<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Capital Games]]> Copyright 2014 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, 23 Jul 2014 06:18:22 -0400 Wed, 23 Jul 2014 06:18:22 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Arby's Gives RGIII's Parking Space to LaVar Arrington]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:48:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/arbys+parking+spot+reserved+for+lavar+arrington.jpg

Robert Griffin III lost his reserved parking spot at the Arby’s across the street from Redskins training camp in Richmond, but it’s not because of anything the star quarterback did.

The sign reserving the spot for RGIII last year included the official team logo, so Redskins lawyers politely asked owner Dean Kovanes to remove it.

In its place, a new sign reserving the spot for “Redskins great LaVar Arrington.”

“Being an Ohio State fan, he terrorized the Big Ten for many years [while playing for Penn State] and he's one of my favorite Redskins, so we just figured, Hey, if LaVar's in town, come on in and have a couple beef and cheddars,” Kovanes said. “We'd love to see you. You got your spot right here.”

Kovanes senses an annual tradition starting.

“We try to kind of have fun with it, and people through the year going, ‘Are you going to have a new sign this year?’ and of course we are,” he said. “We're going to have a new one for the Patriots, maybe.”

And he’s accepting suggestions for next year.

“If any Redskins fans have any ideas for next year, please let me know,” he said. “We'll be glad to use it if it's a good one.”

Training camp starts Thursday. News4 and NBCWashington.com will have extensive coverage.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Wizards Unveil Alternate Uniform ]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:57:48 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/cdn.mse.psddev.jpg

This post will serve as my first foray into fashion, as the Wizards have unveiled an alternate uniform that they'll wear during the 2014-15 season (although no specific dates have been determined).

"The new jersey will be primarily navy blue with red color-blocking at the top and 'Washington' listed on the front while the navy shorts will feature the secondary 'Monument' logo," according to a release.

Personally, I would have preferred a third stripe for consistency with the home and road uniforms, but no one is paying me for my fashion advice, so I will leave it at that. 

The jerseys will be available for purchase Oct. 1. Will you pick one up?

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

Photo Credit: Washington Wizards]]>
<![CDATA[Desmond's 5-Hit Night Gets Nats to First Place]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 09:35:06 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/208*120/452500340.jpg.jpg

At hitter-friendly Coors Field on Monday, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond went five-for-five against the Colorado Rockies, driving in two runs and scoring three more for Washington's 7-2 victory.

Five hits tied a career high for Desmond, who became the ninth player this season to have five hits in-game while "batting 1.000," and the fourth to do so at Coors Field, according to Elias Sports Bureau. He last accomplished that feat in September 2011 against the Mets.

"I just look for the ball and swing as hard as I can," Desmond told reporters. Simple enough.

Even more important than Desmond's individual performance: The Nationals took over sole possession of first place in the National League East after the Braves lost to the Marlins.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Over Ovi: Kirilenko Calls Off Engagement to NHL Star]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 20:45:45 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000007247410_1200x675_310549059772.jpg It's a rough off-season for Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. His former fiancee, Russian tennis player Maria Kirilenko, called off the engagement.]]> <![CDATA[Will 'Skins Change Name by 2016?]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:10:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/218*120/Screen+Shot+2014-06-16+at+8.46.51+AM3.png

Redskins training camp is upon us, providing us with more to talk about than the incessant debate regarding their name.

With a few days to kill before Thursday, however, here is the latest opinion on the matter from Sports Illustrated's Peter King in the "Ten Things I Think I Think" section of his MMQ B column:

7. I think the Washington franchise will have a new team name by 2016. 

That's it. A simple and informed opinion. 

Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a staunch supporter of a name change, predicted that the Redskins will indeed change their name within three years. Who knows at this point? 

What do you think? Could you be rooting for the Washington [insert name here] in two years? Do you care?

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

Photo Credit: YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[Redskins Announce Training Camp Ticket Lottery]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:40:32 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/149308618.jpg.jpg

There's been such a demand for the Redskins' annual Fan Appreciation Day during training camp (Aug. 2) and the joint practices with the Patriots (Aug. 4-6) that the team will hold a ticket lottery.

Visit redskins.com/trainingcamp to enter by noon on Friday, July 25.

Winners will be selected randomly, and will receive an email Saturday, July 26 with the link to a printable ticket with a unique bar code.

According to a press release, "based on NFL best practices, an automated, random lottery system is the most fair way to distribute complimentary tickets which will guarantee access to these high-demand events."

Consider this your reminder. You do not want to get shut out and end up like this morose fan.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[CBS: Use of 'Redskins' Up to Announcers]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:40:31 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/227*120/454303363.jpg

As the NFL season approaches, the operatic saga involving the Redskins and their polarizing nickname is still very much ongoing. 

Newspapers throughout the country have already decided not to print "Redskins" in their publications, but what if "Redskins" was forbidden from being said during telecasts?

The Hollywood Reporter asked that question of CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus, to which he replied thusly. 

"We haven't talked to them yet," he said. "Generally speaking, we do not tell our announcers what to say or not say. Up to this point, it has not been a big issue for us. Last year, it was simmering; now it's reaching a hotter level. But we probably will not end up dictating to our announcers whether they say Redskins or don't say Redskins. We leave that up to them and our production team.

"There are times when something becomes important enough that we talk to them, and between now and the start of football season we'll decide what is the right thing to do."

For what it is worth, the Redskins have four games airing on CBS this season.  

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[RGIII Addresses NFL Health Concerns]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:33:31 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/225*120/490959031.jpg.jpg

With the Redskins about to reconvene for training camp next week in Richmond, it is about that time when everything Robert Griffin III says must be dissected and aggregated in blog posts. 

The latest nugget comes via The Hollywood Reporter, which interviewed the quarterback for its "Sports Issue."

Within, RGIII says that fellow NFL players are "concerned" for what Thursday games could mean for their health. CBS will air eight games on Thursday evenings this season. Meanwhile, the NFL has been served with concussion-related lawsuits from former players.

"There are a lot of players out there who feel like there are not enough days in the week for us to be playing on Thursdays," Griffin said. "It's something the NFL is going to have to address to make sure they're keeping their players safe while also trying to maximize their revenue."

Alas, Griffin did not comment on his team's polarizing moniker, which leaves me with space to fill. So here's a video.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Marcin Gortat Learns How to Prepare a Sportscast]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 22:05:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GORTAT-on+cam+smile.jpg Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat told Dianna Russini he wanted to know what it was like to do her job, and she was more than happy to give him a shot.]]> <![CDATA[Marcin Gortat Reports on the Signing of Marcin Gortat]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 22:05:12 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Marcin+Gortat+Signs+Contract.jpg Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat wanted to know what it would be like to do Dianna Russini's job. This is the result.]]> <![CDATA[Wizards Lose Booker, Acquire Humphries]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 18:19:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/218*120/450650991.jpg

The Washington Wizards continued to reconstruct their roster Tuesday, reportedly acquiring forward Kris Humphries from the Boston Celtics after signing a three-year, $13 million contract, according to Yahoo Sports.

As noted in the report, the Wizards and Celtics were working to finalize a sign-and-trade to work Humphries' deal into the salary cap. Humphries, known more for his 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian, averaged 8.4 points and 5.9 rebounds last season for the Celtics.

Humphries will replace power forward Trevor Booker, who left Washington after four seasons to join the Utah Jazz on a two-year, $10 million contract.

This past weekend, veteran Paul Pierce joined the Wizards on a two-year deal worth $11 million. Center Marcin Gortat also recently re-signed for five years. 

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wizards Player Marcin Gortat Visits News4]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 16:30:19 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/GORTAT-on+cam+smile.jpg From basketball to broadcasting: Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat visited the News4 newsroom to try his hand at broadcasting.

Photo Credit: News4]]>
<![CDATA[Capital Letters: Is Grass Greener in Detroit?]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:36:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/203*120/4791551391.jpg

Welcome back to "Capital Letters," a sporadic feature where I answer any and all questions relating to the local professional hockey team.

No catchy lead-in this time. Let us get right to the questions. 

Seemingly within seconds of the Capitals' announcement that they had signed defenseman Matt Niskanen to a seven-year, $40.25 million contract two weeks ago, retrospectives of Mike Green's nearly decade-long tenure in Washington were being set to Sarah McLachlan

With eight defensemen under contract for a whopping $28,762,500, it seemed like a trade was inevitable and the most frequently mentioned destination was Detroit, where the Red Wings missed on every notable right-handed defenseman available in free agency (Niskanen, Dan Boyle, Anton Stralman). 

Why does being right-handed matter? Because the Red Wings deployed a defensive corps that was exclusively left-handed last season. That detail combined with his offensive inclinations and an expiring contract made Green very enticing to the Red Wings. Or at least to those who report on them, who have been pushing for his acquisition to the point that Green is "destined to be traded." 

I personally do not believe there is much to the "Green-to-Detroit" rumors, if anything at all. And If I am being asked to place a percentage on Green being traded at all this summer, then I am going to start at 30 percent. 

"We have not had any communication with Washington’s administration concerning Mike’s status," agent Don Meehan said in a July 3 email.

General manager Brian MacLellan and coach Barry Trotz have each insisted that the 28-year-old is in Washington's immediate plans (at least outwardly). He helps the team more than he hurts it, and it would be foolhardy for the Capitals to send him away before they have an opportunity to see how their bolstered defense works with him as a cog.  

Okay, so for the purpose of this exercise, I want you to forget everything I just said above. That should not be that difficult.

Let us indulge Andrés for a moment (and I want to preface this by saying that is completely speculative). There is one player that comes to mind that potentially fits the second-line center mold that could be pried away for the right price, which could include Green: Ryan O'Reilly.

The Colorado Avalanche center and Lady Byng Trophy winner is headed for an arbitration hearing later this month. Contract negotiations and O'Reilly do not seem to go together very well, considering the offer sheet fiasco with the Calgary Flames and his prior history of holdouts. Such a contentious relationship may require a change of scenery.

He is an effective player, leading Colorado with 28 goals last season, no small feat on a team laden with offensive talent. He struggled to push possession on a team that struggled to push possession (which since-departed center Mikhail Grabovski did better than any Capitals forward last season), but he would arguably be an upgrade over Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson as in-house second-line center candidates. 

O'Reilly is a responsible two-way player who committed one penalty in 80 games last season (and drew 16). In theory, he sounds like someone who would thrive under the tutelage of Trotz. Again, this is completely speculative, but intriguing nonetheless. 

To start, we can probably cut out any defensemen because that position is pretty much filled on the big club. The only player that I envision having a chance to challenge for a roster spot on opening night is forward Andre Burakovsky (which you can read more about by clicking this link to my NHL.com feature on the subject). 

Burakovsky had an impressive development camp last week, though one would hope that a player who scored 87 points in the Ontario Hockey League would impress playing against late-round draft picks and undrafted free agents. Of note, the 19-year-old winger lined up at center, an organizational directive that seemed to suit his style of play in the scrimmages.

“He’s played center when he was younger, but on the national teams,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said last week following the second scrimmage. “With the men, he played wing. You’re always trying to experiment and find out what the best position is for the players. Andre has obviously shown here in these two scrimmages that he’s able to play, not just the wing, but center with his intelligence and vision on the ice.”

Burakovsky is likely ticketed for the American Hockey League to start the season, but a spirited preseason performance could delay his arrival in Hershey, even if just for a few games.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Leonsis, Niskanen Discuss Caps' Orpik]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 15:39:57 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/197*120/485782267.jpg.jpg

Two weeks has apparently not been enough for the cynicism attached to defenseman Brooks Orpik's contract with the Washington Capitals to subside. 

A widely panned five-year, $27.5 million agreement has been more difficult for the Capitals to defend than the opposing players Orpik has been tasked with thwarting on a nightly basis.

General manager Brian MacLellan and coach Barry Trotz each praised the 33-year-old's intangibles, which factored heavily into Washington's decision to sign the former Pittsburgh Penguin. Those qualities, however, cannot be measured by advanced metrics, which suggest that Orpik's quality of play continues to decline

Such criticism has not sat well with owner Ted Leonsis, who authorized the contract and provided his own defense in addressing the media for the first time since Orpik joined the organization. 

“I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t listen much anymore to what [the media says],” he said Saturday. “I think it’s your jobs, and I was a little disappointed that it’s not the right way to welcome somebody to a new team and a new city, a guy who has been in the league a long, long time. He’s a guy who has intangibles of leadership and he’s tough as nails and one the coaches and [MacLellan] respect very much. I think he’s a good player.”

Defenseman Matt Niskanen, who like Orpik migrated to Washington from Pittsburgh after signing a lucrative contract on July 1, has experienced first-hand the effect that Orpik can have on a defensive corps, particularly one as young as Washington's. 

“He’s a leader – that’s another element that people can’t ever see, just the guys in the room," said Niskanen, who also lauded Orpik's steadiness and dedication to nutrition. "He’s got a lot of experience – he’s been on bad teams and he’s been on championship teams and everywhere in between. So he knows what it takes – the chemistry, the work ethic, he knows what it takes to win and I think that will add a lot to our group and get us headed in the right direction.”`

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nats' Clippard Added to NL All-Stars]]> Mon, 14 Jul 2014 08:12:18 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/231*120/495481313.jpg.jpg

Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard was added to the National League All-Star team Sunday, replacing Atlanta Braves pitcher Julio Teheran.

It will be Clippard's second All-Star appearance. In 2011, he was the pitcher of record in the National League's 5-1 victory. 

With pitcher Jordan Zimmermann pulling out of the game with a bicep strain, first-place Washington was left without an active representative. 

“I was surprised,” Clippard told reporters after the Nationals defeated the Phillies on Sunday. “Obviously coming into the last day of the break expecting to go home and spend some days there. They said they needed a guy because Teheran was pitching today and I’m honored to do it. I feel like the Nationals need some representation there. Jordan wasn’t able to do it because of his bicep and I was afraid we might not have anybody in uniform out there. I’m just happy to go out there and represent our team and maybe get into a game and see what happens.”

Clippard is 6-2 with a 2.03 ERA in 40 innings so far this season. The game is Tuesday at Target Field in Minnesota.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: Wizards to Sign Paul Pierce]]> Sun, 13 Jul 2014 07:01:45 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/187*120/478234769.jpg.jpg

The Washington Wizards have reportedly made a sizeable free-agent splash, committing to sign veteran forward Paul Pierce to a two-year, $11 million contract, according to ESPN.

Having failed to retain forward Trevor Ariza, who will reportedly sign a four-year, $32 million contract with the Houston Rockets, Washington moved fast to acquire a battle-tested veteran. Pierce, 36, spent last season with the Brooklyn Nets after 15 seasons with the Boston Celtics. The 10-time All-Star averaged 13.5 points in 28.0 minutes per game for the Nets, both career-lows.

ESPN reports that the contract has a player option that would allow Pierce to return to free agency next summer if he chooses. As the article notes, the short-term nature of the deal will provide the Wizards with an opportunity to pursue D.C. native and reigning MVP Kevin Durant when he becomes available in 2016.

Washington re-signed center Marcin Gortat to a five-year contract last week. With John Wall, Bradley Beal and Pierce (not to mention LeBron James leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers), the Wizards could be favorites to win the Southeast Division.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA['Awe Factor' Remains for Caps' Carrick]]> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 13:03:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/204*120/183009506.jpg.jpg

As defenseman Connor Carrick whizzed around the ice during drills at the Washington Capitals' development camp Wednesday, nothing seemed amiss.

Forget that the 20-year-old unexpectedly made the Capitals' opening-night roster last fall, made his NHL debut in front of countless family members and friends in Chicago against the defending champion Blackhawks or scored his first goal in Washington's home opener two nights later.

The baby-faced veteran of 34 games fit right in among the prospects hopeful to make a lasting impression, knowing that he will have to do the same at training camp under a new regime led by coach Barry Trotz.

“Obviously things have changed a little bit here,” Carrick said. “It makes me even more excited to come back and get into it again. I cannot wait for camp. I am extremely excited.”

Carrick's advanced maturity is what stood out to management last season, but there is still a childlike sense of wonder within him, especially when discussing his dizzying rookie year.

Watching old game film, there was still an "awe factor" as he relived himself lining up behind Nicklas Backstrom during a faceoff or threading a pass toward a hard-charging Alex Ovechkin. 

“That is the Verizon Center. That is me," he recalled. "I feel like I would’ve had a better grip on it now, but it still feels very surreal.”

Those opportunities may not be as readily available next season. The Capitals' defensive corps underwent a $67 million renovation last week when former Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen joined the organization. Those additions will make it more difficult Carrick to crack the main roster again.

Yet as is his way, Carrick found an enormous opportunity in the smallest of places. 

“Maybe [Orpik] says something to you,” Carrick said as he envisioned skating alongside the 33-year-old during the preseason. “Same with Matt Niskanen. I think you have to be excited about those things.

“Whenever you add two guys of that caliber, your depth chart is going to look stronger, deeper. The team said it was going to go out and get defensemen and it did. They’re both great players, players I’ve looked up to watching games and playing against them. It comes back to me on a very personal level.” 

Perhaps Carrick would have been better off shuttling between Washington and its minor-league affiliate in Hershey last season as general manager Brian MacLellan pointed out upon his promotion in late May

Carrick, however, would not have changed a thing. 

“The thing about last year is, it’s over,” he said. “It’s not like I could go back and play more somewhere else or have a bigger role or play more with the Caps. You cannot get that time back. My opinion is, I know what I’ve learned. I learned some things the hard way, some things by being around those players every day. What I can confidently say is that if I were to choose playing elsewhere last year or having the experience I actually did, I am more confident with the latter going into camp.”

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bryce Weeps in 'Sportscenter' Ad]]> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 11:35:25 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/Screen+Shot+2014-07-10+at+11.04.56+AM.png

Earlier this summer, Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg pilfered frozen meals in a "Sportscenter" commercial. Even Teddy got into the act. (Pun probably intended.)

Now it is slugger Bryce Harper who has made his star turn on ESPN, his eye black running down his face after watching "Field of Dreams" with anchor Hannah Storm.

If you ask me, Harper is a better actor than a manager.

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

Photo Credit: YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[Washington Kastles Move to Smith Center]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 19:13:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Washington+Kastles+With+Trophy.jpg News4 Sports Anchor Carol Maloney talks to Washington Kastles Head Coach Murphy Jensen about their first match at Smith Center and the season ahead.]]> <![CDATA[Caps' Wilson Has Surgery On Left Leg]]> Wed, 09 Jul 2014 18:42:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/185*120/476153085.jpg

Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured left fibula suffered during what the team has only described as a "fall."

"At this stage the recovery is going well and he is likely to back on ice during [training] camp," his agent Mark Guy said in an email.

The 20-year-old was one of three NHL rookies to appear in all 82 of his team's regular-season games last season, scoring three goals and 10 points in a fourth-line role. Wilson participated in 14 fights and accumulated 151 total penalty minutes, fourth-most and seventh-most in the league, respectively.

The Capitals originally disclosed the injury as an ankle issue. Regardless, coach Barry Trotz is not concerned about Wilson missing significant time. 

"That's just part of sometimes training, part of just being a human on this planet Earth. You're going to get hurt, so it's unfortunate," said Trotz, who did not divulge the cause of the injury. "I was really excited about Tom having a real good summer and then coming into camp. He's young. He'll be, I'm sure, pushing it to be ready for the start of training camp. If he comes in a little bit late, then he'll have some catching up to do.

"I was really excited about him. He's going to be a really good player. He's one of those young players that you know you're going to enjoy coaching. He's young, he'll bounce back pretty good."

In other injury news, Trotz also expects defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who broke his left wrist during the IIHF World Championships and underwent surgery to repair it in late May, to be ready in September. Orlov played in 54 games for Washington last season. 

"He's probably right around training camp or just right into it," Trotz said. "Usually what I find, and just out of doing this for 17 years, is doctors have a time frame and they're very conservative timeframes. Realistically, on probably 90 percent of fhe time, the time frame is shortened.

"Their timeframes are for us mortals who aren't athletes and maybe as young. These guys train, their bodies are machines and they heal quicker. They've got more resources to do that, from trainers to rehab to all that. They seem to recover a lot quicker than the time frame, but I understand that we have to have a time frame and let's be on the conservative side all the time."

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Grubauer Prepared To Continue Development]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 11:39:36 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/209*120/462696409.jpg

Shortly after the first session of the Washington Capitals' prospect development camp concluded Monday, goaltender Philipp Grubauer took the ice with goaltending coaches Mitch Korn and Olie Kolzig.

As Korn instructed, Grubauer skated laterally with powerful strides, all while gripping a medicine ball to work on his body control. 

After catching his breath, the 22-year-old, in town for the week to meet Korn and coach Barry Trotz, recalled his whirlwind 2013-14 season that saw him unexpectedly start 14 games and temporarily wrangle the starting position from Braden Holtby. 

"I didn't expect before I came up I would have played so many games," Grubauer said. "You've got to earn your net, you've got to earn your spot and you've got to play well. It shows in this league like if you don't have success, it can go downhill really, really fast."

Recalled Nov. 30 when former Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth suffered an injury stepping on a puck during pregame warmups, Grubauer earned his first NHL victory Dec. 8 against the New York Rangers. Beginning with that game, Grubauer started 14 of Washington's following 20 games, creating a three-man logjam in goal. 

He finished the NHL portion of his season with a 6-5-5 record, 2.38 goals against average and .925 save percentage.

"Even the first couple games, the first game I won was pretty amazing," Grubauer said. "Starting game after game after game was quite an experience, so I'm going to try to do the same thing this year or next year."

Despite Grubauer's emergence, general manager Brian MacLellan sought an experienced goaltender to back up Holtby, providing Grubauer with ample opportunity to continue his development as the No. 1 option with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. Washington signed Justin Peters, late of the Carolina Hurricanes, to a two-year, $1.9 million contract

Grubauer respected the organization's decision and is prepared to make an unscheduled appearance in Washington again if necessary.

"I got sent down my first year to the [ECHL], my second year, I got sent down to [ECHL] Reading, and even this year, if I get sent down, it's not always a bad thing," Grubauer said. "I learn my things out of that and you keep fighting through that and show the coaching staff here that you can do the job.

"Obviously, there's some things that I've got to develop and I think the coaching staff and management think the same way. Maybe it's not bad that I go back to Hershey because I play more than I probably would play here. I'm looking forward to this year and maybe I'm up here next year."

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Baylor To Unveil RGIII Statue]]> Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:50:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/200*120/133531651.jpg.jpg

A statue of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will be unveiled outside of Baylor University's new McLane Stadium when it opens Aug. 31.

Griffin starred for the Bears and won the Heisman Trophy prior to being selected by Washington with the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The official pose of the 9.5-foot statue will not be revealed until next month, but Texas native Tom White, who created Griffin's likeness, traveled to Washington last April to take pictures of the quarterback.

"It's gonna be awesome," White told Fox Sports. "It's a great tribute to him and all his wonderful accomplishments."

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

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<![CDATA[Blogger Hired by Redskins Resigns After 2 Weeks]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 11:40:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/218*120/Screen+Shot+2014-06-16+at+8.46.51+AM2.png

Roughly two weeks ago, the Washington Redskins hired Ben Tribbett, a liberal blogger and "known progressive figure in Virginia," to held defend their moniker as immense pressure to change it continues to build.

Their partnership is already over.

Tribbett -- who had helped to organize the recent "Redskins Pride" caucus in the Virginia General Assembly, as NBC12.com reported -- announced his intention to resign late Monday.

Perhaps his decision to step down from the 'Skins has something to do with some inflammatory remarks regarding Native Americans that he tweeted several years ago. What we do know is that the Redskins' attempts to put a positive spin on their nickname continue to fall short.

Before accepting the position with the Redskins, Tribbett had maintained a blog known as "Not Larry Sabato" for several years, shutting it down around the time he briefly joined the organization. 

In 2006, as WTOP noted, Tribbett broke the story of former Virginia Sen. George Allen (brother of Redskins executive Bruce Allen) referring to a Jim Webb volunteer by a word that some claimed was a racial slur.

Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter and National Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata released a joint statement after the announcement:

"The growing opposition to the team's name is about far more than any one person. It is a civil rights and human rights issue and it is time for the team and the NFL to stand on the right side of history and change the mascot."

In June, the U.S. Patent Office cancelled six Redskins trademarks, calling the team name "disparaging" to Native Americans. The team is currently appealing the decision.

And in April, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it was time for the team to change its name. Reid called on owner Dan Snyder "to do what is morally right."

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Photo Credit: YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[O's Fan Throws Back Rendon's Home Run]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 07:31:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/210*120/450965518.jpg.jpg

The Battle of the Beltways between the Nationals and the Orioles opened Monday at Nationals Park as a fairly strong contigent of orange-clad fans dotted the stands.

With the Nationals trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth, potential All-Star Anthony Rendon tied the game with a two-run homer that was caught by an Orioles fan, who promptly threw it back onto the field.

Just in case you missed it, here is a closer look:


Anyway, the Orioles (and presumably that fan) had the last laugh. Baltimore crushed three home runs in the 11th in an 8-2 victory. None were thrown back to my knowledge.

The Nationals have now lost nine straight home games that have gone to extra innings. That's tied for the second-longest streak in baseball in the past 35 years, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bond Between Caps' Niskanen, Reirden to Continue]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 08:52:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/192*120/477700189.jpg.jpg

As defenseman Matt Niskanen and agent Neil Sheehy began to wade through the lucrative offers being presented by several interested teams, they whittled down the list of potential landing spots using various criteria.

Among the critical factors was coaching. Niskanen had heard nothing but good things about Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz. But it was a familiar voice, that of recently hired assistant coach Todd Reirden, that proved particularly enticing.

"It's well-documented that Matt has a great relationship with Reirden, so that will certainly be part of his consideration," Sheehy said in a phone interview two days before the market opened.

Washington had targeted Niskanen, late of the Pittsburgh Penguins, long before Reirden joined the Capitals on June 25 -- within several hours of being fired by Pittsburgh after four seasons. Yet it was Reirden's guidance that in part allowed Niskanen to blossom into the most sought-after player in free agency at his position.

Their relationship -- which Niskanen once credited with saving his career -- will continue with the Capitals, who signed the defenseman to a seven-year, $40.25 million contract July 1.

"Todd Reirden had a lot of input on why his game was where it is and why he believed it would stay at this level," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "So we trusted Todd's opinion on that."

After a career season in which Niskanen set personal bests for goals (10), points (46), ice time per game (21:18) and plus-minus (plus-33, best among NHL defensemen), the 27-year-old is prepared to validate his long-term contract with Reirden's continued assistance. 

"I had a good year. It definitely was a breakout year," Niskanen said last week. "Now the challenge for me is to try keep moving forward.

"That's one thing me and Todd have talked about since the first day I met him: How do you get just a little bit better today? How do you get a little bit better this week, this season? That's the process we go through and I'm going to look forward to working with him some more and continuing to get better and help the team win games and improve individually."

Niskanen arrived in Pittsburgh in February 2011, a throw-in in a trade with the Dallas Stars centered around high-scoring forward James Neal.

A first-round pick in 2005, Niskanen displayed some offensive pop in his first two seasons with the Stars in 2007 and 2008, but his production and ice time (when he was not a healthy scratch) noticeably dwindled in the season-plus prior to the trade.

"My career was not in a good spot at that point," Niskanen recalled.

Niskanen and Reirden worked together to formulate a plan that would allow the former to rebuild his game. Extra video sessions and individual instruction after practices soon followed, as did a swelling of Niskanen's confidence.

"He just helped build my confidence back up," Niskanen said. "He's been a big part of why I'm at where I am today as a player and in this position."

Last season, Niskanen was thrust into a more prominent role as the Penguins were decimated by injuries, leading the NHL with 513 man-games lost. With defensemen Kris Letang and Paul Martin each spending a significant portion of the season on injured reserve, Pittsburgh's coaching staff entrusted Niskanen with more responsibility.

His power-play ice time ballooned as he became even more active in the offense, while also being tested against the opposition's top players.

By season's end, Niskanen factored into nearly 40 percent of the even-strength goals scored when he was on the ice.

"His confidence reached an all-time high with the attitude he went over the boards with every shift," Reirden said. " Everything was a new challenge for him, a new opportunity."

To Reirden, just as noticeable as Niskanen's increased production was how he mentored his inexperienced counterparts with aplomb, particularly frequent defensive partner and rookie Olli Maatta

"That's an element that he had never had in his game, which was the ability to lead and help young players," Reirden said. "I think that's something he added to his resume.

"I think he really relished that opportunity, taking on a little bit more of a leadership role. It really kind of all came together and certainly his numbers speak for themselves."

The Capitals hope that Reirden can have the same profound effect on the rest of their defensive corps, often a source of derision last season.

Niskanen, having reaped the benefits himself, is certain that Reirden can positively influence his new teammates.

"Todd helps young defensemen get better," Niskanen said. "He works on details extensively, builds your confidence. He tries to get the most out of everybody that he works with."

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zimmermann Named To NL All-Star Team]]> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 07:12:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/450582156.jpg

Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann has been named to the National League All-Star team for the second straight season.

The 28-year-old is 6-4 with a 2.79 ERA in 18 starts so far this season. He was the only National named to the team despite worthy candidates like first baseman Adam LaRoche, infielder Anthony Rendon and closer Rafael Soriano. 

Rendon, however, will have an opportunity to make the team as part of the "Final Vote" contest. Voting is open until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday

Meanwhile, the Orioles have a league-high three starters on the American League side: Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters (who is out for the season following Tommy John surgery). 

This season's All-Star Game takes place on July 15 from Target Field in Minneapolis. 

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Flash Survey: How Many Hot Dogs Could You Eat?]]> Fri, 04 Jul 2014 13:08:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Hot-Dog-Generic.jpg

On the Fourth of July, we're obviously thinking about ... hot dogs.

The Guardian has weighed in with a long read, posing the question of whether a hot dog is a sandwich. We're all cooking them on grills today.

And, of course, there is the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island, which took place today.

Miki Sudo, a 28-year-old from Las Vegas, wolfed down 34 franks and buns in 10 minutes to win the women's division. Joey Chestnut won the men's division by eating 61 hot dogs and buns.

Now, we want to know: How many hot dogs could you eat?

That's the question we're asking today, in a News4/NBCWashington Flash Survey. And we want you to join in the voting.

Vote any of these ways:

  • On Twitter - tweet to @nbcwashington one of these choices: "None", "1-3", "4-10", or "More than 10"
  • On Facebook here

Here's the results we've gotten for this survey and our other recent surveys.


Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Former Players to Harper: 'Just Shut Up']]> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:13:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/451579686.jpg

Nationals slugger Bryce Harper caused quite a stir earlier this week upon his return from a thumb injury, expressing his unsolicited opinion on the lineup that manager Matt Williams put together.

"I think [Ryan Zimmerman] should be playing left. Rendon's a good third baseman. He should be playing third. We've got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa," Harper told reporters. "Of course, we want the best-hitting lineup in there. [But] I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that would be good for this team. I think that should be what's happening."

Williams insisted everything was fine between the two. So did Denard Span, who was left off Harper's imaginary lineup. 

The same, however, cannot be said about former major leaguers, who have made it clear that the brash 21-year-old needs to watch his mouth. 

“He needs to keep his mouth shut,” former National Mark DeRosa said on MLB Network Monday. “I’m being honest with you. As a guy who played in the league for a long time, a 21-year-old kid popping off like this? I know what he’s saying. He doesn’t realize its impact. He doesn’t realize Denard Span is impacted by this, Ryan Zimmarman’s impacted by this, Adam LaRoche. Just play the game. Just shut up and play the game.”

In a column for Fox Sports, 13-year veteran Gabe Kapler reached out to two past teammates.

The righty stated emphatically, “I think it’s absolutely brutal. Yes, he’s an immature 21 year old. I get that. But as another example, he’s no Mike Trout. Shut up and play. You’re in no position to tell your manager how to fill out the lineup. And if you want to be a superstar leader, then you have your teammates’ back at all times. He better learn from this. His teammates have to resent this [crap].”

From the lefty: “He (Harper) has shown in the past that he’ll act like a child. He thinks he’s a veteran, he isn’t. He thinks he’s a superstar, he isn’t. Not yet, at least. He does not look like a good teammate right now.”

All of this is distracting from the fact that the Nationals have won five straight games.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps' Green Still in Immediate Plans]]> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 15:36:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/232*120/183654486.jpg.jpg

The $67 million renovation of the Washington Capitals' defensive corps -- particularly the addition of another expensive, right-handed puck-moving defenseman in Matt Niskanen -- led to questions regarding Mike Green's future with the organization to materialize once again. 

With a $6,083,333 salary-cap charge (10th largest among NHL defensemen) and a perception that his dynamic days are behind him, armchair general managers did not hesitate placing Green on their imaginary trading blocks.

Washington, however, does not see it that way, at least outwardly. In addressing his free agent signings Tuesday, general manager Brian MacLellan reiterated that the 28-year-old is very much in the Capitals' immediate plans. 

"He’s a good player," MacLellan said. "He had an OK year, but we’re hoping to get him back on track.

“I like our defense. We have six really good defensemen … I think we feel comfortable with where we’re at now.”

Green has a modified no-trade clause, and as of Thursday morning his representation had not heard anything from Washington in that regard. Tuesday, his agent said that Green was "excited" about the additions.

MacLellan and coach Barry Trotz have already begun to confer on how they envision the defense lining up. MacLellan mentioned that he could see newly acquired defenseman Brooks Orpik as Green's partner, the former's steadying presence allowing the latter to jump up into the play.

Last month, MacLellan said that "there were circumstances last year that might have hindered his performance," perhaps alluding to former coach Adam Oates' preference for defensemen to make quick outlet passes as opposed to carrying the puck on the breakout. Despite being leashed, Green was Washington's best driver of possession with a Corsi-for of 51.7 percent

"I also think with Mike Green, [Orpik] would help stabilize his game, make him feel a little more confident in the D-zone and maybe give him more confidence to go offensively," MacLellan said.

It will be interesting to see how Trotz ultimately decides to configure his defensive corps. MacLellan said Tuesday that Green, Niskanen and John Carlson should fill the right side of the depth chart (not necessarily in that order). If that is the case, then the odds are in favor of a third-pairing defenseman making at least $5.75 million. 

Among the five defensemen that will assuredly suit up for Washington in its season opener against the Montreal Canadians assuming no moves are made (Green, Orpik, Niskanen, Carlson and Karl Alzner), Green was the most sheltered last season. He started 35.5 percent of his even-strength shifts in the offensive zone and 29.3 percent in the defensive zone.

Of course, these questions will not be answered until September when the Capitals reconvene in Arlington for training camp. But as Washington's brain trust begins to plot a course for next season, Green is included for the time being. 

"It’s probably unfair for me to go he’s written off. He’s not when I look at him," Trotz said during the NHL draft. "I see some of the things and say, 'You can do that a lot better.' Then sometimes I see things and I’ll go, 'Wow, that’s guys got things a few people can do.' With Mike it’s getting a fresh start with me in terms of that and hopefully it’s a big deal for him.

"He’s in the final year of his contract where if he can piece a real good season together, it’s going to really benefit him and it’ll benefit us. I’m excited about that opportunity, because he’s pretty dynamic back there. It’s a matter of getting him to play to the level he’s capable of."

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps' Wilson Suffers Ankle Injury]]> Wed, 02 Jul 2014 18:08:54 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/204*120/183653250.jpg.jpg

Washington Capitals right wing Tom Wilson suffered an ankle injury in Ontario during a fall, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

The 20-year-old was one of just three rookies to appear in all 82 of his team's regular-season games in 2013-14. Wilson did not see much time (7:56 per game) as he was used exclusively on the fourth line. 

The official release suggested the possibility that Wilson may not be ready for training camp or the start of the regular season, depending on the severity. Even with a crowded depth chart at right wing, Wilson is expected to challenge for a more prominent role under coach Barry Trotz as the organization hopes the 2012 first-round pick will ultimately develop into a top-six forward.

“Until more is known about Wilson’s condition and long-term availability, any such plans could be put on hold,” the release said. “We’ll keep you posted as we learn more about Wilson’s condition and his recovery.”

A call to Wilson's agent was not immediately returned.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Peters Finds 'Great Fit' With Caps]]> Wed, 02 Jul 2014 09:42:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/204*120/457486881.jpg.jpg

Understandably lost amid the $67 million it took the Washington Capitals to acquire a third of the Pittsburgh Penguins' defensive corps was their first signing of the day: a cost-effective, two-year contract for goaltender Justin Peters.

The Capitals were one of three teams that piqued Peters' interest (the New York Islanders are believed to be another), which was solidified during an in-person visit last week. 

"I had the opportunity to meet Barry Trotz, Mitch Korn and the coaching staff," said Peters, who was one of two free agents that the Capitals brought in during the interview period, defenseman Brooks Orpik being the other. "I'm really excited about the direction that the Capitals are headed in. The interest that they showed in me and the confidence that they showed in me, I just felt it was a great fit for myself.

"When the head coach on a team looks you in the eye and tells you that he wants you to be there, that goes a long way."

Peters, who will make $1.9 million over the course of his contract, made 20 starts for the Carolina Hurricanes last season, sporting a 7-9-4 record with a 2.50 goals against average and .919 save percentage. Carolina, however, elected to start next season with long-time starter Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin as its goaltending tandem, leaving Peters to look elsewhere.

"The time he's played in the NHL has been very, very successful," Peter's agent, Jordan Neumann, said during a phone interview Sunday. "I think he's looking for an opportunity to play a lot and prove to people that he's at the very least a very high-end No. 2 goalie."

He will get that opportunity in Washington, which opted to sign a less-experienced Peters, who has 68 career appearances over five seasons, over a more seasoned goaltender. (For example, the Capitals were one of five teams that expressed interest in Jonas Hiller, who ultimately signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Calgary Flames.)

That was a calculated decision by general manager Brian MacLellan, who wanted to send a clear message to starter Braden Holtby. 

"If you bring in an older, experienced guy, it’s going to cost you more money," MacLellan said. "it was going to cost us more money, and it might have been a little more pressure on Holtby. We wanted to send a message to Holtby that he was our No.1 guy."

Peters said Tuesday that he has not had any conversations regarding his specific role, pointing out that teams "need two goalies throughout the season, sometimes three" to combat the grind. 

"I don’t think you can go into the season with a set plan," he said. "I think it’ll work itself out. I’ve never met Braden personally, but I’ve played against him a lot. I know he’s a great goalie, a great competitor right there. “

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Sign Orpik to Five-Year Deal]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 16:01:38 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/485782271.jpg

The Washington Capitals signed veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik to a five-year, $27.5 million contract Tuesday.

Orpik has spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Penguins, appearing in 703 games. The 33-year-old stay-at-home defenseman, who turns 34 in September, is a two-time Olympian and will be reunited with assistant coach Todd Reirden. The Capitals hired Reirden last week after he was fired by the Penguins.

“I think he’s player that, looking at the Capitals present roster, I think he’d be a guy, left-hand shot, more of a stay-at-home guy that plays against the other team’s top players,” Reirden said of Orpik on Monday. “I think I pride myself in my ability to form relationships with the players where I can challenge them and continue to force them to improve. Brooks is a guy that, prior to us working together, started at just over 18 minutes and now is capped out at his average of 22 minutes and he plays the toughest players, night in and night out.

“He’s been a part of the top penalty-killing unit and he’s been the best penalty killer the past three years, four years that I’ve been involved in Pittsburgh. I think he brings that ability. I think a situation where he saw a lot of [Capitals forward Alex] Ovechkin in our matchups, when we came into this building or Washington was playing us in Pittsburgh. It’s a guy that can handle that. His maturity, he’s won [a] Stanley Cup, he’s been a part of [a] good defensive team and his leadership I think would be a great fit for any team."

The signing, for lack of a better descriptor, is curious. Orpik, whose annual salary-cap charge increased from $3.75 million on his last contract in Pittsburgh to $5.5 million in Washington, does not drive possession and has seen his average ice time diminish from 22:33 in 2011-12 to 22:17 in 2012-13 and 21:12 last season.

There is no doubt that Washington was in need of a steadying defensive presence, especially after using a league-high 14 defensemen last season. Yet it seems unlikely that Orpik will live up to the contract.

After signing goaltender Justin Peters to a two-year, $1.9 million contract earlier Tuesday afternoon, the Capitals have roughly $6.2 million in available space.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Maryland Officially Member of Big Ten]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 20:53:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/185964076.jpg

The Maryland Terrapins' 60-year affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference officially ended Tuesday as the university, one of the ACC's founding members, joined the Big Ten.

Along with Rutgers, Maryland will join the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin as it attempts to forge the same rivalries that carried it through the ACC. 

“All it takes is that first time you go to the Big House and you get a call against you and you start hating Michigan,” associate athletics director Ryan Bowles told The Washington Post

To celebrate its entrance into the Big Ten, Maryland will hold an on-campus celebration on Mitchell Field from noon-1:30 p.m. The event will feature the special unveiling of the Big Ten ice cream, interactive games, t-shirt giveaways and appearances by the Mighty Sound of Maryland, Testudo and the Spirit Squad.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sources: Wizards Re-Sign Gortat]]> Tue, 01 Jul 2014 21:11:02 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/240*120/20140505+WizardsFansContest.jpg


A person familiar with the deal says center Marcin Gortat has agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract to remain with the Washington Wizards.

Gortat, acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Suns last October, played an integral role in Washington's run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. The 30-year-old native of Poland nearly averaged a double-double per game with 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in 32.8 minutes.

During the playoffs, Gortat made history in Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers. With 31 points and 16 rebounds, he shot 86.7 percent from the field, the highest ever in NBA playoff history in a 30-point, 15-rebound performance. 

Free agency opened throughout the NBA early Tuesday morning. According to Russini, one other team has submitted an offer to Gortat.


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Photo Credit: The Washington Post]]>
<![CDATA[Nats' Harper Starting in Left Field Monday]]> Mon, 30 Jun 2014 18:47:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/181*120/487090969.jpg

The Washington Nationals reinstated slugger Bryce Harper from the disabled list Monday, confirming his return from a left thumb injury that cost him two months of action.

He will start in left field against the Rockies on what just so happens to be Bryce Harper Bobblehead Night. How serendipitous.

Harper required surgery on a torn ulnar collateral ligament in late April which forced him to miss 59 games.

The 21-year-old recently has been making the rounds through the team's minor-league system as he prepared for his return to the lineup.

On Saturday with Double-A Harrisburg, Harper more than proved that his hand is in working order once again, smashing three home runs Saturday for the Senators.


Yeah, I think he is good to go.

In five rehab games, Harper finished 9-for-14 (.643) with four home runs, 11 RBIs and seven runs scored. 

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Justin Peters 'Interested' In Caps]]> Sun, 29 Jun 2014 18:57:52 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/176*120/457486865.jpg

The Washington Capitals are in search of a goaltender to back up starter Braden Holtby as free agency opens throughout the NHL on Tuesday.

Among those available is Justin Peters, who will not return to the Carolina Hurricanes after being drafted by the organization 38th overall in the 2004 draft. According to his agent, there is interest in potentially joining the Capitals.

"We've identified three teams that we thought were going to be excellent fits for Justin and we've contacted those teams," Jordan Neumann said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. "Washington was certainly one of them. We're interested."

According to Daniel Friedman of CBS New York, one of the other teams that Peters is interested in is the New York Islanders. 

In 20 starts and 21 total appearances last season, the 27-year-old earned a 7-9-4 record with a 2.50 goals against average and .919 save percentage. His identical save percentage at even strength was fourth-best among free-agent goaltenders with at least 21 games played last season

Peters, who has made 68 career NHL appearances over five seasons, has also personally tormented Washington; in seven career games against the Capitals, he is 4-3-0 with a 1.67 GAA, .938 SV% and two shutouts. 

Carolina has decided to enter next season with Cam Ward and Anton Khudobin as its goaltending tandem, leaving Peters looking for another opportunity.

"The time he's played in the NHL has been very, very successful," Neumann said. "I think he's looking for an opportunity to play a lot and prove to people that he's at the very least a very high-end No. 2 goalie."

Peters' last contract was a two-year deal with a $537,500 annual salary-cap charge. The Capitals have nearly $12.7 million of available space with which to work heading into free agency.

As of Friday evening, general manager Brian MacLellan had only spoken to one free agent during the interview period that began last Wednesday, though more were planned. The window closes Monday at 5 p.m. ET.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trotz To Start Ovechkin At Right Wing]]> Mon, 30 Jun 2014 08:38:07 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/167*120/451383996.jpg

Barry Trotz is more than aware that the fortunes of the Washington Capitals are intertwined with the personal success of Alex Ovechkin. 

The affable coach, in the process of introducing himself to his new players, flew to Las Vegas -- the site of the league's annual awards ceremony -- last weekend to meet the electric and polarizing superstar who now falls under his watch. 

Over dinner, the two discussed "lots of good things, lots of bad things" as Ovechkin described it to reporters, including whether he will remain at right wing or return to his natural left wing after two seasons.

Ovechkin did not divulge the details of his and Trotz's conversation. But during a wide-ranging 30-minute conversation near the conclusion of the 2014 NHL draft, Trotz shared that he envisions starting Ovechkin on the right side. 

“Right now I know he can go on the left,” Trotz said. “I think there’s a lot of benefits to playing right side, coming out of your own end and you naturally turn into the puck and face the puck and play your normal side. Everybody tends to slide and turn to their backhand.

"If you’re a lefty you’ll go the left side, if you’re a righty you’ll go to the right side more than you go the other way, so you’ll naturally turn into the puck. And so from that standpoint, coming out of your end and being in better position that way, the right side makes a lot of sense.

“We’re going to balance it out. I told Alex, I said, ‘I know you can play both sides, but right now I’d probably say I’ll start you out on right.’”

Former coach Adam Oates engineered the transition two seasons ago, feeling that Ovechkin's offensive game had become too predictable. Two goal-scoring titles and his third Hart Trophy as league MVP in 2012-13 came as a result.

Yet Trotz stressed to Ovechkin that there is still much room to evolve. Ovechkin's ignominous minus-35 rating, third-worst in the NHL last season, overshadowed his league-leading 51 goals and earned public derision. 

In watching game film of Ovechkin, however, Trotz pinpointed something else that he brought to his captain's attention.

"Alex’s got a little too much glide in his game maybe," he said. "He’s trying to score too much so he’s not getting as much space actually. You remember Alex when he’d get that speed and he’s moving and he can do things with the puck. He can beat you with his speed, he can beat you with his size and skill and hold you off. When you’re standing still, you’re really easy to cover.

"Space is not getting up ice, but sometimes it’s coming back so you can get the puck in a good position so you have some speed, then you have some options...I think he gets a little less glide in his game, he’ll be as dynamic and hard to handle as he ever was."

How Ovechkin responds to Trotz's experience and structure will be essential to the Capitals' reclamation process after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007. But it goes without saying that it will take a collaborative effort. 

“More than I want Alex to have success, because he’s always the focal point, this team needs to have success," Trotz said. "I think Alex is all in on the team, but he also wants everybody else to buy in too. Everyone else has to do it.

"I believe Alex may be the best goal-scorer in the National Hockey League right now, but at the same time he still has to grow his game. If we’re going to win a championship in Washington, everybody has to give something. It’s not staying the same. We didn’t make the playoffs so it can’t stay the same. Let’s get better.”

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Select Five Players On Day 2 Of Draft]]> Sat, 28 Jun 2014 14:45:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/178*120/451376294.jpg

The Washington Capitals wrapped up their 2014 draft Saturday, ultimately selecting six players after arriving in Philadelphia with nine picks. Below is the full transcription of my Day 2 live blog, detailing every move Washington made throughout a speedy Saturday.

Good morning from Philadelphia, where the second day of the 2014 NHL draft is underway. The Washington Capitals select 44th overall in the second round. Updates will be posted in this space throughout the day, so check back frequently. 

--- The Capitals did not hold onto No. 44 for very long, trading it and No. 74 to the Buffalo Sabres for the 39th pick. With that selection, Washington chose Czech goaltender Vitek Vanecek. The 18-year-old had a 2.64 goals against average and .921 save percentage in 38 games with the under-20 team for Bili Tygri Liberec in the Czech league.

Along with first-round draft pick Jakub Vrana, the Capitals have selected two of the best three Czech players from the Under-18 World Championships as chosen by participating coaches. Vanecek was ranked eighth among European goaltenders, according to NHL Central Scouting

Washington does not have another selection until the fourth round (No. 104).

--- GM Brian MacLellan orchestrated yet another trade, acquiring the 89th overall pick from the New York Rangers in exchange for Washington's fourth-round selections (104, 118). 

With that third-round pick, the Capitals selected Australian forward Nathan Walker, who was playing with their AHL affiliate in Hershey. Walker attended Washington's training camp last fall as an unsigned invitee, parlaying an impressive preseason into an AHL contract. The 20-year-old appeared in 43 games for the Bears, scoring five goals and assisting on six others.

Walker is the first Australian to ever be selected in the NHL draft in his third year of draft eligibility. 

--- In the fifth round, Washington took forward Shane Gersich of the United States Development Team. The 17-year-old will play for the USHL's Ohama Lancers next season before heading to the University of North Dakota in 2015-16.

---Washington swapped more draft picks, trading the 164th and 192nd selections as well as a seventh-round pick in the 2015 draft to the Winnipeg Jets for the rights to goaltender Edward Pasquale and the 159th pick.

Pasquale spent the past three seasons with the St. John's IceCaps, Winnipeg's AHL affiliate. The 23-year-old earned a 17-13-1 record with a 2.43 goals against average and .920 save percentage last season. If he is re-signed, then he will likely join the Bears as a backup to Philipp Grubauer.

The 159th pick became center Steven Spinner from Eden Prairie (Minn.) High School.

--  Washington's final pick (No. 194) was Swedish forward Kevin Elgestal.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Negotiations Between Caps, Grabovski Reach Impasse]]> Sat, 28 Jun 2014 08:50:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/452539633+%281%291.jpg

Shortly after the relatively uneventful first round of the NHL draft concluded Friday, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan addressed the current state of contract negotiations with pending unrestricted free agent Mikhail Grabovski. 

"I think the money is a little bit prohibitive right now," MacLellan said. "We need to address some areas financially."

MacLellan reiterated Friday that his offseason priorities are to bolster the Capitals' defensive depth and find an experienced backup goaltender. The NHL and NHLPA announced prior to the draft that the upper limit of next season's salary cap will be $69 million, which leaves Washington with roughly $12.8 million in available space.

Speculation indicates that Grabovski, who finished with 35 points in 58 games last season, is in search of a multi-year contract worth around $5 million annually. That could be similar to the five-year, $27.5 million contract that was bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer. He signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Capitals last August. 

If the financial gulf between the Capitals and Grabovski is too wide to overcome, then Washington will once again have a void at second-line center. MacLellan is prepared to fill it in-house, most likely with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson or Brooks Laich.

The 30-year-old forward's agent, Gary Greenstin, attended the first round and spoke to MacLellan twice in an attempt to inch closer to an agreement that was suitable for both parties.

'We're trying to get to a comfortable number that we can work with," MacLellan said.

With Washington's preparations for the draft overlapping with the free agent interview period that opened Wednsday and runs through Monday, MacLellan admitted that he has only spoken to one free-agent-to-be, though more are planned.

"The next couple days are critical. We have a couple free agents we've targeted and we're going to pursue them," he said. "Hopefully, we get one, maybe two."

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Caps Select Vrana With 13th Pick]]> Sat, 28 Jun 2014 08:43:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/173*120/451344178.jpg

If one were to generalize the recent history of Washington Capitals first-round draft picks, a "skilled European forward with offensive flair" would be the most apt description.

That trend continued Friday when the Capitals selected Czech forward Jakub Vrana with the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft. The last North American chosen by the Capitals with their first selection of the first round was defenseman Karl Alzner in 2007, spanning six picks. 

"That's not a concious effort," general manager Brian MacLellan said of Washington's predilection for drafting Europeans. "He can really fire the puck. [Our scouts] refer to him as a sniper."

The 18-year-old spent last season with Linkoping of the Swedish Hockey League, splitting time between the senior and junior teams. Combined, he scored 16 goals and 28 points in 48 games. In the Under-18 World Championships, Vrana led all players with eight goals in seven games, showcasing his heavy shot and creativity.

“You never know when it’s going to be your last goal,” Vrana joked when asked about his ability to score with great panache. “You have to celebrate it.”

Vrana, ranked as the fourth-best European skater by NHL Central Scouting, left his native Prague at 15 years old to join Linkoping, but spent his formative years skating on a rink owned by former Capitals defenseman Frantisek Kucera. Frantisek's brother, Vojtech, works as a European scout for Washington and kept tabs on Vrana's development.

Vrana's selection was in tune with Washington's drafting philosophy of selecting the best player available, though MacLellan did attempt to move up in the draft order.

Touting a package of the 13th and 44th overall picks, MacLellan sought an opportunity to choose Red Deer Rebels defenseman Haydn Fleury, one of the highest-rated prospects on the Capitals' board.

Yet the trade did not come to pass when Fleury went seventh overall to the Carolina Hurricanes, so the Capitals immediately turned their attention to Vrana. 

“It was fun trying to [move up],” MacLellan said. "Then when we couldn’t do that, we were content to make our pick where we were.”

Vrana will assuredly attend Washington's development camp in two weeks, and MacLellan said Friday that his placement within the organization would be determined by his performance. It is a challenge that Vrana relishes.

"I think you can make better everything as a player, so I will work on everything," Vrana said. "I want to be better in everything, I want to be the best."

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lambert Joins Caps as Assistant]]> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:38:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/202*120/165858903.jpg

Lane Lambert, a former Nashville Predators assistant coach under Barry Trotz, has joined the Washington Capitals in the same capacity.

Lambert spent seven seasons with the Predators organization, including the past three as as assistant in charge of running Nashville's forward corps and penalty kill.

The 49-year-old was under contract with the Predators for next season, but seemed like the odd man out on new coach Peter Laviolette's staff. Laviolette, who replaced Trotz in early May, brought in assistant coach Kevin McCarthy to work alongside himself and incumbent assistant Phil Housley. 

Washington's hiring of Lambert completes Trotz's coaching staff, which includes fellow assistant Todd Reirden, tasked with coaching the defense, and goaltending coach Mitch Korn, who worked with Trotz throughout Nashville's 15-season existence. 

Reirden replaces Calle Johansson, who returned to Sweden after two seasons working under former coach Adam Oates. Korn will take over for Olaf Kolzig, who will remain with the organization in a lesser role in order to spend more time with his family. 

Lambert's arrival also means a revised role for Blaine Forsythe, who has held several responsibilities during his eight seasons in Washington. General manager Brian MacLellan told Monumental Network on Thursday that Forsythe will remain with the organization, but where his primary focus will be has yet to be determined. 

"His role’s going to be changed a little bit, but he’s going to still be involved with the coaching and the players," MacLellan told Mike Vogel.

Forsythe could remain in charge of Washington's power play, which finished tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins -- whose power play was run by Reirden -- atop the NHL at 23.4 percent last season. A former amateur scout and video coach, Forsythe's new duties may be more involved in those areas.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Potential Trade Chips for Caps]]> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:32:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/4940477312.jpg

Philadelphia will serve as the epicenter of the hockey world Friday and Saturday as the site of the 2014 NHL Draft. The next two days provide a unique opportunity for general managers as all 30 front offices will be in the same place preparing to improve their respective clubs.

While the focus of the draft will be on stockpiling future assets, the trade market is expected to be active as teams search for an immediate boost.

“I think there seems to be bigger names being talked about in the trade market,” Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said last week. “We’ll see if that really comes to fruition. I think with the cap going up, there might be a little more room for trades to happen...I'm going to explore it."

The draft is the first phase of what management has called an organizational "refresh," and making a draft-day trade -- which the Capitals have done in each of the past six years -- could assist in speeding up the process.

That being said, who (or what) are the most realistically tradable assets available to MacLellan to dangle if he should so choose? Consider this a speculative exercise. 

Troy Brouwer

If the Capitals are looking to sell high, then they should look no further than Brouwer. The 28-year-old veteran finished last season with a flourish, scoring 15 goals in his final 27 games to finish with a career-high 25. 

Brouwer can play in all situations; he was the only forward to average more than three minutes on the power play (where he scored a personal-best 12 goals) while simultaneously averaging over two minutes on the penalty kill. 

With an excess of right wingers on the roster (Alex Ovechkin, Joel Ward, Tom Wilson), the impetus for Brouwer's departure may be to dissipate that logjam. (Of course, if coach Barry Trotz elects to move Ovechkin back to left wing, Brouwer becomes less expendable.)

Under contract for two more seasons at a reasonable $3.66 million salary-cap charge, Brouwer presents an intriguing option for other clubs. 

Marcus Johansson

Johansson has spent the majority of his even-strength ice time over the past two seasons with Ovechkin (72.8 percent in 2012-13, 56.2 percent in 2013-14) and Nicklas Backstrom (72 percent, 54.2 percent). Yet the 23-year-old has done little to step out of the enveloping shadows cast by his elite linemates.

Last season, Johansson became the first forward ever to play at least 1,400 minutes at even strength and score fewer than three goals. In all, Johansson has scored five even-strength goals in the past two seasons.

Yet Johansson, who finished sixth in Lady Byng Memorial Trophy voting, does have value as a facilitator. He led the Capitals last season in "setup passes," an estimate of passes that directly lead to a shot attempt. Johansson also had 28 primary assists, most among his teammates.

Simply put, the Capitals need more from the 2009 first-round pick than they have received through four seasons. Perhaps another team may be attracted to Johansson as a reclamation project of sorts, finding a defined role for him that has often fluctuated in Washington.

Mike Green

A constant source of trade chatter among armchair general managers, the former two-time Norris Trophy finalist has been written off by many after several injury-plagued and inconsistent seasons.

Last season was the defenseman's healthiest since 2009-10, appearing in 70 games for Washington. Green tilted the ice in the Capitals' favor when he was on the ice, leading the team with a 51.7 Corsi percentage. Yet he always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on goals against, turning the puck over or playing suspect odd-man defense.

The catch-22 in potentially trading Green, however, is that the Capitals have no one to replace him among their assemblage of young defensemen and minor-league journeymen. They would need to be confident that his loss could be somewhat mitigated before considering any trade offer.

MacLellan said last week that Washington's priority is to "get Mike Green back on track," adding that there were "certain circumstances that might have hindered his performance."

If the right offer came along, however, perhaps MacLellan could be swayed. 

The 13th Overall Pick

There is a perceived lack of potential franchise players in this summer's draft class, meaning it is unlikely that whomever the Capitals select will make an instantaneous impact on the roster. After missing the postseason for the first time in seven years, Washington is seeking to improve immediately.

MacLellan has pinpointed defense as his main offseason priority. With a shortage of high-end defensive talent available in the draft and few notable defensemen available via free agency, a lottery pick (albeit the final lottery pick) could be part of an enticing trade package to procure what Washington is in sore need of. The Capitals could acquire more draft picks in return, allowing them to still restock their pipeline whlie also upgrading their current situation.

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Woods Pleased With His Play at Congressional]]> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 21:49:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000006965938_1200x675_290198595786.jpg Though he shot three over par, Tiger Woods was pleased with his play -- and his back -- at the Quicken National at Congressional Country Club in his first round of competitive golf since surgery. News4's Jason Pugh reports.]]> <![CDATA['Skins Share Poorly Timed Cheerleading Photo on Instagram]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 17:06:24 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/redskins+cheerleaders1.jpg

Following the cancellation of six of their trademarks last week, the Washington Redskins may be under more pressure than ever to change their polarizing moniker.

Team owner Dan Snyder has famously said he will never change the name of the team. "NEVER -- you can use caps," he told USA Today last year.

That being said, it might not have been the best idea for the team's Instagram account to post a picture Tuesday chronicling the history of their cheerleading uniforms, which in the past featured fairly obvious caricatures of Native Americans. 

In response, some Instagram users suggested that the inclusion of the Native American costumes may not have been a good idea.

"Probably not the best pic to post right now. Do you really want to double down on that Indian imagery? #tonedeaf," wrote user djnva.

The costumes in question have not been in use since the early 1970s.

From USA Today:

In 1972, a group of American Indians who objected to the team name visited team president Edward Bennett Williams. The petitioners' legal brief pointed out that afterward Williams took steps to remove some of the mocking references to American Indians in the team's traditions. The team changed the original lyrics to its fight song and, the brief says, "announced that the cheerleaders would no longer wear the black-braided hair wigs."

It should be pointed out that one of the six trademarks canceled by the U.S. Patent Office was "Redskinettes."

This wasn not the first time in recent weeks that the team's social media accounts has caused a stir. Last month, the Redskins urged Twitter followers to tweet at Sen. Harry Reid to voice their support for the team using the hashtag #RedskinsPride, but the move backfired.

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<![CDATA[Caps' Grabovski 'Entertaining Offers' as Free Agency Approaches]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:06:43 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/4525395232.jpg

Free agency is set to begin throughout the NHL next week, but while teams cannot formally offer contracts to another team's pending free agents until July 1, they are now allowed to express their interest.

Beginning Wednesday, general managers have until June 30 to sell their respective organizations to targeted free agents and discuss the parameters of a potential contract.

After some confusion derived from the interview process last summer, the NHL sent a memo to all teams explicitly detailing the rules. 

“Clubs are permitted to discuss their potential interest in, as well as the general parameters of, a potential future contractual relationship with another Club’s pending RFA or UFA during the applicable ‘interview periods,’" the memo read. "But Clubs may not enter into any agreements, or make any binding offers, promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind, express or implied, oral or written, concerning the terms of a potential SPC with another Club’s pending RFA or UFA.”

While expounding his approach to free agency last week, Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said that "there’s a couple of guys that we’re going to pursue up to a certain point." Meanwhile, Washington has two unrestricted free agents of its own: forwards Dustin Penner and Mikhail Grabovski.

It is unlikely that Penner, acquired at the trade deadline last season, will return. Yet Grabovski's camp has been in contract discussions with the Capitals since January. Agent Gary Greenstin has repeatedly said that his 30-year-old client is comfortable in Washington, but that he will spend the next several days exploring other options.

"We definitely will be entertaining offers and keep options open," Greenstin said in an email Tuesday, adding that he will be traveling to Philadelphia, the site of this weekend's NHL draft, Wednesday. "Most likely, I will see Brian MacLellan and continue discussions."

It is believed that Grabovski is seeking a four- to five-year contract worth $5 million annually. That would be similar to the five-year, $27.5 million contract that was bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs last July. He signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Capitals last August.

With the salary cap expected to rise to nearly $70 million next season, Washington has roughly $14 million with which to work

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<![CDATA[Korn Discusses Joining Caps As Goalie Coach]]> Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:01:36 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/4940477251.jpg

After a coaching career that spanned over 30 years and several levels of experience, Mitch Korn was prepared to retire. 

His contract with the Nashville Predators was set to expire at the end of June and the franchise that had employed him to develop its goaltenders for 15 seasons was eager to re-sign him, but he felt ready to move on.

That was until Korn heard from recently hired Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz, whom he coached alongside throughout the Predators' existence.

"Barry's like family," Korn said during a conference call Tuesday. "And when family asks you for help, you respond."

Korn was officially hired by the Capitals as their goaltending coach Tuesday, two weeks after it was initially reported that he would join Trotz's staff

“We’re like an old married couple,” Korn said of his relationship with Trotz. “We finish each other’s sentences. He knows what I think and what I believe, and I believe he believes the same things. It’s very rare we’ve had an argument over a goalie, an argument over a goal. He gets it.”

The 56-year-old brings with him a proven track record of molding unheralded goaltenders into NHL mainstays and a literal bag of tricks developed to hone every skill imaginable.

In Washington, Korn will be tasked with getting the most out of Braden Holtby, whose uneven 2013-14 season has been widely recounted. Korn has spoken to Holtby and watched some video, allowing him to formulate his initial thoughts on the 24-year-old.

“He’s very focused,” Korn said. “He’s very cerebral. He’s got a big body and he’s very athletic. Those things are great in today’s NHL game. I am Braden’s fourth goalie coach in the time that he’s been in Washington. I hope to bring some continuity, which hasn’t necessarily been there.

“We hope we can make him an elite goalie in the National Hockey League without putting too much pressure on him by making that statement.”

Korn will replace Olaf Kolzig, who expressed his desire not to continue in his role as a full-time goaltending coach in order to spend more time with his family. Korn and Kolzig, who have known each other for over 20 years, will discuss how Kolzig will be utilized going forward.

“We have a long relationship and we’ve been talking about what he wants to do and what he can do,” Korn said. “He’s got a unique family situation. Obviously he’s traveled a ton, being a pro goalie for a long time. We’re working to put the best package together for him to make it work, from scouting to coaching, a variety of different things to make it work.

"Olie will be a part of what we do. That decision has been made. Everybody’s on board.”

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Strasburg to Give Up Chewing Tobacco]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 10:36:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/451122684.jpg

Last week, the baseball world mourned the passing of Tony Gwynn, who died of salivary gland cancer at the age of 54.

Gwynn attributed his illness to chewing tobacco throughout his career. Saddened by the loss of his former coach at San Diego State, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg has decided to kick his chewing tobacco habit.

"I think it's a disgusting habit, looking back on it," Strasburg told MLB.com. "I was pretty naive when I started. Just doing it here and there, I didn't think it was going to be such an addiction. … Bottom line is, I want to be around for my family. This is something that can affect people the rest of your life. [Chewing tobacco is] so prevalent in this game. It's something we all kind of grew up doing."

Strasburg's college teammate Addison Reed, a reliever for the Arizona Diamondbacks, said last weekend that he will also give up smokeless tobacco. 

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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Four Potential Goalie Targets for Caps]]> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 20:48:28 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/183*120/480420903.jpg

Last week, Washington Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said that acquiring an experienced goaltender to back up incumbent starter Braden Holtby was among his offseason priorities.

The Capitals are one of nine teams with potential goaltending openings throughout the NHL as free agency begins next Tuesday (with the five-day interview period beginning Wednesday). 

This summer's available goaltenders range from established starters looking for another opportunity to do so (Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller) to serviceable backups (Justin Peters, Ray Emery, Al Montoya). Below are four options that are among the best suited for the role that MacLellan is looking to fill. 

Chad Johnson 

  • 17-4-3, 2.10 GAA, .925 SV% in 27 appearances (23 starts) for Boston Bruins
  • $600,000 salary-cap charge in 2013-14

Johnson played behind Vezina Trophy finalist Tuukka Rask last season, but had an incredibly impressive season despite limited work. The 28-year-old had a .934 save percentage at even strength last season, second-best among free-agent goaltenders with at least 21 games played.

With Boston signing prospect Niklas Svedberg to a one-year contract Monday, Johnson confirmed that he will not return to the Bruins. Granted, Johnson will not receive the same help defensively as he did in Boston, but his addition to the Capitals' rotation certainly would not hurt. 

Thomas Greiss

  • 10-8-5, 2.29 GAA, .920 SV% in 25 appearances (20 starts) for Phoenix Coyotes
  • $750,000 salary-cap charge in 2013-14

Among goaltenders with at least 2,000 minutes played since the 2011-12 season, Greiss's .933 even-strength save percentage is second only to Rask's (via Japers' Rink). His .938 even-strength save percentage last season was the best among free-agents-to-be as well.

Greiss, who has 69 games of NHL experience spread over five seasons, likely has no delusions of grandeur when it comes to his role. The German is an effective goaltender when called upon, which is all a team can ask for from a backup. 

Tomas Vokoun

  • Did not play last season while recovering from pelvic thrombophlebitis
  • $2 million salary-cap charge in 2013-14

The 37-year-old former Capitals goaltender is "100 percent committed" to playing in the NHL next season after missing all of last season with debilitating blood clots. In his last game action, Vokoun appeared in 11 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, finishing with a 2.01 goals against average and .933 save percentage.

A return to Washington would make sense for a healthy Vokoun, who would be reunited with coach Barry Trotz and goaltending coach Mitch Korn. Vokoun played under Trotz and Korn for eight seasons with the Nashville Predators. 

Peter Budaj

  • 10-8-3, 2.51 GAA, .909 SV% in 24 appearances (21 starts) for Montreal Canadiens
  • One year remaining on a two-year, $2.8 million contract

Unlike the others, Budaj is not a pending free agent. Yet it seems unlikely that he will return to Montreal next season after the emergence of Dustin Tokarski, who filled in for an injured Carey Price admirably during the Eastern Conference final.

The 31-year-old almost perfectly fits the profile of the kind of goaltender that the Capitals are seeking: an experienced hand who has accepted his role as a backup and can spell Holtby for 25-30 games. With the trade market expected to be active in the coming weeks, Washington could probably wrangle Budaj from Montreal without parting with significant assets. 

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[UVa. in College World Series Final]]> Mon, 23 Jun 2014 16:37:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20140623+UVa.jpg

The Virginia Cavaliers will face the Vanderbilt Commodores in the 2014 College World Series Final beginning Monday at 8 p.m. 

Both teams have been among college baseball's best for the past decade, but are making their first-ever appearances in the championship series. The Cavaliers expected to be there; Virginia started the season as the top-ranked team in the country and entered the NCAA Tournament as the top national seed. 

Yet it has been several years since the No. 1 overall seed has won the championship. It last happened in 1999 when the Miami Hurricanes defeated the Florida State Seminoles. 

While the Cavaliers are making their third trip to Ohama in the past six years, the Commodores are making their second in school history. 

The two teams will meet in a best-of-three series. Game 2 is Tuesday and Game 3 (if necessary) is Wednesday at TD Ameritrade Park.

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