the Capitals "still need a piece or two." 

"We have some guys that are, at this level, pretty good contributing players, but the playoffs are another level, and I don't know if some of our guys are ready for that," Trotz continued. "We'll see. We've still got another 40 games to go, but some guys looked like they weren't going to be ready for the first part and they got it turned around. I think we have enough pieces to be a real good threat, but our depth hasn't been really tested to the point that we need to do that."

Trotz lauded the organization's defensive depth, strengthened by the pricey offseason additions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Forward-wise, he thought Washington "could use a little more." 

"That’s just waiting for guys to develop," he said. "Guys like [Andre] Burakovsky are coming, guys like [Tom] Wilson and [Evgeny] Kuznetsov and people like that.”

In addressing reporters Tuesday, general manager Brian MacLellan reiterated Trotz's stance, with the play of the Capitals' crop of young forwards influencing how he will approach the March 2 trade deadline. 

“We have four young forwards that we’re developing: Burakovsky, Wilson, Kuznetsov and [Michael] Latta," MacLellan said. "They’ve all been good at times and they’ve been inconsistent at times. I think we’re going to evaluate them over the next month. I think the play is going to get turned up a notch, it’s going to be a little tighter, a little more intense game.

"We’ll see how they respond to that. Most of our decisions will be made off the performance of those four guys.”  

MacLellan met with Trotz Monday, with MacLellan presenting what and who could realistically be available in the trade market, which includes "higher-profile players" that teams may be willing to part with in-season. MacLellan, though, said that the team's priority remains developing the aforementioned youngsters.

"I don't think we're going to be too assertive or too aggressive with moving any of them out or changing the chemistry of our team," he said.

The Capitals, MacLellan acknowledged, are in need of solidity on their first line, where seven different skaters have started games alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Burakovsky has assumed that position for the past eight games after Trotz recently admitted that he may have been too ambitious in attempting to convert Burakovsky and Kuznetsov to center simultaneously. 

Not many applicable players have been discussed in trade rumors. Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly and Arizona Coyotes forward Antoine Vermette have frequently been mentioned throughout the league, but neither necessarily meets that need. Kuznetsov has gradually adapted to the demands of second-line center, which has long been characterized by upheaval in Washington.

If the Capitals were to make a trade, a corresponding move to clear salary-cap space would likely be necessary. According to the now-defunct CapGeek, Washington has roughly $1.6 million available. 

"We're going to field the best team we can here," MacLellan said. "We want to win. We want to do some damage in the playoffs. I think our decision is going to be how much we want to expose our young guys down the road and can they handle it. You don't want to put them in a position where they're not ready for it. I think that's our big decision."


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<![CDATA[Coach Lonergan Keeps GW Loose With Hula Dance]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 21:19:57 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009159881_1200x675_385029187896.jpg Before a basketball game against highly ranked Witchita State in Hawaii, George Washington coach Mike Lonergan kept things loose by entering a hula contest.]]> <![CDATA[The Core 4: Stars of the GW Colonials]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 19:11:26 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009158949_1200x675_384948803678.jpg Jason Pugh takes a look at four outstanding basketball players from the George Washington University Colonials.]]> <![CDATA['Skins Hire Callahan as O-Line Coach]]> Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:28:58 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/458354640.jpg

The Washington Redskins hired Bill Callahan, formerly the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys, as their offensive line coach on Thursday.

Callahan was part of the Oakland Raiders' coaching staff under Jon Gruden, Redskins coach Jay's brother.

He replaced Gruden and led the Raiders to a Super Bowl XXXVII appearance. After a four-year stint coaching the University of Nebraska, Callahan returned to the NFL as a coordinator for the New York Jets and Cowboys.



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<![CDATA[Report: Nats Acquire Escobar for Clippard]]> Thu, 15 Jan 2015 14:29:08 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/189*120/456400694.jpg

The Washington Nationals acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday in exchange for reliever Tyler Clippard, according to reports.

Escobar, traded to Oakland by the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday, could become Washington's everyday second baseman, allowing Ian Desmond to play shortstop. 

Clippard spent seven years with the Nationals, functioning as a setup man and closer. 



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<![CDATA[RGIII's Ankle Cast Up for Auction]]> Wed, 28 Jan 2015 08:49:36 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/455438374.jpg

As a part of his "Family of 3" charity, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has put his autographed ankle cast up for auction.

Griffin dislocated his ankle in Week 2 against the Jaguars. 

"Robert was forced to wear this cast," said the item's description. "In a show of support for their teammate, the entire team signed the cast. Notable signatures include: Alfred Morris, DeAngelo Hall, Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and many more."

The current bid is $300.

The auction ends Feb. 13.



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<![CDATA[Caps Incredulous About Backstrom's All-Star Exclusion]]> Sun, 11 Jan 2015 19:31:04 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/461226408.jpg

At various points throughout the season, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz has served as a pitchman for forward Nicklas Backstrom, hawking the credentials of arguably the NHL's most underappreciated superstar.

Trotz was dumbfounded to discover recently that Backstrom had never been selected to an All-Star Game, calling it a "crime." The NHL unveiled the complete roster for the event, to take place on Jan. 25 in Columbus, Saturday evening; and Backstrom was once again excluded, with forward Alex Ovechkin chosen as Washington's lone representative.  

"It absolutely blows my mind away," Trotz said after the Capitals' 3-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. "He's been our best player, I think, from start to finish. If you had to say who's been our top guy all, he's been the guy. I'm absolutely astounded that no one ever talks about him as a [Selke Trophy] guy, no one ever talks about him as an All-Star. I can't understand it.

"And he’s probably okay with it. If you know him, he’s probably okay with it.”

As Trotz expected, Backstrom, who openly prefers the solace found outside of the spotlight, expressed no disappointment. 

"I don’t really think about it too much, to be honest with you," Backstrom said. "It is what it is. Is there an honor to represent your team? Yes. But I also know there’s a lot of good hockey players in this league and it’s usually one player per [team], so that’s understandable."

Exclusionary events such as the All-Star Game incite debates about who should or should not be included. A strong case can be made in support of Backstrom.

He is Washington's leading scorer with 41 points, which ranks 13th in the NHL. Of the 13 players currently averaging at least a point per game with 40 or more points, Backstrom is the only one who did not receive an All-Star invitation

"I think Backstrom is as deserving as anybody in the league," forward Eric Fehr said. "He does absolutely everything for our team. I don't understand what else they would want him to do to be an All Star. He's a top 15 guy in points and he's a shutdown centerman. He's big for our team, and I think it's crazy that he's not on the team."

Said goaltender Braden Holtby: "That’s kind of sad, actually. He’s one of the best players in the world, so that's unfortunate.”

Backstrom, unlike his more outwardly charismatic linemate Ovechkin, does not command immense attention, which Fehr offered as a potential factor in the NHL's decision.

With the second half of the season beginning Monday against the Colorado Avalanche and days off precious and infrequent, Backstrom will gladly use the All-Star break to recharge before the Capitals, a league-best 12-1-4 since Dec. 4, entrench themselves in the Stanley Cup Playoff race. 

"Get a couple days to heal," Backstrom said. "Maybe some sun."


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<![CDATA[Ovechkin Named All-Star For Sixth Time]]> Sun, 11 Jan 2015 08:09:52 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460966798.jpg

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin was selected to participate in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game on Saturday, his sixth career selection.

Ovechkin leads Washington with 21 goals, including one in each of his past five games. His six selections are a franchise record, but he will be making his fifth appearance; Ovechkin chose not to play in 2012 while serving a suspension.

Coach Barry Trotz has praised his captain's commitment to developing a more well-rounded game. 

“I think he’s playing the right way,” Trotz said last week. “When you play the right way, you’re going to have a chance to win and I think he does. I think he’s enjoying playing. I think players enjoy success, they enjoy success as much as they enjoy individually, they really love the success individually, gives them confidence, but as a group, when the group has success, they all have fun.”

The All-Star Game will be played Jan. 25 in Columbus. 


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<![CDATA[Holtby's Record-Breaking Streak Continues]]> Fri, 09 Jan 2015 20:12:40 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/187*120/461199964.jpg

Braden Holtby would play every game if he could, he'll often tell you.

He has for the past six weeks, setting a Washington Capitals franchise record Thursday with his 23rd consecutive appearance, including 17 straight starts. Against the Philadelphia Flyers, he buoyed his sluggish teammates to salvage a point in a 3-2 overtime loss.

"He's been outstanding, and again [Thursday] he was the reason why we got that extra point," defenseman Mike Green said. "Just gives us the confidence knowing that he's been that good lately, so we can just go out and play the game. He's been outstanding. I can't say enough good things about him really."

No Capitals goaltender has started as many games in a row as Holtby has since Olaf Kolzig's 18 in 2003, a mark that the 25-year-old will tie Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings and overtake next week. With games against the Colorado Avalanche and Flyers on Monday and Wednesday, his streak will likely stretch to at least 20 barring some sort of unforeseen circumstance. Holtby's commandeering of the crease coerced the Capitals to loan backup Justin Peters, who has not played since Nov. 29, to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League for conditioning. 

Another round of back-to-back road games is scheduled for next weekend in Nashville and Dallas, meaning Wayne Stephenson's record of 22 straight starts set in 1979-80 will probably remain intact. Regardless, Holtby will be prepared to play as always.

"I think that's one of the benefits I've had of playing in the American League," Holtby said, referring to the three-games-in-three-days nature of the AHL. "You play every game up here and it's not near as hard as playing every two to three down there. Players play 82, shouldn't be any excuse for a goalie."

Analytical studies suggest that playing a goaltender twice in as many days "decreases their ability to perform at an optimal level." To that end, Holtby has started both games of a back-to-back set three times this season and is 0-2-1 with a 4.32 goals-against average and .861 save percentage in the latter halves (including a loss in 20 minutes of relief against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Peters' last start back in November).

"Everybody keeps throwing them towards me," coach Barry Trotz said of the aforementioned analytics. "I think there's a place for analytics. I get that. But there's also a place for the old eyeball test. It's a little bit trouble with the curve type of thing."

Holtby, 14-4-5 during his record-breaking run with a 2.25 GAA and .925 save percentage, has provided Washington with solidity in goal that has recently been absent. Concerns have been raised about his physical stamina or whether the Capitals are doing him a disservice by "riding him into the ground."

Holtby, quite frankly, doesn't care.

"No, not at all," he said. "I like to play, but like I've said before, as long as we're being successful, that's all I care about."


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<![CDATA[Report: Werth To Have Shoulder Surgery]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 16:39:47 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456817618.jpg

Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth, as you can read below in tweets from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, will undergo shoulder surgery Friday.

Werth and all non-pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 25. 


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<![CDATA[Capital Letters: Justin Time?]]> Thu, 08 Jan 2015 11:04:25 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/4608543181.jpg

Welcome back to "Capital Letters," an aptly titled and sporadic feature in which I answer any and all questions regarding the local professional hockey team. Please send all questions to @AdamVingan and follow me anyway because my mother will think that I'm more popular.

Your questions.

After a season in which the Capitals' crease was characterized by upheaval, Braden Holtby has made a career-high 16 straight starts and tied a franchise record Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs with his 22nd consecutive appearance. In those 22 games, which tied Wayne Stephenson's record set in 1979-80, Holtby is 14-4-4 with a 2.22 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and two shutouts.

That has left Justin Peters without an appearance since Nov. 29, when he allowed three goals on 11 shots in first- and third-period action against the Maple Leafs. (Holtby replaced him in the second period that night.)

Five of Peters' six starts have been made on the second night of back-to-back games. Thursday happens to be the second night of back-to-back games with the Capitals facing the Philadelphia Flyers. And with Flyers goaltender Ray Emery possibly starting, maybe Holtby should sit this one out (though Francois St. Laurent is not working the game, so Holtby may not have to worry about being freely assaulted again).

The Capitals have openly discussed the possibility of loaning Peters to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League simply so he can play. The issue, however, is that Philipp Grubauer, who started 14 games for Washington last season, is currently sidelined by a lower-body injury. If Peters were to start in Hershey, that would leave Pheonix Copley as the likely recall. I think Washington would be more confident in having Peters nearby than an unproven NHL commodity in case something were to happen to Holtby.

"We're still waiting to hear what their plans are," Hershey coach Troy Mann told Tim Leone. "I think we know it's a possibility that he could come down to play a couple games. But until we get official word, it's just status quo for us."

It is astounding to me that Nicklas Backstrom has never participated in an NHL All-Star Game. In an act of shameless pluggery, allow me to regurgitate my NHL.com feature on Backstrom from October to illustrate my astonishment:

Nine players have more points than Backstrom since he entered the League. Four have more assists. None had more primary power-play assists in his first seven seasons, and only Ovechkin has more power-play points.
Five active players needed fewer games than Backstrom's 501 to reach 500 career points: Sidney Crosby, Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr and Dany Heatley. He is also the first player selected in the 2006 NHL Draft to reach that milestone, and that class includes Phil Kessel, Jonathan Toews and Claude Giroux. Yet Backstrom, unlike the aforementioned players, has never been an All-Star

I do not think that Backstrom will be the only career point-per-game player to never make an All-Star team because I think he will finally make one this season. He leads the Capitals with 39 points, his 27 assists are seventh in the league and he is one of 16 players currently averaging at least one point per game.

Latvia single-handedly voted Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons into the game, while the rest of the world selected a quarter of the Chicago Blackhawks' roster. The other players selected will be announced Saturday. I believe Backstrom will be one of them. He should be, at least.

Andre Burakovsky has spent the past two games playing right wing to Alex Ovechkin's left wing and Backstrom's center on Washington's first line. The 19-year-old rookie is the seventh first-line wing to play with Ovechkin this season, joining Tom Wilson, Eric Fehr, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer.

Trotz has chosen which player fills that role situationally. If he wants "work ethic" as he discussed earlier this week, he chooses Beagle. "Heaviness" means Wilson gets a turn. Burakovsky brings a "more skill element."

For the statistically inclined, here are the "With Or Without You" statistics for some of the aforementioned options, which details the percentage of total shot attempts (shots, missed shots, blocked shots) that a player controls with and without a certain teammate:

  • Burakovsky: 51.0 Corsi percentage with Ovechkin, 50.0 with Backstrom
  • Beagle: 42.5 with Ovechkin, 43.0 with Backstrom
  • Fehr: 56.9 with Ovechkin, 56.1 with Backstrom
  • Wilson: 53.4 with Ovechkin and Backstrom

Based on those statistics, Fehr is obviously the most successful in regards to puck possession (though Burakovsky's are promising in the context of a small sample size).

Overanalyzing line combinations is what we do. As do the teams themselves, apparently.

"When I first got here, guys think that coaches don't hear stuff and they do," Trotz said earlier this week. "I got a lot of, 'I don't know, this guy can't play with this guy, this guy can't play with this guy. We never play well together.' I heard a lot of that. And I was wondering, 'Who could be play with anybody?' Our system and how we play should override everything. I was determined that there's a couple units that I wanted to keep sort of pairs together, but other than that everybody could be interchangable."

If you're asking me who I think should be the first-line right wing, I like the idea of Burakovsky, who said that he, Ovechkin and Backstrom could be "dangerous" together. With his transition to center currently on hold, the skill that those three possess could definitely take over a game. I'd run with it for now.  


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<![CDATA[Snyder Tells New 'Skins GM He's "Embarrassed"]]> Wed, 07 Jan 2015 15:06:42 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/190*120/460769040.jpg

By now, you may have heard that the Washington Redskins have a new general manager in Scot McCloughan, a highly respected talent evaluator. Bruce Allen, who had previously served in that role, will retain his title as team president. 

It has been viewed as a shrewd move by Washington's front office, an adjective rarely used to describe anything related to owner Daniel Snyder and his colleagues. According to a tweet from ESPN's Ed Werder, Snyder is at least somewhat self-aware.

NFL Network is reporting that McCloughan will have the final word on all personnel-related decisions. Baby steps, I suppose.


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Photo Credit: The Washington Post/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Niskanen's Status Uncertain Against Leafs]]> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 12:30:35 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460855134.jpg

Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen, day-to-day with a lower-body injury, skated at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Tuesday morning and will travel with the team to Toronto for its game against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. His status is uncertain. 

Niskanen sustained the injury Sunday in the Capitals' 4-3 victory against the Florida Panthers. Colleague Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post noted that Niskanen appeared to take a puck off the ankle in the third period during a five-on-three penalty kill. He did not practice Monday and coach Barry Trotz declined to comment on when the injury occurred. 

With 12 points in 38 games this season, Niskanen is on pace for 26, 20 fewer than he totaled in his breakout 2013-14 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins that earned him a seven-year, $40.25 million contract this offseason. Partially responsible for that discrepancy is Niskanen averaging 1:38 per game less on the power play this season compared to last season, a product of Washington's depth at the position. Fifteen of Niskanen's 46 points last season were power-play points. 


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Attitude, Experience Has Hillen Prepared]]> Tue, 06 Jan 2015 11:56:37 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460959698.jpg

During their shared stints with the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals, coach Barry Trotz has held defenseman Jack Hillen out of the lineup for extended periods of time.

Trotz, a staunch proponent of open communication, would apologize to Hillen for that, feeling bad for not having a regular role for him to fill. Hillen wouldn't accept it.

"Coach, don't worry about me," Trotz recalled Hillen telling him. "I'm OK. I'll be ready. When you decide to put me in, I'll be ready to go."

"That's just a great attitude to have," Trotz said Monday. "And I think that's why he seamlessly can go in and do so well."

Hillen's three seasons in Washington have been defined by lengthy absences. Significant injuries -- broken ribs, a fractured right tibial plateau, a concussion -- limited him to 36 of a possible 130 regular-season games in 2012-13 and 2013-14. This season, it was the Capitals' fortified defensive depth. Hillen replaced an injured Mike Green in the season opener Oct. 9, but did not play again until Nov. 26, a span of 19 games.

Trotz has frequently lauded Hillen's professionalism, the 28-year-old not harboring a downtrodden "Why me?" or vindictive "I'll show you" attitude. It is for that reason that Trotz and Hillen's teammates are not surprised that he has returned to active duty so effortlessly.

With defenseman Nate Schmidt struggling, Hillen has appeared in six of the Capitals' past seven games and been their most productive defenseman at even strength in the past three with an assist in each. His 57.9 Corsi percentage, a measurement of on-ice shot attempt differential, also leads Washington defensemen over the past three games.

Working closely with assistant coach Todd Reirden to remain game-ready, Hillen has also depended on his veteran status to keep him prepared.

"I'd say 99.9 percent of it is relying on experience," Hillen said. "Knowing that I've sat out stretches before, whether it be injury or healthy scratch, and come in and played well, that was pretty much the only thing I was banking on when I wasn't playing is that when I get in there, I've done this before.

"Yeah, I knew that first period or that first game was going to be an adjustment period to the speed because you just can't get that speed in practice, but once you get used to the speed, I've watched enough hockey, I've played enough hockey where I know what I'm supposed to do."

Following Washington's 4-3 victory against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, defenseman Brooks Orpik conferred on Hillen the "Honest Abe" top hat and beard, awarded to the player of the game after a win.

"There's a reason why," Green said. "He comes in after not playing for a while and he works so hard off the ice to make sure that he was ready for when his chance was there. He's done great."


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps' Burakovsky Impresses in First-Line Opportunity]]> Mon, 05 Jan 2015 14:12:40 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/461026830.jpg

Call it a New Year's resolution. 

Last month, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz approached forward Andre Burakovsky, informing him that he would receive a first-line opportunity once the enormity of the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic had subsided.

The 19-year-old barely played in December, scratched in eight of Washington's 13 games, which Trotz knew had to be "devastating" to a player of Burakovsky's ability. He recently admitted that he may have been "too ambitious" in attempting to simultaneously segue both Burakovsky and fellow rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov to center. 

Washington's long-term vision for Burakovsky remains developing him into a center, but Trotz temporarily abandoned that plan in order to find him meaningful minutes. 

"Obviously he’ll have a big part in that, in his play," Trotz said. "If we can do that, then I think the transition will be easier. He’s played a lot of center this year. I think the transition, it’ll be fine, when we do it permanently.”

Against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, Burakovsky joined Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for the first time, skating at right wing. The assignment was foreign yet familiar to Burakovsky, who starred at the position last season in the Ontario Hockey League. He felt that he belonged in such a role, most comfortable when relied upon to manufacture high-end offense, and that the three of them could be dangerous.

Ovechkin, Backstrom and Burakovsky were formidable against Florida, sporting the highest on-ice shot-attempt differential at even strength among all forwards.

Trotz told Burakovsky before the game not to be intimidated by the star power alongside him, cautioning him that if "Ovi's yelling for the puck, you don't always have to give it to him." Yet there was Ovechkin in the third period, slipping a pass to Burakovsky for a slam-dunk goal in the third period, his first since Nov. 28.

"I think we played really good together," Burakovsky said. "We [found] each other good out there. We didn't really have any scoring chances against us, we put pressure on Florida all the time. ... I should be up there, but it's my first year so I just try to do my best. I don't really care where I'm playing, but I want to be up there and right now it feels really good to be there."

Burakovsky's performance did not surprise Trotz, who expects the youngster to ultimately become a centerpiece of Washington's future. Burakovsky simply wanted to prove that he could contribute.

"I never want to sit in the stands and watch the games," he said. "Of course when I come back, I want to show Coach [I don't] belong in the stands."


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Punctuated Classic With Classic Celebration]]> Mon, 12 Jan 2015 14:44:47 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20150101+Winter+Classic+Game+Action+Thumb2.jpg

Troy Brouwer pirouetted, the puck zipping toward and past Corey Crawford's glove. He stood in the slot just inside the left faceoff circle and raised his arms, inviting the dogpile that would soon envelop him.

Nicklas Backstrom reached him first, leaping into Brouwer's arms with enough gusto to knock him to one knee. Alex Ovechkin, arms already airborne in incredulity after his stick was slashed from his hands, kept them up in celebration as he scrambled for somebody to embrace. Marcus Johansson was in there somewhere, Washington's first power-play unit resembling a deep-red mass. 

Meanwhile, the overjoyed crowd of 42,832 at Nationals Park erupted, the commemorative seat cushions doubling as streamers as they cascaded from the sky. 

"We were screaming so hard in the huddle, I almost passed out," Mike Green said. "I could only imagine what the fans were doing."

Brouwer's goal, scored with 12.9 seconds remaining in regulation, provided a thrilling end to the Capitals' 3-2 victory against the Blackhawks in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

The league's annual outdoor spectacle was marked by sounds -- the whoosh created by the D.C. Air National Guard flying overhead, the inoffensive pop rock performed by Gavin DeGraw during the first intermission. But the consonance created by the combined elation of the Capitals and their fans, a "deep rumble" as Karl Alzner described it, was harmonious. 

“It’s relief and euphoria,” he said.

Leading into the Winter Classic, several players spoke of how the game could be viewed as a testament to the Capitals' evolution from also-rans into one of the NHL's premier franchises.

That transformation began several seasons ago when a bunch of youngsters would regularly punctuate their goals by swarming each other with unbridled ebullience, excitement that was displayed Thursday on one of the biggest stages in franchise history. 

“I think it was kind of like an old Capitals celebration,” Backstrom said. "When we were a little younger, we used to jump around.”


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[PHOTOS: Caps Vs. Blackhawks at Winter Classic]]> Thu, 01 Jan 2015 17:25:10 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/20150101+Winter+Classic+Game+Action12.jpg The Washington Capitals battled the Chicago Blackhawks during Jan. 1's Winter Classic at Nats Park.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Brouwer Reacts to "Classic" Goal]]> Thu, 01 Jan 2015 19:51:04 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009008826_1200x675_379013187917.jpg News4's Jason Pugh spoke to Troy Brouwer about his Winter Classic-winning goal for the Washington Capitals.]]> <![CDATA[Hockey Fans Enjoy Day of Fun at 2015 Winter Classic]]> Fri, 02 Jan 2015 08:40:06 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000009007623_1200x675_379007043657.jpg News4's Kristin Wright spent the day with Washington Capitals fans at the 2015 Winter Classic at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.]]> <![CDATA[PHOTOS: Seen Around the Winter Classic]]> Thu, 01 Jan 2015 14:59:41 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460955568.jpg Excitement built during the hours before Jan. 1's Winter Classic as fans descended upon Nats Park.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[NHL Winter Classic: A Primer]]> Thu, 01 Jan 2015 12:01:50 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/198*120/460920270.jpg

Thursday at Nationals Park, the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks will face off in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, the NHL's New Year's Day outdoor extravaganza.

While there is no shared history between the teams, their recent play is enough to conjure up ample intrigue. Before the puck drops at 1 p.m. on NBC4 (though there is a possibility for a slight weather-related delay), familiarize yourself with the Capitals and Blackhawks.

Washington

The Capitals hired coach Barry Trotz this offseason because they valued, among other things, his structured approach cultivated in 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators. After a slow start that saw Washington play soundly without the desired result, the team just completed a road-heavy December with an impressive 8-2-3 record.

As per usual, Alex Ovechkin leads Washington with 17 goals, but it's Nicklas Backstrom who leads the team in points with 38. Goaltender Braden Holtby started every game in December, posting a 2.13 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.

While the Capitals still possess offensive skill that can take over games, they have found other ways to win, not relying too heavily on their potent power play and sheer talent. That type of play has them within six points of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Metropolitan Division lead entering 2015.

For more, check out Capital Games editor Adam Vingan's stories from Tuesday:

Chicago

Models of consistency, the Blackhawks are the second-best team in the NHL. Having won the Stanley Cup twice in the past five seasons, Chicago is looked upon as -- as Trotz described it -- "the gold standard" of the National Hockey League.

Led by dynamic forward Patrick Kane and his more stoic counterpart Jonathan Toews, the Blackhawks have arguably unmatched roster depth. All four forward lines are capable of scoring, and their defense, particularly the pair of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, is stout.

The respective trajectories of the Blackhawks and Capitals over the past decade, minus the championships, are similar in many ways.

Each team floundered, which afforded them franchise-altering draft picks (Kane, Toews, Ovechkin, Backstrom). They have transformed into contenders, though Chicago obviously has a distinct advantage in that area. 



Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Caps to Practice on Ice at Nats Park]]> Wed, 31 Dec 2014 13:11:20 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008993795_1200x675_378669635740.jpg It's almost here! The Capitals will take to the ice at Nats Park Wednesday in anticipation of Thursday's Winter Classic Game.]]> <![CDATA[Caps' Rally Against Rangers Falls Short]]> Wed, 24 Dec 2014 13:22:53 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460811186.jpg

It was a sight that recalled a nightmarish memory.

The Washington Capitals were deep in the defensive zone, embroiled in a fierce third period with the New York Rangers. An errant swipe at the puck by Nicklas Backstrom instead clipped the face of a Rangers forward, drawing blood and a four-minute high-sticking penalty eerily reminiscent of Joel Ward's from Game 5 of the teams' 2012 second-round playoff series

Jason Chimera soon joined Backstrom in the box, having committed a faceoff violation and providing the Rangers with an ultimately decisive two-man advantage in a 4-2 New York victory Tuesday.

“If we survived that, it gave us a chance,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It really shortened the game for them.”

Both teams did their best to downplay the importance of their first of four meetings this season, but the potential implications were unavoidable. Washington had earned at least one point in nine straight games, devoid of a regulation loss in three weeks. New York had won six straight. The two teams were flip-flopping in the Metropolitan Division standings as a result.

The Capitals, wary of using the played-the-night-before excuse after defeating the Ottawa Senators at Verizon Center on Monday, were weary through two periods, mustering only 11 shots on goal.

The third period, however, began with a jolt, Washington nearly matching its 40-minute shot total in less than two minutes. Rick Nash's second goal that provided New York with a 3-0 cushion only temporarily alleviated.the pressure. 

Evgeny Kuznetsov responded in 41 seconds, Alex Ovechkin cutting down New York's lead even further five minutes later when he whipped a shot past Henrik Lundqvist on the power play. The Capitals continued to swarm, shots whizzing toward a flailing Lundqvist. In all, Washington took 37 total shot attempts in the third period, 21 on goal. 

“Came out harder,” Backstrom said. “We played simpler, I think, and we got pucks to the net and we created traffic in front of the net too. We were a little hungrier, I think.”

Then a series of unfortunate penalties, "stupid" as Backstrom described his own, stunted the Capitals' momentum. With the NHL's three-day Christmas break beginning Wednesday, very little was stirring in the Capitals' barren locker room. Disappointment was inevitable, but with yet another assuredly contentious game with the Pittsburgh Penguins looming this weekend, it could not last. 

“It’s tough because it’s the Rangers and they’re the ones we’re battling with the most," Braden Holtby said. "We’ll learn from it and make sure we keep on this push and not let this loss get us down.”


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How to Watch "Road to Winter Classic"]]> Tue, 23 Dec 2014 12:42:06 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460788138.jpg

The 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic featuring the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks is less than two weeks away at Nationals Park, but you can get a behind-the-scenes look at both teams in "EPIX Presents Road to the NHL Winter Classic."

The four-part miniseries premiered last week and the second episode premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. Most of you likely don't have EPIX, a premium cable network. (It is not available on Comcast or DirecTV.) No need to fret, though. EPIX and the NHL have partnered to make the viewing experience as easy as possible.

By signing up for an online free trial, you can watch the show on demand on EPIX's website. Each episode also streams live as it premieres on the NHL's official website.

Here is an exclusive clip from Episode 2, courtesy of Japers' RInk (who has an exclusive interview with executive producer Ross Greenburg):

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<![CDATA[Caps' Wilson Benched Again ]]> Tue, 23 Dec 2014 09:40:41 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/179*120/460550920.jpg

Among the most impactful instruments in Barry Trotz's coaching toolbox is playing time, which he has been unafraid to wield throughout the season.

Recently, the Washington Capitals coach has taken away ice time from forward Tom Wilson, who has found himself benched in each of the past two games. 

During the Capitals' 2-1 victory Monday against the Ottawa Senators, Wilson returned to the bench with 7:59 remaining in the second period, remaining there until 9:37 had elapsed in the third when he temporarily rejoined the fourth line. Against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday, he transitioned from first-line right wing to spectator for the final 11:55 of the second period. 

The 20-year-old has taken 14 shifts in each of his past two games. Only three times this season has he taken fewer: his first two games following a return from offseason ankle surgery and a Nov. 8 game against the Carolina Hurricanes that was shortened by injury. 

Pressed for an explanation in Newark, Trotz's reasoning was "real simple," telling reporters that he did not think WIlson "had a lot of jump." Asked again Monday, he was succinct.  

"Too many pucks are dying with Tom right now," Trotz said. "He's got to get his feet moving and too many turnovers for me."

As Trotz tinkered with his depth chart after being hired in May, he pictured Wilson's ruggedness and skill, the latter suppressed by fourth-line duty last season, meshing with the transcendent talent possessed by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Puck-possession statistics suggest that they have been successful in dictating the pace when on the ice, but as Trotz alluded to, Wilson lately has struggled to facilitate. 

In Wilson's place, Trotz has trusted Jay Beagle, who scored his career-high fifth goal Monday, as a capable understudy. As Wilson continues to learn how to handle the responsibility that his assignment entails, Trotz will not hesitate to motivate him in such a way.

"Like I say, I keep putting Beags up there and soon as I put him up there, on that first shift he seems to score," Trotz said. "Tom is going to probably miss some shifts here and there because it seems to work."


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Assign Burakovsky to AHL]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 08:40:29 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/459732008.jpg

The Washington Capitals assigned rookie forward Andre Burakovsky to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League on Friday.

Burakovsky, Washington's 2013 first-round draft pick, parlayed an impressive development camp, rookie camp, training camp and preseason into an opening-night roster spot. His inclusion was made even more noteworthy by his successful transition to center, an organizational experiment implemented this summer.

After a torrid start that saw him record eight points in his first nine games, Burakovsky has significantly cooled. The 19-year-old, despite still leading the Capitals with 2.07 even-strength points per 60 minutes, has five points in 17 November and December games. Burakovsky has been a healthy scratch in five of Washington's past eight games, his ice time plummeting to as low as 5:37 and mostly hovering around 10 minutes. In the three games he has played in, Burakovsky has not been trusted in late-game situations, taking six total third-period shifts

Coach Barry Trotz had been adamant about Burakovsky working through the rough patch in his development with the Capitals, recently balking at the idea of loaning him to Sweden for the World Junior Championships later this month. Thursday, however, Trotz vocalized potentially sending Burakovsky to the minors for the first time this season. 

“If he’s not playing in the next games here on a fairly regular basis,” Trotz told reporters after Washington's morning skate in Columbus, "then I’m going to have him go to Hershey for a bit and play lots of minutes.”

Burakovsky will play for the Bears on Friday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Going to the Winter Classic? Here's What to Know]]> Thu, 25 Dec 2014 13:18:51 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/2014-12-22_1656.jpg

Hockey fans, rejoice! The 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is coming to the District, and Washington Capitals fans are already gearing up for the big day.

But before you venture out into the New Year to see the Caps battle the Chicago Blackhawks, we've got everything you need to know.

Where & When:

Nationals Park (1500 S. Capital St. SE) is hosting the big game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 1.

Getting to the Game:

By Metro: Metro is the quickest and easiest way to get to Nats Park. Take the Green Line to the Navy Yard station, located half a block from the stadium, or take the Orange, Blue or Silver Line to the Capitol South station, which is about a 15-minute walk to the park. Visit Metro's website to get your personalized route.

By Circulator: Hop on the Circulator from Union Station or H Street NE and take it to the Navy Yard. See all stops here.

By Car: Several streets will be closed around Nationals Park on game day, so driving might not be the best way to get to the event. If you do choose to drive, the following streets will be closed or have limited access during the game:

  • N Street SE from 1st Street SE to Van Street will close at 8:30 a.m.
  • Half Street SE between M and N streets will close at 8:30 a.m.
  • Van Street SE between M and N street will be accessible to taxis and stadium traffic only, and will be one-way during the game.
  • 1st Street SE from M Street SE to Potomac Avenue will be accessible to stadium traffic only.
  • Potomac Avenue SE between South Capitol and 1st streets will be accessible to stadium traffic only.

You can find driving directions on the NHL's website, and parking passes are available online here at a variety of prices.

By Charter: Parking for charter buses, limousines and large vehicles is located in Parking Lot W, between M and L streets SE and 7th Street SE. Buses will be permitted to drop off guests on the west curb of 1st Street SE between M and N streets SE.

By Taxi: A taxi stand is located on M Street SE between South Capitol and Half streets SE.

What NOT to Bring:

The following items are prohibited inside ticketed areas:

  • Metal, plastic or glass containers of any kind except for clear, factory-sealed plastic water bottles no larger than 1 liter; juice boxes; insulin containers or baby food
  • Food items except those contained in single serving bags within a soft-sided container or cooler not exceeding 16"x16"x8"
  • Hard coolers or ice chests
  • Backpacks and bags exceeding 16"x16"x8"
  • Umbrellas
  • Weapons, fireworks and other illegal substances
  • Camera lenses in excess of eight inches, tripods and monopods
  • Animals except service animals
  • Beach balls and other inflatable items
  • Laser pens and pointers
  • Alcohol not purchased at Nationals Park
  • Noisemakers not provided by the NHL
  • Skateboards
  • Strollers
  •  Any other item deemed dangerous or inappropriate or otherwise violating the guest conduct policy

Finding Your Seat:
You can find a PDF seating map for the event on the NHL's website.

During the Game:

Re-Entry: Fans may not exit and re-enter the park using the same ticket. In the event of an emergency, guests should contact a gate supervisor, who may permit a guest to re-enter the park at the same gate.

Guest Services: Nationals Park has three Guest Services locations. They can be found behind Sections 103, 131 and 320. Guest services remain open until 30 minutes after the game to assist guests with lost and found items, lost or missing guests, transportation information, emergencies, and accommodations for guests with disabilities.

Fan Support Line: Fans experiencing problems with unruly behavior or a security issue are encouraged to text "NHL" along with a brief description of the issue and their location to 69050 to contact Nationals Park officials during the game.

For more information, check out the NHL's A-Z Guide for game day, or print an Official Game Day Guide to take with you to the game.

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<![CDATA[McCoy's Season Over, Placed on IR]]> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:47:21 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460462774.jpg

The Redskins' season is virtually and mercifully almost over, but quarterback Colt McCoy's season ended Tuesday when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a neck injury.

Robert Griffin III will start Saturday against the Eagles and presumably in the season finale against the Cowboys barring injury or yet another substantial collapse in his play.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Rendering of Braves Stadium Depicts Loss to Nationals]]> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 10:12:24 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/183*120/B477oD1IcAAJ_Yl.jpg

The Atlanta Braves are opening a new stadium, scheduled to be ready for the 2017 season.

They recently released an updated rendering of SunTrust Park, which features them losing to the Nationals. 

The Nationals lost six of their nine games at Turner Field last season, for what it's worth. 


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: Braves]]>
<![CDATA[Robert Griffin III to Start Against Eagles]]> Sat, 20 Dec 2014 12:21:40 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460467062.jpg

Robert Griffin III will start at quarterback for the Redskins Saturday against the Eagles, coach Jay Gruden announced.

"This is Robert's team right now," Gruden told reporters Monday. "From there, we'll take it one game at a time and make our judgments and conclusions after that."

Griffin replaces Colt McCoy, who aggravated a neck injury on the opening series against the Giants Sunday. Griffin went on to complete 18-of-27 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown.

This is the Redskins' fifth quarterback change of the season.

"It's not what you want," Gruden said. "You want somebody to take the position and play and have success, obviously. I have nothing against all three. I think all three quarterbacks have a good future. I just want somebody to take the position and run with it, and hopefully we'll see something like that this week with Robert."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nats, Harper Agree to Deal: Report]]> Mon, 15 Dec 2014 09:37:22 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456820488.jpg

The Washington Nationals and slugger Bryce Harper have agreed to a two-year deal, avoiding what would have likely been a fierce arbitration hearing, according to several reports.

A bit of background from The Washington Post on the disagreement that was reportedly settled:

Harper and the Nationals had been at odds over how his salary would be determined because of a rare dispute over the contract he signed as a first-round draft pick in 2010. If the sides had not settled, the Nationals and their most recognizable player would have engaged in a potentially contentious hearing Tuesday.

Harper and his agent, Scott Boras, believed Harper had the right to opt out of his prescribed 2015 salary ($1.5 million) and into baseball’s lucrative arbitration system. The Nationals contended his contract did not include the ability to opt out because it had never been included in the deal,

The two-time All-Star and 2012 National League Rookie of the Year will be eligible for free agency after the 2018 season.


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Experience Vintage Night At Verizon]]> Sun, 14 Dec 2014 11:56:48 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/4604317981.jpg

As the Washington Capitals transformed into a regular-season powerhouse and Stanley Cup contender several seasons ago, Verizon Center naturally paralled that evolution.

Once a haven for opposing fans, the arena overflowed with red-clad, cacophonous supporters, providing the Capitals with one of the NHL'a most pronounced home-ice advantages. Only the San Jose Sharks could boast the same success between the 2008-09 and 2011-12 seasons, matching the Capitals' 110 wins in 164 home games. 

Lately though, the Capitals had given their fans very little to cheer about. Five wins in 14 games prior to Washington's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, the team's worst start at Verizon Center in seven years, produced little excitement. The silence of indifference was often met by frustrated sighs of resignation, sounds that had become more distinctive than the wail of the Capitals' goal horn.

Yet there was a throwback feel Saturday. The Capitals, in a scoreless tie with the Lightning midway through the second period, were forced to kill a two-minute two-man disadvantage. Lightning forward Ryan Callahan, hugging the left post, poked at a rebound that skittered toward the goal line, inches away from siphoning the energy out of the building. Braden Holtby contorted himself, scooping the puck with his stick blade and quickly freezing it.

For the first time this season, Verizon Center truly erupted. "Holt-by" chants were followed by thunderous roars with each successful clear. Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green charged out of the penalty box. The Horn Guy trumpeted his trademark cadence, the deafening "Let's Go Caps!" call-and-response functioning as fuel at ice level. 

"People sometimes [don’t] realize how much energy they can give us, but we’ve got to give them something to get excited [about]," coach Barry Trotz said. "If it’s a great hockey game and we need a boost, we’ll take any energy they can give us.

"It was loud. It was loud and it was fun. I think they recognized the commitment and the detail and the hard work of those guys at that critical moment in the game and we thank them for that because to tell you what, after that [the five-on-three penalty kill], those guys were pretty gassed and they can feed off that energy.”

With momentum firmly seized, Nicklas Backstrom flung a backhand past Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop less than two minutes later, the first of his three goals in a 4-2 victory. Of course, it wouldn't have been a Capitals game without cardiac-arrest-inducing anxiety; Tyler Johnson and Matt Carle scored twice in the final five minutes to give Tampa Bay an unexpected opportunity to tie the game. 

Eric Fehr relieved the mounting tension with an empty-netter from just inside the red line with 39 seconds left. The crowd exhaled and cheered once more, a vintage night complete. 

"The energy was great," defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "When you have that kind of energy in a game, it makes a big difference. It gets everybody into it. The fans into it, us into it."


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Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Washington Capitals Help Grant 8-Year-Old's Wishes]]> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 20:41:31 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008817956_1200x675_371541059716.jpg This morning the Washington Capitals helped an 8-year-old girl have her wishes come true on the ice.]]> <![CDATA[Wilson's Ability to Agitate Assists Caps]]> Sat, 13 Dec 2014 08:46:53 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460336586.jpg

Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson glided toward the goalmouth midway through the second period Thursday, adhering to the net-front directive of the coaching staff. There he met Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski, who proceeded to snap his stick across Wilson's face, the left side of which still felt sore the next morning.

That lingering discomfort stung a little less knowing that it gave the Capitals an opportunity to win. Wilson resisted the urge to retaliate and drew two penalties on the play as a result, handing Washington's second-ranked power play four minutes with the score tied 1-1.

"Last night, he knew we were running into a goaltender that was keeping them in the game and he knew that our power play's been pretty good all year, that that would give us an advantage," coach Barry Trotz said of the Capitals' 3-2 overtime loss. "He was thinking about the team over himself. Trust me, I tell him, 'Just take a number and there will be a time and a place where you can say, 'OK remember when you got me there? Let's settle a score here.'

"I think he understands that role and he gave us a chance to win a hockey game. That's being a very good teammate, understanding the moment, understanding the situation and to me, that's a young player who gets it."

Wilson's ability to agitate opposing skaters has been an asset this season. Excluding coincidental minors (of which there have been a few), Wilson has drawn 1.8 penalties per 60 minutes this season, a figure that leads the Capitals and ranks 10th among NHL forwards with at least 10 games played.

In the Capitals' past two games, Wilson has accounted for 8:30 of their 12:36 of total power-play time. Trotz attributed that to Wilson's willingness to, among other things, venture into the harshest on-ice environments.

"You've got to be smart about it," WIlson said Friday. "You've got to be mature and be professional because it can really change a game. A power play can win you games, it can lose you games so you've always got to be conscious of that and you always want to put our team up a man because we're so good on the power play so it's definitely a conscious thought." 

Knowing when to prod an opponent has been an ongoing topic of discussion as it relates to Wilson, who had little choice but to fight during his rookie season while affixed to the fourth line. His five fights this season still lead the team, but playing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom carries a heightened level of responsibiity, including not putting Washington at a disadvantage. 

"Trust me, he's not not retaliating because he's scared to," Trotz said. "He's doing the right thing at the right time. That's showing a lot of maturity and being a great team guy. That's how teams win, when people are not selfish."

As Wilson skates or is escorted away from post-whistle scrums that he is often at the center of, a wry smile usually creeps across his face, probably more than enough to further ruffle his particular adversary. Within that grin, he communicates that he is capable of personally inflicting punishment, but would rather his teammates do so instead. 

"You see me smiling, it's just kind of letting them know like they got the better hand on the cheap shot, but hopefully our power play's going to put one in," Wilson said. "There's no worse feeling, you can get punched in the face 10 times, but if you're sitting in the box and the other team scores a goal, you ask most guys, that's one of the worst feelings in hockey."


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Photo Credit: NHLI via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McCoy to Start for 'Skins if Healthy]]> Thu, 11 Dec 2014 16:40:39 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/460110842.jpg

Colt McCoy will start at quarterback for the Redskins Sunday against the Giants as long as he is medically cleared to do so, coach Jay Gruden said Thursday.

"We've had looks at all three quarterbacks and based on what we have seen out at practice, for the whole training camp and offseason and the game situations, right now we feel Colt is in the lead," Gruden told reporters. "So if he's healthy and gets a clean bill of health then he will be our starter."

McCoy suffered a neck injury last week against the Rams, but tests concluded that there was no structural damage, according to reports. He practiced Wednesday.

"I threw the ball well," McCoy said. "It never was a shoulder. I'm just dealing with a little aggravated disc, an aggravated nerve in my neck. If that calms down, we'll be fine."

Robert Griffin III will remain McCoy's backup.

"We've seen a lot of him and if he gets another opportunity to play -- which could happen, it could happen as soon as the first quarter of this game, it could happen next week, I don't know -- but our decision is to go with Colt and see how he does," Gruden said. "The rest of it will take care of itself."


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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Roberts, Breeland Fight at Practice]]> Wed, 10 Dec 2014 13:29:01 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/B4gnMarCQAA5Myz.png

A fight broke out between Redskins wide receiver Andre Roberts and cornerback Bashaud Breeland at practice Wednesday.

NBC4's Jason Pugh was at practice Wednesday; he reported that Roberts and Breeland were going one-on-one in drills, but right now it's unclear what sparked the fight.

When asked if the disagreement between Roberts with him and Breeland had been squashed, he half smiled and declined to comment. Breeland and Roberts have yet to speak to media, but their teammates are saying the fight was no big deal, Pugh reported.

The altercation, caught on video, shows Breeland throwing two punches; Roberts threw a few as well. It's difficult to determine from the video who may have struck first.

Here's some background on the incident from CSN Washington:

Moments before the scuffle broke out, Breeland had been in tight coverage of Roberts on a deep pass from Colt McCoy. Roberts did not hold onto the ball, and both players tumbled to the turf. 

Breeland briefly grabbed his groin area with both hands as he got up. It’s possible the rookie was injured as the two players hit the ground because he bent over for a moment before returning to the drill line.

When Roberts and Breeland returned to the sideline, Roberts removed his helmet and confronted Breeland. The players squared up and then exchanged a few punches before teammates Ryan Clark, E.J. Biggers and Ryan Grant, among others, separated them.

Roberts also shoved Clark as Clark attempted to diffuse the situation.


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Photo Credit: @CSNRedskins]]>
<![CDATA["Streaky" Brouwer In Search Of Consistency For Caps]]> Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:47:23 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/459367926.jpg

Troy Brouwer knows that he'll likely never be a point-per-game player, though he'll certainly try. The Washington Capitals forward has prided himself on being diverse in his on-ice contributions, playing sound two-way hockey and complementing the skill of his linemates. 

In three-plus seasons as a top-six fixture with the Capitals, Brouwer has developed into more of an offensive threat. He will play in his 238th game with Washington on Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning with 68 goals, 19 more than he scored in 238 games with the Chicago Blackhawks prior to a 2011 draft-day trade. 

Lately though, Brouwer's contributions have been scant, limited to two goals in Washington's past 15 games, each scored from his station in the slot on the power play. Last Tuesday marked the one-month anniversary of Brouwer's last even-strength goal, netted with goaltender Braden Holtby pulled in favor of an extra attacker in a 6-5 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 2. He has scored 0.37 goals per 60 minutes at even strength through 26 games, his lowest rate since his first full NHL season in 2008-09. 

"I've been a little bit streaky this year as far as my consistency," Brouwer acknowledged Monday. "I've got to pick that up to help our line continue to progress and be a dangerous line that teams don't want to go out on the ice against."

He later added, "I've got to be more consistent as far as being involved in the games. There's been a few games where I've kind of on the outside chasing the puck a little bit. I just need to be more of a factor in games rather than just kind of being there."

Coach Barry Trotz has spoken with Brouwer about being more of an active participant away from the puck, moving his feet more to create plays and prevent him from becoming a bystander.

Equally important to Trotz is Brouwer functioning as a stabilizing presence for rookies Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky as they work through their ongoing transitions to center. Trotz has recently implemented a platoon system of sorts in which Kuznetsov and Burakovsky share playing time between Brouwer and Marcus Johansson. Kuznetsov will likely play against the Lightning on Tuesday, while Burakovsky should be a healthy scratch for the second straight game.

“The other responsibility that I’ve talked to him and Marcus is that I’ve put probably the two young centermen in between those two guys, and now you have to embrace that,” Trotz said. “We talked about that, that’s really a responsibility of the veteran guys, embrace it. That’s part of being a good leader… I thought they were pretty effective in [a 4-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday], and hopefully when that happens, you can get four lines going and be pretty dangerous.”

It is up to Brouwer and Johansson to revitalize the second line, which has scored once since Nov. 11 and received the lowest amount of even-strength ice time among forwards in each of the past two games. For Brouwer in particular, that process begins with leading by example.

"With our two young centermen that we're rotating between, Burra and Kuzy, with having one guy or the other guy each night, we have to have a baseline on our line which is consistency and being able to be good in our D-zone, being able to help those guys out in tough situations and push forward," Brouwer said. "For me, being the older guy on the line, that needs to be primarily my responsibility with the young guys on our line.

"I feel like I've been alright with it, but I've got to continue to get better. Our line needs to be a dangerous line for this hockey team and it starts with me being more consistent."


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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cooley Report: Fletcher v. Haslett and the QB Carousel]]> Mon, 08 Dec 2014 20:24:22 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/london-fletcher-rested-bye.jpg Chris Cooley shares his opinion on former Redskins linebacker London Fletcher's comments about defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and the quarterback situation.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Excitement Builds for Winter Classic]]> Mon, 29 Dec 2014 19:39:46 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008916831_1200x675_376070723521.jpg There are just 10 days to go until the Winter Classic, and Nationals Park is being transformed. Capital Games' Adam Vingan dishes on the excitement that's building as the Caps get ready.]]> <![CDATA[EPIX Arrives to Chronicle Caps]]> Fri, 05 Dec 2014 08:58:03 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/459852206.jpg

The corps that regularly follows the Washington Capitals, already sizable as is, will swell by about 15 beginning Friday when an EPIX film crew officially embeds with the team.

For the next month, the Capitals' preparations for the 2015 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic, to be played against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 1 at Nationals Park, will be chronicled as part of a four-part miniseries. The first episode will debut Dec. 16 at 10 p.m. and all four will be streamed live as they premiere on a variety of digital platforms, including the NHL's official website. (The network will also capture the buildup to the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series against the Los Angeles and San Jose Sharks, which will air in February.)

Several of Washington's players are familiar with the all-access nature of the show, having participated in the inaugural season of HBO's "24/7: Road to the Winter Classic" in 2010. The same producer who helmed that program, 52-time Emmy winner Ross Greenburg, will once again be in charge of combing through the unfiltered footage compiled during 16-hour days and formatting a week's worth into a one-hour episode. 

"I think it’s important that they know that we’re trying to be professionals, not invade their ability to do their job, but rather just be a fly on the wall, get the cameras out, put the microphones on and learn about them as people," Greenburg said. "Because as much as they’re held up as these superstar athletes, they’re all people."

When Greenburg last documented the Capitals, they were an emergent team navigating the pressure that naturally arises as a result, all while fighting the frustration of an eight-game losing streak. The cast of Capitals characters -- a charismatic superstar in Alex Ovechkin, a colorful coach in Bruce Boudreau -- made for entertaining television. 

Those elements still remain, albeit in different forms. Ovechkin is "not the kid who was flying around four or five years ago," Greenburg said, and he plans to focus on Ovechkin the "matured mentor" as he guides young Russians Dmitry Orlov and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Barry Trotz, as vivid as Boudreau, will be a central figure as a coach and father.

"There’s nothing like the leading force of a coach in terms of setting the tone of his ball club or his team and in this case I think Barry Trotz is a really unique guy," Greenburg said. "He’s very down to earth, he’s a player’s coach and I think that you can already see the bonding taking place between the superstars like [Alex] Ovechkin and [Nicklas] Backstrom and others, [Jason] Chimera and others, and him. I think that he’s setting a tone and creating leaders amongst his players and we want to showcase that."

EPIX will join the Capitals equipped with a basic knowledge of the team and potential storylines to uncover; Ovechkin, Trotz, goaltender Braden Holtby and goaltending coach Mitch Korn's relationship as well as the twin-like chemistry between Chimera and Joel Ward were among those mentioned by Greenburg.

The crew is also prepared to handle the unexpected narratives that inevitably appear during an 82-game season, transforming it all into an engrossing viewing experience. 

"We’re looking at this series as go back to your roots," Greenburg said. "Make it really in-depth. Go real behind-the-scenes, dig up some really interesting humanitarian stories and focus on what makes these great athletes so unique. Not only on the ice, because I think we capture the sport like few have by bringing those cameras down and putting those microphones on them and going into those locker rooms and training rooms and seeing how a hockey player and his coaches attack this sport on a daily basis. 

"I really think we have to go behind the scenes but also create some memorable storylines and carry them through for four weeks and really rivet the viewer."


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The 'Skinny: St. Louis]]> Sun, 07 Dec 2014 08:46:14 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/4597560161.jpg

Welcome back to "The 'Skinny," a weekly preview of the local professional football team's upcoming game and opponent.

Week 14 opponent: St. Louis Rams (5-7)

Game information: Sun., Dec. 7 -- 1 p.m. -- FedEx Field -- FOX

Last week: The Redskins lost, which I just copied and pasted from earlier previews, to be honest. The Rams obliterated the Raiders 52-0.

What's The Skinny?

Oh, you're still here? I wasn't expecting you, but since you came for a preview, a preview is what you'll get. The Rams embarrassed the worst team in the NFL last week, so naturally they play the second-most embarrassing one week later. St. Louis hasn't won consecutive games all season, so this is probably its best opportunity to do so.

Like the Redskins, the Rams have shuffled quarterbacks; Shaun Hill has started the last three games, though Austin Davis emerged earlier this season when Sam Bradford was lost to injury. Of course, Colt McCoy is starting for Washington, which previously traded three first-round picks to St. Louis for its backup quarterback, Robert Griffin III.

Statistic of the Week 

What They're Saying

"It wasn't difficult for us. We looked at our roster and it wasn't difficult to see that we had a lot of holes. So, it was easy for us to do."

- Rams coach Jeff Fisher on the aforementioned trade between the Rams and Redskins centered around Griffin


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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Undone by Porous PK]]> Wed, 03 Dec 2014 10:09:54 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/179*120/459852656.jpg

As he positioned himself behind the podium after his team's 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz was asked to provide a diagnosis of his team's ailing penalty kill. 

"For whatever it's worth, I think special teams are ebb and flow," he said. "Right now, it's not flowing well for us on the PK." 

In five games between Nov. 11-22, Washington thwarted all 14 shorthanded situations it faced. In the four since, the Capitals have allowed eight power-play goals on 13 opposing power-play chances, a paltry 38.5 percentage. Within this most recent span, no other NHL team has allowed more than four. 

The Canucks' power play, which scored three times in four chances Tuesday after netting the same amount in their previous 27 opportunities, almost toyed with the Capitals. Daniel Sedin, aided by twin brother Henrik, scored two impressive power-play goals, including the game-winner that tied a Vancouver franchise record.

Including the three power-play goals they allowed against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, the Capitals have now allowed at least three in consecutive games for the first time since March 22-23, 2006.

"Not one thing in particular that’s happening," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We’re giving up goals on the penalty kill in different ways. I don't know if we’re caught in between pressuring or getting out of our structure. I don't know what’s happening right now. We tried to address a few things after the Toronto game. I think there were different types of stuff. It's tough though. It’s tough to win a hockey game when you give up three."

Against the Maple Leafs, opposing skaters slipped into high-traffic areas without consequence, allowing for uncontested deflections. The Canucks feasted on that same suspect interior defense

"You look at the goals, they’re second-chance goals where pucks are bouncing, couldn’t get a handle on it, they’re able to whack it in," Trotz said. 

Daniel Sedin's game-winning blast, Trotz admitted, few goaltenders could stop. 

“It’s a pretty meat-and-potatoes type thing,” goaltender Braden Holtby said. “A lot of it has to do with tying up sticks in front, my rebound control, my ability to see through traffic. Just those little things are starting to drift away a bit, and we’ve got to find a way to grab ahold of them and make sure we’re making it hard on other teams.”

The Capitals contend that the basic structure of their aggressive penalty-killing process is unchanged from the streak of success that they enjoyed prior to this recent hiccup. Yet that same structure is currently unsound and costing them victories. 

"We get scored on too much, plain and simple," defenseman John Carlson said. "We're not getting a lot of bang-bang goals backdoor when they sort of pick us apart, so to speak. When you don't do the job, it doesn't matter if that's the only shot they get in two minutes and they score on it. It's one of those things right now where we need to find some confidence in it.

“At any given time, we’ve just got to be more ready. We prepare really well. We don’t have an issue of that. It’s definitely a little bit of communication maybe, a little bit of teamwork to maybe squash some plays, but the bottom line is we played a good game and we didn’t give ourselves a chance to win because of it. Something needs to change.” 


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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Not Eager to Dull Wilson's Edge]]> Mon, 01 Dec 2014 21:02:44 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/172*120/459626758.jpg

In the latest issue of The Hockey News, the magazine rated Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson as the NHL's best cruiserweight among frequent fighters. 

Wilson developed that reputation during his rookie season, engaging in 14 fights in 82 games, a total that placed him amid the league leaders. With five fights through 13 games this season (and one in each of his past three games), the 20-year-old is there again. 

The substantial difference is that now that he plays on the first line, Wilson's proclivity for dropping the gloves has more of an effect on the lineup as compared to the minimal impact it had in the fourth-line role that he was confined to last season. 

Since returning from offseason ankle surgery in late October, Wilson has spent almost all of his even-strength ice time skating with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, exactly where coach Barry Trotz envisioned he would be before his delayed debut. There, Wilson's underutilized skill could properly grow. 

They have had success, recording about 56 percent of the total shot attempts (shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots) when on the ice. Yet they cannot improve upon that success if Wilson is serving five minutes in the penalty box.

"All the guys are standing up for each other and he's one of the toughest that we have," Backstrom said. "Sometimes that happens, I don't think he's looking for a fight, but if it happens, it happens. He's a really good hockey player without the fighting and we need him on the ice. ... That's a fine balance there." 

Wilson looks at each fight and the situations in which they arise individually. He admitted Monday that "Now's probably not a great time to ask me because I've fought in my last three consecutive games," but he nevertheless detailed how he viewed his recent skirmishes. 

"The first one [against New York Islanders forward Anders Lee on Wednesday], I drew a penalty, he jumped me, put their team on the [penalty kill], that's a huge goal for our team," Wilson said. "Anytime I can do that, or anyone can do that, it's a good thing especially with the power play that we have.

"Second one [against Islanders forward Matt Martin on Friday], we were up 2-0, they scored, got a little bit of the momentum, obviously it didn't work out but that's not a bad time to fight, trying to get the crowd back into it on our side a little bit. Didn't work out in our favor, they scored right after again.

"And then in the third one [against Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Korbinian Holzer on Saturday, which resulted in a linesman being struck by an errant punch], it was a 6-2 game, I felt like he cheapshotted me. I was on my knees and he kind of shoved me into the dasher and just frustration, but maybe not the third one as much, but the other two were at important times in the game."

It is a matter of knowing when to "pick my spots" as Wilson described it. He has the confidence of the coaching staff, which is not eager to dull his edge.

"Tom Wilson needs to play like Tom Wilson," Trotz said. "If Tom Wilson starts to play like someone else, then he won't be on the first line.

"I think Tom Wilson is one of those unique players, he's young, that can have a big effect on a game. He can play a skill game, he can play a very physical game, he can play a game where if people want to take advantage of our top two players, then there will be someone to answer to rather than someone who's maybe a non-fighter. I think Backy and Ovi can take care of themselves, but that's not what they do. Willy does that.

"I want him to be an elite power forward in this league. I think he has that capability. He's got a good work ethic, he's got a good sense of the game and being consistent and hard. That's a big line when he's out there. There's a couple of big men out there with skill. You can take over games like that. Really happy with where he is. If he wants to go, let him go. You don't want to take that spirit out of him."


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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>