<![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 Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:59:16 -0400 Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:59:16 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Gruden: RGIII's the Starter When He's Healthy]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 20:58:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008281942_1200x675_347133507715.jpg Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden used the word "starter" a lot during his press conference Thursday. Dianna Russini reports.]]> <![CDATA[The 'Skinny: Cowboys]]> Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:56:00 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/162*120/4575177541.jpg

Welcome back to the second season of "The 'Skinny," a weekly preview of the local professional football team's upcoming game and opponent. Every Thursday, you can find any and all information* about the Redskins' next opponent in this space.

(*Sometimes, it may be some or most information.)

Opponent: Dallas Cowboys (6-1)

Game information: Mon., Oct 27 -- AT&T Stadium -- 8:30 p.m. -- ESPN

Last Week: Hey, the Redskins won a football game, defeating the Titans 19-17. How about that? Meanwhile, the Cowboys keep winning football games, their 31-21 victory against the Giants being their sixth straight.

What's The Skinny?

When the season began, few expected the Cowboys to be the league's best team nearly midway through, but here we are. Dallas is buoyed by running back DeMarco Murray, who leads the NFL with 913 rushing yards on 187 carries, 61 more than any other player. To thank his offensive line, Murray purchased iMacs for each of them

If the Redskins focus too much of their attention attempting to lock down Murray, then they might get burnt by Tomo Romo. The quarterback's 69.2 completion percentage is the best in the league. Terrance Williams and Dez Bryant have combined for 10 touchdown catches.

That is a lot to handle for Washington, which cannot defeat NFC East rivals (eight straight losses) or win on Mondays (4-15 since 2000). Projected starter Colt McCoy was 6-15 as a starter for the Browns in a previous life. All of those numbers conspire against the Redskins, but obviously the numbers are not playing the games, so you never know. 

Statistic Of The Week: Murray is the first running back in NFL history to start the season with seven straight 100-yard rushing efforts. He is also on pace to break Larry Johnson's single-season rushing attempt record of 416 set in 2006.

What They're Saying

“I’m approaching this like any other game … There’s no extra emotions. I’m not going out there trying to be no hero. I’m just trying to be the player I am.”

- Defensive end and former Cowboy Jason Hatcher on facing his former team


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



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<![CDATA[Sources: RGIII Out Against Cowboys]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:17:28 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/457492620.jpg

Though Redskins coach Jay Gruden has not publicly ruled out the possibility of Robert Griffin III returning from his dislocated ankle Monday against the Cowboys, sources tell News4's Dianna Russini that he will not play and Colt McCoy will start. 

Griffin, who has not played since Week 2 against the Jaguars, received a heavier workload at practice Wednesday while wearing a protective brace on his left ankle. Gruden said that McCoy is the projected starter against Dallas "as of right now."

"I'd like to make a decision tomorrow after practice," Gruden told reporters Wednesday.

McCoy replaced Kirk Cousins in the second half of Washington's win against Tennessee last week, completing 11 of 12 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.


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<![CDATA[Caps Cutting Down Opponents' Shots ]]> Fri, 24 Oct 2014 09:27:44 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/457222332.jpg

No one needs to be reminded of the Washington Capitals' porous defense last season (or last season as a whole, really), but among their myriad problems was an inability to limit shots against.

As a refresher, the Capitals allowed 33.5 shots per game, 27th in the NHL, and 31.3 shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, 26th. That was seemingly alright by former coach Adam Oates and then-general manager George McPhee, the latter of whom told former colleague Katie Carrera that "We play a system where teams get probably more shots the way we play but most of them are from the outside, we’ll allow those."

Coach Barry Trotz, however, does not subscribe to that particular ideology, which is reflected in his team's statistics through five games:   

Shots Against Per Game

  • 2013-14: 33.5 (27th)
  • 2014-15: 25.0 (5th)

Shots Against Per 60 Minutes 5-on-5

  • 2013-14: 31.3 (26th)
  • 2014-15: 23.8 (5th)

Blocked Shots Per Game

  • 2013-14: 14.7
  • 2014-15: 17.2 

Corsi Percentage 5-on-5

  • 2013-14: 47.7% (24th)
  • 2014-15: 52.4% (11th)

(A proxy for puck possession totaling shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots)

Limited sample size aside, early returns are encouraging. In three of Trotz's first five games, the Capitals have allowed 25 or fewer shots. In 130 regular-season games under Oates, they did so 12 times. 

There are a few reasons for that significant improvement. Trotz encourages his players to block shots, something Oates dissuaded them from doing. A stabilized defensive corps, made so by the offseason acquisitions of Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, has also helped.

“Nisky’s better than ever I thought he was defensively," forward Jason Chimera said. "His stick is one of the best sticks I’ve seen for a long time. And Orpi, everyone knows Orpik blocks shots. We’ve been pretty solid right now.”

One specific cause is the Capitals, as Trotz presented Monday, "don’t spend particularly a lot of time in our end." A simple eye test proved that Washington struggled to break out effectively last season, with sloppy execution leading to prolonged shifts chasing the puck in the defensive zone. An emphasis on controlled zone exits has led to smoother transitions up ice. 

"When we get into the zone, we’re communicating better with each other and we’re finding the open lanes and we’re finding a way to get out of the zone as opposed to previous years where we got it, we just tried to rim it up the boards or tried to force plays," said forward Eric Fehr, one of Washington's best skaters at exiting the zone last season. "We do a good job of communicating with each other and finding outlets.”

As a result, less of a burden has been placed upon the goaltenders, who are no longer forced to make several game-preserving saves.  

"How we’re playing is the right way," goaltender Braden Holtby said. "It gives everyone a certain job. We know what the group expects out of us as goaltenders that we’re going to have those two or three saves a game that we need to make and it’s not seven or eight of them. It’s a controlled number because everyone’s doing their role so well that we’re keeping our shot totals down, we’re keeping those chances-against down and developing offense through it. What we’ve done on the defensive end is the reason why our record is what it is.”

In describing what his "five, five, five" on-ice philosophy looks like when working at optimum efficiency, Trotz has offered the visual of five red jerseys playing in all three zones at once. The adjustment is ongoing, but the Capitals are already seeing the benefits. 

“That’s a hard part of the game because it’s simple but very difficult to train your mind to go hard in those areas, especially the wingers to get back that extra five feet, take those extra two strides when you don’t think that they mean anything when they do," Holtby said. "The centers to get low, the D-men to get back quick for their partner when sometimes you let up naturally, it's those parts of the game that are extremely tough and people don’t notice and I think we’ve done an outstanding job of it so far.

"It’s those little things that Barry wants to implement and that’s what’s going to make us successful.”


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<![CDATA[Caps' Wilson Reassigned To Hershey]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:11:44 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/185770109.jpg

His rehabilitation from offseason ankle surgery apparently nearing an end, the Washington Capitals reassigned forward Tom Wilson to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League with the expectation that he will make his season debut this weekend.

The 20-year-old Wilson, one of three rookies to appear in all 82 of his team's games last season, fractured his left fibula in what the Capitals plainly described as a "fall" this summer. The Capitals bandied about potential rehabilitation routes for Wilson, including starting the process with minimal fourth-line minutes in Washington before handling more substantial ice time in Hershey. 

After practice Monday, coach Barry Trotz predicted that Wilson "probably" would appear at some point during the Capitals' three-game, week-long Canadian road trip. 

Instead, Wilson is expected to play in two of the Bears' three games this weekend: Friday against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Saturday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Hershey's home opener. 

“Obviously I want to play,” Wilson said Monday. “It’s really tough watching the guys do battle every night and watching from the press box. But you don’t want to rush it back. Hopefully, I’m going to be here for a long time and help this team win some games down the road. So I just want to make sure that when I come back it’s going to be 100 percent and I’m going to be able to help out as best as I can.” 

When Wilson returns to Washington's lineup, where he will slot in provides ample intrigue. Trotz and general manager Brian MacLellan envision a significantly larger role for Wilson, who was exclusively utilized in a fourth-line role last season. In order to provide him with that opportunity, top-six tinkering will be necessary.

Wilson's assignment is not being considered a conditioning loan, which carries a maximum length of 14 days. As he is signed to an entry-level contract, he will also receive an AHL salary, listed by CapGeek as $70,000.


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



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<![CDATA[Orakpo Out For Season ]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:50:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/177*120/455915850.jpg

The Washington Redskins will be without outside linebacker Brian Orakpo for the rest of the season after coach Jay Gruden confirmed that the pass-rusher will need surgery to repair a torn right pectoral muscle sustained against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Orakpo has suffered two torn pectoral muscles in the past, but both were on the left side. Making over $11 million under the franchise tag, Orakpo has a half-sack this season and 24 total tackles. WIth his lack of production and injury woes, his Redskins career is likely over after six seasons.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Laich Won't Join Caps On Road Trip]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:23:04 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/193*120/4628567231.jpg

Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich did not practice Monday with an apparent left-shoulder injury and will not join the team on its upcoming three-game road trip through western Canada. 

"I think we're looking at probably the first game back from the trip [Oct. 29 against the Detroit Red Wings]," coach Barry Trotz said. "Not too serious but serious enough where I don't think he will be quite effective for us in the three games.

"It's not a six-week thing. I think it's a week to 10 days and he should be ready to roll."

Laich exited the Capitals' 2-1 shootout victory against the Florida Panthers on Saturday with roughly five minutes remaining in regulation after a shoulder-to-shoulder collision with Shawn Thornton.

Trotz classified the injury as "upper body" after the game, perhaps a somewhat comforting diagnosis considering Laich has missed 70 regular-season games in the past two seasons with a recurring groin injury. 

Washington will place Laich on short-term injured reserve retroactive to Saturday for the time being. In his place, Jay Beagle, who missed the Capitals' first five games with an upper-body injury sustained during the preseason, will be activated from injured reserve and make his season debut against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday. 

The 29-year-old is expected to serve as the right wing on a line with Marcus Johansson and Andre Burakovsky, Laich's linemates for the past two games. Trotz, however, will shuffle his forward lines if necessary.

"It's sort of ideal where Beags can play a number of positions," he said. "I put him out there [at practice] just to see how that might work and look. I've got Plan B in order if it's not working as well as I thought."

Following the game against the Oilers on Wednesday, the Capitals play their first back-to-back set of the season against the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and Sunday.


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<![CDATA['Skins Defeat Titans, Cousins Benched ]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:51:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/457502560.jpg

When Kirk Cousins relieved Robert Griffin III several weeks ago when the latter suffered a dislocated ankle, he threw a touchdown on his first pass and it was believed that he could realistically lead the Redskins to success. Perhaps even better than his predecessor. 

Then the Redskins didn't win with Cousins under center and we all found out that he's pretty terrible. That's why he was mercifully benched at halftime for third-stringer Colt McCoy against the Titans on Sunday. On McCoy's first pass of the season, he also threw a touchdown, a 70-yarder to Pierre Garcon. The Cult of Colt -- albeit a different Colt -- was reborn.

One second-quarter sequence more or less encapsulated Cousins' incomprehensible woes. Bashaud Breeland intercepted Charlie Whitehurst at Washington's 42-yard line. On literally the next play, Cousins' pass intended for Andre Roberts was picked off by Wesley Woodyard. For a change of pace, Cousins threw an interception -- his ninth of the season -- in the first half after the other eight came in the second. He also fumbled. His 11 turnovers lead the NFL.

No matter. McCoy's touchdown gave the Redskins a 13-10 lead. Tennessee took a 17-16 in the fourth quarter on a 38-yard catch by Derek Hagan, who spent last season as a sports talk radio analyst. McCoy then marched Washington up the field, setting up a game-winning field goal from Kai Forbath to end a four-game losing streak in a 19-17 victory. 

(Can't you see that I'm trying to craft a legend here? I haven't even gotten to the part where hysterical Redskins fans attempt to trade McCoy in their minds for a multiple second-round draft picks yet! Also, it's sort of ironic that Cousins' first win as a starter came in a game that he wasn't allowed to finish.)

Anyway, there is sure to be some sort of reinvigorated quarterback controversy this week leading up to next Monday's matchup against the Cowboys. You're shocked, I know. Just enjoy the win while you can.


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



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<![CDATA[The 'Skinny: Week 7 v. Titans]]> Sun, 19 Oct 2014 07:11:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/457119396.jpg

Welcome back to the second season of "The 'Skinny," a weekly preview of the local professional football team's upcoming game and opponent. Every Thursday, you can find any and all information* about the Redskins' next opponent in this space.

(*Sometimes, it may be some or most information.)

Game information: Sun., Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. at FedEx Field. Broadcast on CBS.

Last Week: Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Redskins lost. Again. To whom doesn't matter. (It was Arizona.) Meanwhile, the Titans actually won a game, defeating the Jaguars 16-14.

What's The Skinny?

Oh, you're still here? I commend you on your resolve. They pay me to be here.

Anyway, the Redskins have lost four straight games, three of which were double-digit defeats. The equally mediocre Titans, who just snapped a four-game losing streak of their own, may provide the Redskins with an actual opportunity to win a football game.

My colleague Rick Snider at Washington Post Express has provided five reasons why you should still watch, which are five more than I can think of. 

Statistic Of The Week: Washington currently has a 0.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, so there is little to no hope that a win Sunday will catapult it back into contender status.

What They're Saying 

"I'm losing track."

- Redskins coach Jay Gruden mistakingly stating that the team's record was 1-6 during a press conference this week. The joke writes itself. 


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



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<![CDATA[Caps' Schmidt Happy to Be Contributing]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 17:06:28 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/454224643.jpg

Nate Schmidt strolls into the locker room after practice, almost bouncing with each step, offering a smile and fist bump to anyone he passes on the way to his stall in the back right corner. 

"Always smiling, that kid," defenseman Mike Green recently remarked, a grin creeping across his face.  

It's an infectious positivity that has characterized the 23-year-old since childhood. That sunny disposition has cheered up countless teammates and once prompted former Hershey Bears coach Mike Haviland to ask him to complement his pleasant off-ice personality with a fiercer attitude on it, something Schmidt is just now getting the hang of. 

“I just enjoy the little things," Schmidt said earlier this week. "Just coming to the rink, being up here, playing in Washington. I enjoy that. But it doesn’t change if I go somewhere else. I just like to have a very positive outlook on everything, so I try to stay positive around the guys. And it’s contagious too.

"When you are positive, it kind of comes full circle, maybe you bring someone else along who maybe brings someone else along. If you bring the right vibes to the rink or you bring the right vibes to your life, it makes a big difference, I think.”

Schmidt, as is his wont, is just happy to be here, but he earned his place on the Capitals' opening-night roster after an impressive preseason. Signed as an undrafted free agent from the University of Minnesota in April 2013, he appeared in 29 games last season as one of four Capitals defensemen to make their NHL debuts, a product of Washington's dubious defensive depth. 

Such an opportunity became significantly less replicable this summer. Displeased with the flimsy blue line, new general manager Brian MacLellan lured veteran defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to Washington from the Pittsburgh Penguins on July 1 for a combined cost of nearly $68 million.

With Dmitry Orlov, the presumptive sixth defenseman, recovering from offseason wrist surgery, there was realistically one spot up for grabs come training camp. 

“For me, it actually kind of made me work that much harder," Schmidt said, recalling his initial reaction to the free-agent signings. "I thought to myself like I really need to make an impression. Otherwise, I’ll be just another one of those young guys that are grouped together. With a new staff, they didn’t know much about us because there was such a limited viewing for all of us, so I thought there was something that really needed to step out to try and separate myself from the rest of the young guys."

"I had nothing to lose. The expectation was probably I was supposed to start in Hershey, but if I come in and play well, maybe I get a chance.”

So Schmidt overhauled his offseason training regimen. He began to run less and skate more, honing his signature skating ability and building lower-body strength. He revamped his diet, significantly reducing his body fat percentage. Last month, he arrived in Arlington prepared to impress. 

"The thing that jumps out at you is his ability to skate," said assistant coach Todd Reirden, who was familiar with Schmidt prior to either of them joining the Capitals organization through scouting. "He's an elite skater at all levels of hockey, but you can definitely notice it at the National Hockey League level as well. He clearly made a different commitment in the summer to his off-ice training. He's much stronger in down-low battles and his compete level is at a higher level than the games I watched from last year."

Schmidt skated 13:14 in Washington's season-opening shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens last Thursday, but even more of an affirmation of the Capitals' faith in him came two days later. With Green making his season debut against the Boston Bruins after an upper-body injury held him out of the opener, coach Barry Trotz kept Schmidt in the lineup over veteran Jack Hillen.

“He’s really gotten better and played really well," Trotz said. "He’s turned some really good situations into good offense. His transitional game is really good and he’s such a strong skater.

"I just felt confidence-wise, Nate was in a good place."

Schmidt will tell you the same thing. It no longer unsettles him to be living at the team hotel next door to the practice facility. He doesn't peruse and parse his teammates' statistics looking for proof of some sort of edge anymore. 

With Orlov eligible to return early next month, Schmidt, who is waiver-exempt, may be the most logical corresponding roster move. At the very least, he can make that decision a difficult one.

"I was so nervous about every little thing that happened," Schmidt said. "This year, my experience has showed me that things will happen, you create your own luck and you determine your own destiny with how you play."

He then crosses the street toward his hotel, a spring in his step and a smile on his face.


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



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<![CDATA[Laich Earns Honest Abe's Beard for Sacrificing Body]]> Tue, 14 Oct 2014 20:56:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/brooks+like+honest+abe+beard.jpg Brooks Laich earned Honest Abe's Beard from his Washington Capitals teammates for sacrificing his body to block a shot in a win over Boston. Jason Pugh reports.]]> <![CDATA[The Cooley Report: RGIII Deserves a Shot]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 19:46:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/455437016.jpg Chris Cooley says it's clear Robert Griffin III deserves another shot at quarterback when he returns from injury in light of Kirk Cousins' recent play.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA['Skins Lose Fourth Straight Against Cardinals]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 07:00:00 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/174*120/457128090.jpg

The Redskins lost again, but you already knew that.

This time, they did so to the Cardinals by a 30-20 score, their fourth straight loss in a season that most of you probably wish would already end. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it isn't even half over. 

After falling behind 7-0 on a Michael Floyd 20-yard touchdown catch, the Redskins countered when Kirk Cousins threaded a pass to DeSean Jackson, who took off for a 64-yarder. All three of Jackson's touchdowns this season have been at least 60-yard catches, justifying his deep-threat reputation. He may have had another one later if not for Chris Chester, who happens to also play for the Redskins, knocking Jackson over as he charged downfield to block for the wide receiver.

Larry Fitzgerald caught a touchdown late in the second quarter to give Arizona the lead for good. Then there were some field goals, Andre Roberts fumbled and Brian Orakpo dropped a sure interception that people got mad about. Another field goal followed. Oh, and Cousins threw more late-game interceptions, the last of which was returned for a touchdown. That more or less covers it. 

The Redskins will face the Titans at FedEx Field next Sunday.


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



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<![CDATA[Caps Well-Equipped to Handle Low-Scoring Games]]> Sat, 11 Oct 2014 14:14:16 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/hockey-AP769275249523.jpg

For all of the widespread change enacted and trumpeted by the Washington Capitals this offseason, a remnant of frustrating seasons past manifested itself in their season opener Thursday. The Capitals, despite a spirited and occasionally dominant performance against the Montreal Canadiens, lost a 2-1 shootout decision. 

"Just couldn't get that second goal," defenseman Brooks Orpik lamented after the game. "Second goal is huge in this league."

Realistically, the Capitals may have needed at least a third. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Washington is 7-68-13 in games in which it scores two or fewer goals, the fewest such victories in the NHL over that span. Obviously, it was just one game and not necessarily a forewarning, but a lingering issue nonetheless.

"Today's NHL, it's not that easy, players are too good," forward Nicklas Backstrom said. "It's going to be low-scoring games. That's the way it is these days. It's not going to be 7-1, 6-1, games like that." 

If one were to seek solace in defeat, however, the Capitals displayed a level of tenacity that has too often been fleeting. They controlled puck possession at an impressive clip, particularly in a first period that featured a 15-2 shot advantage. They forechecked aggressively, no better exemplified by the events that led to rookie Andre Burakovsky's first career NHL goal.

Washington, as coach Barry Trotz had envisioned upon being hired in May, embodied the industrious, hard-to-play-against teams that routinely find success in the NHL. 

"The way you can judge sometimes is when the other team’s flipping the puck out of the zone all the time," defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "Our guys were in their face all night and I thought they did a great job of being able to get on that forecheck, being able to create havoc back there. Their [defensemen] didn’t want to get hit anymore by the end of the game."

The Capitals' loss Thursday may have added another negative low-scoring result to a seemingly ever-growing pile, but they looked more well-equipped to handle that type of game than they have in some time. 

"As i said to our guys, I said, 'There's going to be games where we'll play really well and we'll lose. And there will be games where we don't play very well and we're going to win,'" Trotz said. "And that one was more on the 'we played pretty well and lost the game' [variety], a team survived and survived our onslaught. 

"You've got to be comfortable when it's uncomfortable. I thought we were pretty comfortable. If we did that 10 times in a row, that situation, I bet you we get it 10 times in a row."


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



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[The 'Skinny: Week 6 v. Arizona]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 11:17:53 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456701426.jpg

Welcome back to the second season of "The 'Skinny," a weekly preview of the local professional football team's upcoming game and opponent. Every Thursday, you can find any and all information* about the Redskins' next opponent in this space.

(*Sometimes, it may be some or most information. And it was Friday this week.)

Week 6 Opponent: Arizona Cardinals (3-1)

Game Information: Sun., Oct. 12 -- 4:25 p.m. ET -- University of Phoenix Stadium -- FOX

Last Week: What do you know, the Redskins lost in primetime again, this time to the Seattle Seahawks by a 27-17 score. The Cardinals suffered their first loss of the season in a 41-20 blowout against the Denver Broncos. 

What's The Skinny?

The hubbub surrounding the Redskins this week involved their apparently jovial postgame disposition following the loss to the Seahawks, their third in a row. Scathing columns were written, and Twitter fights between media members and the players were had

"Hopefully it was taken out of context or what have you, but I have no idea what it was like," coach Jay Gruden told reporters. "If it was upbeat, it shouldn't be, and that is disappointing that it was because they played their hearts out. They played hard, I thought. We lost the game. No reason to be upbeat, though, whatsoever."

If Washington wants a reason to celebrate, it can find one by defeating Arizona on Sunday. The first-place Cardinals are not offensively potent; their 1,222 yards of total offense so far this season ranks 31st out of 32 teams. Defensively, Arizona allows 302.5 passing yards per game, also second-worst in the NFL.

Third-string quarterback Logan Thomas, a former Virginia Tech Hokie, may start Sunday. Carson Palmer has missed three games with a "dead" nerve in his throwing shoulder and backup Drew Stanton suffered a concussion last week.

Statistic of the Week: The Redskins have defeated the Cardinals in all seven meetings between the teams since 2001. Arizona has not won in the series since 2000.

What They're Saying

"We'll formulate a game plan to beat Washington and then see what quarterback is available to do what he does best."

- Arizona coach Bruce Arians, making perfect sense 


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



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<![CDATA[Caps Expect Johansson to Shoot More]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 14:53:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/185*120/476153363.jpg

Ask Washington Capitals forward Marcus Johansson about which specific areas of his game that he would like to improve and he will often respond by pointing to his on-ice assertiveness.

Entering his fifth NHL season, which begins Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens, that particular assessment has not changed. 

"I'm thinking I'm going to try to take the puck to the net a little more and shoot a little more," Johansson said Tuesday during the Capitals' annual media luncheon. "I think I've always been a pass-first guy, but sometimes you need to score yourself and shoot and create stuff from shooting. That's something I'm trying to get into my game a little more."

Johansson has established himself as an productive puck distributor. At 5-on-5 last season, he ranked second among his teammates with 19 assists, a team-leading 16 of which were primary. He also led the Capitals in what since-shuttered website ExtraSkater.com referred to as "setup passes," a rough estimate of passes that directly led to a shot attempt

The 24-year-old, though, was historically ineffective in terms of goal-scoring. He became the first player in NHL history to play at least 1,400 minutes and score two or fewer even-strength goals. In all, he has scored five 5-on-5 goals over the past two seasons despite primarily playing with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, two of the NHL's premier offensive catalysts. 

Of course, his two-year average (2012-14) of 4.11 5-on-5 shots per 60 minutes, which ranks 139th out of 141 forwards with at least 1,500 minutes of ice time, may have something to do with that.  

"He's been a little bit of a pass-first player and it shows in his goal totals," coach Barry Trotz said. "I need Marcus to pull the trigger a little bit more than he has. And he will. He's going to get some good looks and I've seen him shoot the puck, so I know he can score some goals for us."

The Capitals expect the fleet-footed Johansson to attain that long sought-after assertiveness by relying on his smooth-skating ability to create scoring chances.

"For me, Marcus is about speed. You should be able to notice his speed every night," general manager Brian MacLellan said. "If he doesn't pop out at you speed-wise, I don't think he's going to be an effective player. We'd like to see him skating and backing off defensemen with opportunities to shoot the puck as a result of that speed."

Throughout his career, Johansson has proven, albeit sporadically, that he is capable of more confident play. To display that style more consistently, he admits that he will have to reprogram his on-ice mindset. 

"Naturally, it comes that I try to find another guy," said Johansson, who will start the season playing on the second line with rookie center Andre Burakovsky and right wing Troy Brouwer. "The game is so quick right now, it's a shoot-first league and you have to take that into your game.

"It's something I'm excited about. It's not bad to score more goals."


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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Redskins Should Stop Playing Monday Nights]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 07:40:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456769368.jpg

Lost in the ecstacy of the Nationals' season-saving 4-1 victory against the Giants on Monday was the Redskins' 27-17 loss to the Seahawks later in the evening.

To be fair, it was a fairly forgettable performance by the local professional football team, who fell to 1-4 and will need a Festivus miracle to regain relevancy in the NFL this season. 

Perhaps one quick fix in reversing the Redskins' misfortunes is refusing to play on Mondays. Because, quite frankly, they are awful in the national spotlight.

Washington's loss to Seattle was its seventh straight primetime loss, five of which have been at home. The Redskins are now an embarrassing 4-15 on Monday nights since 2000. (Also, the Redskins have won four games since they faced the Seahawks in the playoffs almost two years ago.)

Meanwhile, the Seahawks won their ninth straight Monday Night Football game, tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The Redskins have one more Monday Night Football game this season: Oct. 27 against the Cowboys. Maybe next time they will not subject the country to horrendous football. Here's hoping. 


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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[History Against Nats in Attempt to Avoid Elimination]]> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 11:54:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456662208.jpg

Down 2-0 in the NLDS, the Nationals will send Doug Fister -- he of the seven postseason starts in the past three years -- to the mound Monday, with their season at stake against the Giants. 

In need of three straight wins to salvage the season, Washington will have to not only defeat San Francisco, but also trump major-league history that suggests that the Nationals have little chance to rebound from their deficit. 

ESPN further explains the odds stacked against the Nationals:

  • From 1995 through 2013, there were 76 best-of-five division series. In 44 of those, a team lost the first two games. Only five of those teams came back to win the series.
  • Just 14 of those teams lost the first two games at home, like the Nationals did Friday and Saturday. Only two of those 14 scrambled back to win the next three games: the 2001 Yankees and the 2012 Giants, who won the World Series. 
  • Counting all best-of-five series in baseball history, 26 teams have lost Games 1 and 2 at home. Only those 2001 Yankees and 2012 Giants won those series. And just two other teams -- the 2010 Rays and 1981 Brewers -- even forced a Game 5.
  • In National League postseason history, the Nationals are the 14th team ever to lose the first two games of a best-of-five postseason series at home. The only one of the previous 13 teams to win the series was the 2012 Giants.

The Giants are proof that a team can indeed win a championship after falling behind so early. Whether the Nationals can replicate that feat remains to be seen.


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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Report: RGIII Could Be Back This Month]]> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 11:55:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/455479684.jpg

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, currently sidelined by a dislocated left ankle, could return by the end of the month, according to a report from NFL Network. 

Griffin suffered the injury against the Jaguars on Sept. 14, but returned to the practice field Saturday and participated in stretching exercises prior to individual and team drills

Assuming Griffin does return in three weeks, that gives Kirk Cousins three more games -- Monday against the Seahawks, Oct. 12 against the Cardinals and Oct. 19 against the Titans -- to make coach Jay Gruden's decision more difficult. Cousins has yet to inspire much confidence, however, after his disastrous, four-interception performance against the Giants on Sept. 25. 

As a starter in his career, Cousins has thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions with a QBR of 78.4. That is compared to two touchdowns, zero inteceptions and a QBR of 109.4 as a substitute.  

Then again, The Washington Post is reporting that the above report is inaccurate, so I don't know.


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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nats, Giants Play Longest Playoff Game Ever]]> Sun, 05 Oct 2014 08:00:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456661932.jpg

The Nationals and Giants more or less played two games Saturday, but the result -- a 2-1 win for San Francisco in 18 innings -- only counted once, giving the Giants a 2-0 series lead in the best of-five NLDS.

The 18-inning marathon tied the major-league record for the longest game in postseason history, while the actual running time of the game, six hours and 23 minutes, was the longest in history, eclipsing the previous record, held by the Braves and Astros in the 2005 NLDS, by 33 minutes.

Game 2 set several records, including but not limited to Jordan Zimmermann becoming the first pitcher ever pulled from a postseason start one out shy of a shutout. Of course, Drew Storen entered the game to allow the game-tying double to Pablo Sandoval that commenced the marathon. In all, Washington used nine pitchers, breaking the National League record and tying the major league record.

San Francisco extended its postseason winning streak to 10 games, the longest in National League history and second-longest overall behind the 12 straight won by the 1998-99 and 1927-32 New York Yankees.

An eleventh consecutive victory would eliminate the Nationals, the sexy pick to win the World Series. Since the current playoff format began in 1995, 44 teams have fallen behind 2-0 in a Division Series. Only five have erased that deficit to win the series, but only two after losing the first two games at home.

Washington will attempt to salvage the series Monday against San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner.


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

 



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Nats Fans Get Into #HunterPenceSigns Spirit]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:32:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141003+Hunter+Pence+Signs.jpg

As the Nationals open the NLDS against the Giants, fans have taken to continuing what has become something of a trolling tradition throughout the major leagues. 

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has turned into a social-media star thanks to the #HunterPenceSigns hashtag. What began with some creative Mets fans simply picking on Pence has transformed into an internet meme.

Washington got into the spirit Friday, bringing to Nationals Park some interesting signs. 

Send any #HunterPenceSigns to @NBCWashington using the hashtag #NatsPix. Happy trolling!


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

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<![CDATA[Excitement Builds as Nats Prep to Take On Giants]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 14:33:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/456273266.jpg

The region's been waiting with baited breath since the Nats clinched their entry into the playoffs in mid-September. Friday, all the excitement will come to a head with first pitch at 3:07 p.m.

It's the hottest ticket in town, and diehard Nationals fans aren't going to be left behind. Tickets sold out in 17 minutes flat for Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, but a line of dedicated fans began forming outside Nats Park well before dawn, hoping to get their hands on standing-room-only tickets.

They weren't alone -- crews had a table set up outside the Center Field gate on N Street and were handing out free coffee and pastries.

IF YOU GO

Gates opened at 12:30 p.m., a full two and a half hours before first pitch at 3:07 p.m.

Go early, and leave backpacks and bags at home to make your trip through the security gates faster. The earliest fans will receive white rally towels while supplies last.

You'll also be able to catch live entertainment, including a drum line and stilt walkers, which kicked off at 12:30 p.m. on Half Street SE.

Olympic swimming champion Katie Ledecky will throw out the game's ceremonial first pitch.

GETTING TO NATS PARK

If you're taking Metro, load your SmarTrip card on your way to the game so you won't have to wait in line for a fare machine on your way home again. Consider using the Waterfront station instead of the Navy Yard-Ballpark station to escape the crowds.

Another alternative: Metro to Union Station on the Red Line instead; then use the Circulator bus to get to the ballpark.

Driving to the park is discouraged, but if you do, leave extra early and be prepared to spend $10-$50 for parking.

GNOMES STILL HIDING

A day earlier, fans were captivated by a Nationals-themed scavenger hunt. Promoters hid about a hundred Jayson Werth garden gnomes around the area, encouraging fans to share photos of their findings on social media. Half a dozen gnomes were autographed, and those come with a special bonus: They entitle the finders to a pair of tickets for Saturday's NLDS game at Nats Park.

News came early Friday that about 10 gnomes were still out there, and one of those is autographed. Hint: Check around the Green Line, the team said.

DON'T HAVE TICKETS?

That's OK -- you can still cheer on the Nats close to the action. Just head down to the Yards Park Playoff Party, not far from Nats Park.

You'll find food, live music and family activities, and can watch the game on TVs there. The celeration will happen both Friday and Saturday, before, during and after the games.



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Giants-Chomping Dinosaur Shows Natitude]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:54:29 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/161*120/spinodino_natitude_thumbnail.jpg

D.C.'s National Geographic Museum is showing its Natitude.

In advance of Friday's Nationals playoffs game, the Spinosaurus model outside the downtown museum is decked out in full Nats gear... but what's that hanging out of its mouth?

Looks like a San Francisco Giants jersey to us.

The tongue-in-cheek display isn't the only thing they're is doing to celebrate, though. Nationals fans who have same-day game tickets get free admission at the museum.



Photo Credit: NGS]]>
<![CDATA[Burakovsky Has 'Earned Right' to Make Team]]> Sat, 04 Oct 2014 09:16:37 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/172*120/180804458.jpg

After yet another impressive preseason performance by rookie forward Andre Burakovsky, the postgame question that has been routinely posed to Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz was slightly altered.

At this point, is there anything Burakovsky can do to not make this team?

"He's earned the right," Trotz said Thursday following the Capitals' 3-2 preseason shootout victory against the Philadelphia Flyers. "He's gotten better every game. I don't imagine him not being here."

Burakovsky's likely inclusion on Washington's opening-night roster, due to the NHL by 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, would cap an admirable segue to a foreign position. 

At the behest of the organization, the 19-year-old natural winger transitioned to center, first playing the position during an intrasquad scrimmage during the Capitals' July development camp. Burakovsky returned stateside last month prior to rookie camp having trained at the position with his former Swedish league team, further ingraining the nuances of playing center -- particularly defensive positioning -- into his game. 

He has acquitted himself well since. In five preseason games, Burakovsky has scored twice and assisted on a game-winning goal. Against the Flyers on Thursday, he wristed a shot past two oncoming defensemen and goaltender Steve Mason to tie the game in the second period, displaying perhaps his most dangerous offensive asset. 

"What really separated him was his wrist shot when he was on the rush," Kris Knoblauch, the coach of Burakovsky's junior team in Erie, Pennsylvania, said this summer. "He scored numerous goals just using the defenseman as a screen and shooting it through his legs and beating the goaltender. With his wrist shot that's certainly something that the other players, as good as they were, couldn't do."

As the Capitals' locker room opened after the game, Burakovsky's locker stall was surrounded yet again by reporters asked him to gauge his most recent performance, which has become something of a preseason ritual. 

“Yeah, like I said all the times, it feels more comfortable every single game and every single practice out there," he said. "In the beginning I was a little worried that I was doing wrong all the time. Now I can focus on doing the right stuff on the ice all the time. I don’t have to be afraid to do some mistakes.”

It is that level of maturity, among other things, that has intrigued Trotz enough to seriously include the 2013 first-round draft pick in Washington's immediate plans.

“We’re talking to him,” Trotz said. “The thing with a young player is you don’t want to over-coach him, tell him every mistake. You want to show him stuff and then he’s got to learn from that. He’s been looking at a lot of film. Obviously we’ve got a great centerman in [Nicklas] Backstrom and he’s been looking at our games, [Boston Bruins center Patrice] Bergeron and people like that.

"He’s going back to school for the North American [style of play] here, trying to learn it under fire. Just got to be patient. If we do that, I think we’ll be rewarded.” 


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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Pumped 4 the Pennant: Excitement at Nats Park]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 13:49:10 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/2014-10-03_1346.jpg News4's Megan McGrath soaks up the postseason excitement at Nationals Park.]]> <![CDATA[NLDS Preview: Nats Vs. Giants]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 15:02:15 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/172*120/456496212.jpg

The Washington Nationals' journey towards the World Series begins Friday at Nationals Park against the plucky San Francisco Giants. Below is a preview of the best-of-five series. The winner will face either the St. Louis Cardinals or Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.

[[277995601, L]]

NL Division Series Schedule

Game 1 -- Friday, 3:07 p.m. -- Nationals Park -- Fox Sports 1

Game 2 -- Saturday, 5:37 p.m. -- Nationals Park -- Fox Sports 1 

Game 3 -- Monday, TBD -- AT&T Park -- MLB Network 

Game 4 (if necessary) -- Tues. Oct 7, TBD -- AT&T Park -- Fox Sports 1 

Game 5 (if necessary) -- Thurs, Oct. 9 , TBD -- Nationals Park -- Fox Sports 1

Pitching Rotation

Game 1 -- Stephen Strasburg (WSH) v. Jake Peavy (SF)

Game 2 -- Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) v. Tim Hudson (SF)

Game 3 -- Doug Fister (WSH) v. Madison Bumgarner (SF)

Game 4 -- TBD

Game 5 -- TBD

Season Series 

June 9 -- Washington (9), San Francisco (2)

June 10 -- Washington (2), San Francisco (1)

June 11 -- Washington (6), San Francisco (2)

June 12 -- San Francisco (7), Washington (1)

Aug. 22 -- San Francisco (10), Washington (3)

Aug. 23 -- Washington (6), San Francisco (2)

Aug. 24 -- Washington (14), San Francisco (6)

Opposition Outlook 

The Giants were merely average in the second half of the season with a 41-40 record, but as the winners of two of the past four World Series, they cannot be underestimated.

San Francisco's offense is buoyed by catcher and former NL MVP Buster Posey, who led the team in home runs (22) and RBIs (89), and whose .354 batting average was the highest in the majors after the All-Star break. Slugger Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford (who hit a grand slam in the Giants' wild-card victory against the Pirates) are capable of contributing effective offense.

While the Nationals certainly boast the edge in starting pitching, the Giants' rotation is formidable. Ace Madison Bumgarner will not start until Game 3, but veterans Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson are solid options to open the series. 

Where the Giants have the significant advantage is in experience. Manager Bruce Bochy, in his 20th season, is 8-1 in postseason series, with two World Series titles and three NL pennants. Meanwhile, Matt Williams is about to experience his first taste of managerial postseason baseball. Bochy has an uncanny ability to make the right tactical decisions in high-pressure situations, of which the Nationals will need to be cognizant.

To that end, the Giants are postseason survivors. After their victory against the Pirates on Wednesday to advance to the NLDS, they've won seven straight playoff games when facing elimination. It matches the Kansas City Royals' active streak for the longest of all-time, 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[Nats Fans Line Up Before Dawn]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 07:17:56 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/2014-10-03_0606.jpg There are still a few standing-room-only tickets available at Nats Park for Game 1 of the NLDS, and a growing line of fans was forming even before dawn on Friday.]]> <![CDATA[Not Going to the Nats Game? Join the Party Anyway]]> Fri, 03 Oct 2014 07:31:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008056012_1200x675_337313347660.jpg The Yards Park is hosting a celebration featuring food, live music, and a chance to watch the game on TV if you haven't gotten your hands on the hottest tickets in town.]]> <![CDATA[2014 Nationals World Series Run Similar to 1924 Senators]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 20:04:25 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008050600_1200x675_337135171508.jpg News4's Mark Segraves looks at the similarities between the 1924 Washington Senators and the 2014 Nationals.]]> <![CDATA[Wear Orange and Show Your Orioles Pride, O'Malley Says]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 12:42:39 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/455815014.jpg

Show your Orioles pride, Maryland state employees -- the governor wants you to wear orange to work through the playoffs.

Governor Martin O'Malley has declared Thursday "O's Orange Day" in Maryland, and encouraged Maryland state government employees to wear orange.

O'Malley's declaration calls the Os "a Maryland tradition like Old Bay, crabs, and the Star Spangled Banner."

For the first time in twenty years, the Baltimore Orioles won the American League East division championship. Finishing the regular season with a 96-66 record, the team will face the Detroit Tigers in the American League East Division Playoffs beginning Thursday.

The first pitch is at 5:37 p.m. and the game will be televised on TBS.

Governor O'Malley declared that Orioles fans all over the state of Maryland will "have black and orange fever and will support our high-flying Birds throughout their 2014 playoff run."



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Strasburg To Start Game 1 Against Giants]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 15:16:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456213784.jpg

The Nationals announced that Stephen Strasburg will start Game 1 of the NLDS against the Giants on Friday afternoon at Nationals Park. 

Strasburg finished the season with a 14-11 record, 3.14 ERA and a .245 batting-average against. He struck out 242 batters, which finished tied for the National League lead and fifth overall in the majors.

Of course, this will be Strasburg's postseason debut after being shut down prior to Washington's last playoff appearance in 2012. He will be opposed by San Francisco's Jake Peavy after ace Madison Bumgarner threw a four-hit shutout in the Giants' 8-0 victory against the Pirates to advance to the NLDS on Wednesday. 

Jordan Zimmermann, who threw the first no-hitter in Nationals history last weekend, will start Game 2 on Saturday. Doug Fister will start Game 3 in San Francisco on Monday. 

As for ceremonial first pitches, Olympian Katie Ledecky will have that honor Friday.


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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[The 'Skinny: Week 5 v. Seattle]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 12:10:45 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/198*120/455983456.jpg

Welcome back to the second season of "The 'Skinny," a weekly preview of the local professional football team's upcoming game and opponent. Every Thursday, you can find any and all information* about the Redskins' next opponent in this space.

(*Sometimes, it may be some or most information.)

Week 5 Opponent: Seattle Seahawks (2-1)

Game information: Mon., Oct. 6 -- FedEx Field -- 8:30 p.m. -- ESPN

Last Week: The Redskins have had a longer-than-usual week to stew over their humiliating 45-14 loss to the Giants on Sept. 25. The Seahawks, after defeating the Broncos in a Super Bowl rematch, had the week off.

What's The Skinny?

The Seahawks return to Washington for the first time since defeating the Redskins in the playoffs following the 2012 season. (You know, the game where Robert Griffin III's knee was more or less destroyed, which has seemingly changed the trajectory of the franchise since? That game.) 

A lot has changed in the past two seasons. The Seahawks are the defending Super Bowl champions, while the Redskins have won four total regular-season games. Kirk Cousins, who threw four interceptions against the Giants last Thursday in losing his fifth straight start, will attempt to atone for his disastrous showing with another opportunity to showcase himself on national television. He will be significantly tested against the Seahawks' ball-hawking "Legion of Boom" defense. 

On the injury front, left tackle Trent Williams expects to play through a dislocated kneecap. Tight end Jordan Reed is "50-50" with a hamstring injury, but Niles Paul, who suffered a concussion against New York, should be well enough to replace him. 

While the Redskins have been eliminated from the postseason by the Seahawks on three consecutive occasions, they have won the past six regular-season games between the teams. 

Statistic of the Week: Washington has lost six straight primetime games, four of which have been at home. Seattle is 20-8 all-time on Monday Night Football, which includes an ongoing eight-game winning streak

What They're Saying

"Can we beat them? Yeah. At the end of the day, they're not robots. They're human beings and nobody's perfect. Nobody plays perfect every Sunday. They have been beaten before. It's not like they’re unstoppable. They’re a great team, no doubt about it, but anything is possible in the NFL."

- Williams on the Redskins' chances against the Seahawks 


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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[#WerthGoesGnome Hunt: 100 Hidden Across D.C. Area]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 20:01:15 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/189*120/2014-10-02_0624.png

Jayson Werth garden gnomes were a huge hit when the Nationals staged a giveaway of the gnomes this summer. Those who missed out on getting a gnome friend of their very own have another chance -- and some of those gnomes come with a huge surprise.

By 6:30 a.m. Thursday, the Nationals had hidden almost 100 Jayson Werth gnomes all over the D.C. area.

Six of them are autographed, and the lucky fans who find those autographed gnomes will each score a pair of tickets to Game 2 of the NLDS this Saturday.

The Nats are encouraging fans to search for the gnomes and tweet their photos using the hashtag #WerthGoesGnome and tagging @Nationals.

There were still some out there as of Thursday evening. If you find one, let us know as well! Just add @nbcwashington to your tweet.

Happy hunting!



Photo Credit: Nationals
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<![CDATA[Wilson Building Goes Red for Nats Playoffs]]> Thu, 02 Oct 2014 06:15:48 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/2014-10-02_0614.jpg

Washingtonians are seeing red -- Nats red, that is.

The Wilson Building in downtown D.C. is illuminated in red lights as a symbol of support for the Washington Nationals.

The celebratory lighting arrangement kicked off Wednesday night.

After a record-breaking season, the Nats start their MLB playoff run Friday night. So as long as they remain in the playoffs, the historic city hall -- also known as the John A. Wilson building -- will be red.

Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council members announced the change in a news release Wednesday.

"As a lifelong baseball fan, I am extremely proud of the Nats," Gray said. "We're going to turn the Wilson Building red to show everyone that the District is behind them 100 percent."

The Nats were last in the playoffs in 2012 before they were knocked out in the National League Division Series.

But if Mayor Gray's predictions are correct, this year will elicit more favorable results.

 "I'm excited to cheer them on all the way to the District’s first World Series win since 1924," Gray said.

Natitude, indeed.

Gray is scheduled to attend the first game on Friday, when the Nats battle the San Francisco Giants. The Nationals were 5 and 2 against the Giants this year.

Game 1 of the NLDS is set for Friday at 3:07 p.m.

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<![CDATA[Caps' Second-Line Center Race Becomes More Clear]]> Wed, 01 Oct 2014 18:17:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/1876312031.jpg

One of the Washington Capitals' potential second-line center options is out of the four-player race as forward Marcus Johansson will start the season as a winger, according to coach Barry Trotz.

"Marcus was going to play the wall [Wednesday against the Buffalo Sabres], he's going to start the season on the wall," Trotz said. "Just because we don't have a lot of centermen right now, he's going to play the middle tonight, but he's going to play wing this year."

Johansson spent the past two seasons primarily skating alongside Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin on the left side of the first line. Yet the 23-year-old was ineffective offensively despite his plum assignment, scoring five combined goals at 5-on-5. In fact, Johansson became the first forward in NHL history last season to play at least 1,400 minutes and score two or fewer even-strength goals

It seems that Eric Fehr will join Backstrom and Ovechkin to start the season, while Johansson skated with fourth-line forwards Michael Latta and Chris Brown at the Capitals' most recent practice Tuesday. 

Though Johansson is a natural center, he has hardly that position over the past few seasons and, anyway, Trotz believes his skill set is better suited for playing the wing.

"I think with Marcus's speed, he's less in the battle," Trotz said. "With his speed, it will open up things for him. Middle of the ice -- he hadn't played that position -- so maybe he's consciously thinking, 'I gotta play center, I gotta play low, I gotta get low,' but I really think with [Evgeny Kuznetsov] and [Andre] Burakovsky, the way they play center, it will be best for Marcus to go back on the wing.

“But I think it was a good experience for him to be at center, because you never know when you have an injury, you never know where you have to put a player. Like tonight, I don’t have enough centermen for back-to-back, so I’m going to put him in the middle. So he’s learning every position, it’s like Eric Fehr — Eric Fehr got to play left, right, center, so he understands the whole game from every aspect. It’s probably helped his game a lot, and it won’t hurt Marcus’s game.”

That leaves rookies Kuznetsov and Burakovsky as well as versatile veteran Brooks Laich as Trotz's remaining choices. Despite the inexperience, Trotz did not seem apprehensive about slotting in two rookie forwards -- one of whom, 19-year-old Burakovsky, is just learning the position -- on his opening-night roster as his second- and third-line centers, respectively. 

“They’re not just average talent,” Trotz said. “They’re high-level talent. Both of them are very mature.  ... So I don’t have a problem with either of them starting, they’re both high-level talents.

“The biggest thing is going to be patience, waiting for the young guys to do what they’re capable of doing. And I can be patient. I think we’ve got enough quality people around, good people on the back end as well, the coaching they’re getting on a daily basis from the coaches here, they’re going to adjust fine. There’s veteran savvy, and then there’s just good hockey sense, and both those guys are high-level at that. There’s going to be the odd ‘Oh, he got tricked into that.’ But really, in the long run, they’re just going to get better and better as they play more and more.”


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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wizards, Cavs Argue Over Best Backcourt]]> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:17:59 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/165294270.jpg

The start of the NBA season is roughly a month away, but it seems that the Wizards and Cavaliers have already gone about rekindling their rivalry.

It began innocently enough with an innocuous remark from guard Bradley Beal, who said Monday that he and John Wall "definitely" comprise the league's best backcourt duo.

That comment didn't set well with Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters, who called Beal's assertion "nonsense."

"[Beal is] supposed to say that, but I know deep down, he's not messing with me and [Kyrie Irving]," Waiters told reporters via ESPN. "I think me and Ky are the best backcourt, young backcourt. That's all."

Then Wall jumped in.

“Why he say that? They haven’t seen a playoff game yet so when they make one they can start talking,” Wall said Tuesday. “But if you’re going to be the best backcourt, you have to start. This is the year he’s probably starting so let’s see who got [the] best backcourt. You got to be a starting backcourt to be the best backcourt.”

Washington and Cleveland first meet Nov. 21.


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<![CDATA[Metro to Run Extra Trains for Nationals Playoff Games]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:01:41 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456220724.jpg

Announcing a partnership with American University, WMATA will provide extra trains following late-ending Nationals games during the upcoming postseason.

Here are the details provided by Metro in a release:

  • Generally, for post-season home games that continue in play later than 10:30 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday nights, Metro will provide one additional hour of service – until 12:20 a.m. – from Navy Yard-Ballpark Station. Fans will receive confirmation of the late closing through in-stadium announcements and via Twitter.
  • If necessary due to a rain delay or extra innings, Metro will have the ability to further extend service until as late as 1:20 a.m. from Navy Yard-Ballpark Station. Fans should listen for in-stadium announcements for details.
  • Only Navy Yard-Ballpark Station will remain open past its normal closing time. Riders will be able to exit at all 90 other Metrorail stations during the additional service period.

The Nationals open the playoffs Friday against either the Pirates or Giants. Starting times for the best-of-five series have yet to be announced.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Where Does Steven Souza's Dive Rank?]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 09:34:07 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456278222.jpg

As the ball left Christian Yelich's bat in the top of the ninth Sunday, Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann immediately thought that it was a "no-doubt double" that would painfully end his no-hit bid. He threw his head back in disappointment.

That is, until defensive replacement Steven Souza made a sprinting, diving catch in left field to snag the ball and clinch the Nationals' first no-hitter since moving to Washington a decade ago.

"The one thing on my mind is, no matter how I'm going to get there, I'm going to get there," Souza told reporters via AP. "Getting there, I kind of blacked out."

Souza's catch was arguably the defensive play of the season, but it is not the only impressive catch in major-league history to preserve or clinch a no-hitter or perfect game. With the help of ESPN Stats & Information, here are some of the other most notable catches:

July 23, 2009

Chicago White Sox outfielder DeWayne Wise, who like Souza was inserted into the game as a defensive replacement, robs Gabe Kapler of a home run for the first out of the ninth inning in Mark Buehrle's perfect game.

July 10, 2009

Aaron Rowand of the San Francisco Giants saves Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter with a leaping catch in center field with one out in the ninth.

July 28, 1994

The Angels' Rex Hudler has his line drive snagged by Rusty Greer on a diving play to record the first out of the ninth inning in Kenny Rogers' perfect game for the Rangers. 

April 15, 1987

Robin Yount catches Eddie Murray's line drive to center to ensure Juan Nieves' no-hitter for the Brewers against the Orioles.


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<![CDATA[Nats To Face Pirates Or Giants In NLDS]]> Sun, 28 Sep 2014 20:23:46 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/181*120/453759908.jpg

With the regular season culiminating Sunday, the Nationals' postseason picture became slightly more clear.

Washington, which defeated Miami 1-0 on a Jordan Zimmermann no-hitter in its finale, will face either the Pittsburgh Pirates or San Francisco Giants in the NLDS, which begins Friday at Nationals Park. The two teams will meet Wednesday evening at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

The Nationals had winning records against both teams this season, 4-3 against the Pirates and 5-2 against the Giants. The winner will then face the Nationals in a best-of-five series. The schedule is below. Times TBD:

Game 1 -- Friday, Oct 3 -- Nationals Park

Game 2 -- Saturday, Oct. 4 -- Nationals Park

Game 3 -- Monday, Oct. 6 -- PNC Park/AT&T Park

Game 4 (if necessary) -- Tuesday, Oct. 7 -- PNC Park/AT&T Park

Game 5 (if necessary) -- Thursday, Oct. 9 -- Nationals Park


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Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Zimmermann Throws No-Hitter]]> Sun, 28 Sep 2014 19:17:52 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456281348.jpg

In the Nationals' regular-season finale, Jordan Zimmermann threw a 104-pitch no-hitter in Washington's 1-0 victory against the Miami Marlins. It was the first no-hitter for the Nationals franchise since moving to Washington. 

Zimmermann struck out 10 and was one fifth-inning walk away from pitching a perfect game. The no-hitter was preserved and clinched by an unbelievable diving catch in left field by Steven Souza, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning.

Zimmermann became the second pitcher in as many seasons and fifth in history to throw a no-hitter in his team's final game of the season. Coincidentally, the last pitcher to accomplish that feat was Miami's Henderson Alvarez, who Zimmermann defeated Sunday. 

As the game progressed, manager Matt Williams removed his starters, ultimately ending the game with seven substitute players in the field. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Zimmermann's no-hitter was the first in major-league history that ended with seven position players who did not start the game. 

The Nationals now await their opponent -- either the Pittsburgh Pirates or San Francisco Giants -- in the NLDS, which opens Friday at Nationals Park.


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<![CDATA[Nats Clinch Home-Field Advantage]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 22:50:50 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456154138.jpg

In defeating the Miami Marlins 4-0 Friday afternoon, the Nationals clinched the best record in the National League and therefore home-field advantage throughout the NL portion of the upcoming playoffs.

Of course, the American League holds home-field advantage in the World Series after winning the All-Star Game this summer. Assuming the Nationals make it there, they will enjoy the comforts of home until that point. 

Game 1 of the NLDS will be held at Nationals Park Oct. 3. 


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<![CDATA[Caps' PK Seeks to Improve ]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 16:07:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/201*120/186158547.jpg

For as otherworldly as the Washington Capitals' power play was last season (and has been for several seasons), the penalty kill was (and has been) decidedly subpar.

The Capitals' penalty kill, which at one point early last season was the NHL's best, finished 16th at 82 percent. Yet Washington allowed more shorthanded shots on goal and unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes than any team in the NHL by a significant margin. If it were not for the Capitals' stout .904 4-on-5 save percentage, their penalty kill would have assuredly been worse. (My dear friends at Russian Machine Never Breaks provide even more context in this astute post from May.)

A plausible explanation for that lack of shot suppression is former coach Adam Oates discouraging his players from lunging to block shots. ("Most of the time, for me, if a guy is laying down he's out of position," he once said.) An emphasis was placed on proper positioning and anticipating the next play instead of doggedly chasing the puck.

Like Oates, assistant coach Lane Lambert, now in charge of overseeing what he plainly described as "an aggressive, positional penalty kill," will stress proper body and stick positioning but will not prevent his penalty killers from throwing themselves at pucks if need be.

"There's certain areas on the ice that we have to block shots," Lambert said. "There are times when things get desperate and when they get desperate, we want to see sacrifice, there's no question. We encourage getting big, we encourage getting in the shot lanes. Hopefully, we're in good enough position where we don't have to block a ton of shots, but when that opportunity presents itself, we want to do that."

Lambert emphasizes calculated aggression, particularly with what he called "trigger points," such as rebounds or bouncing pucks. (Here is a PowerPoint presentation that Lambert shared at the 2014 NHLCA Coaches' Clinic in June that better explains his penalty-killing ideology.)

According to defenseman Karl Alzner, Lambert's philosophy, particularly when it comes to shot blocking, is a welcome change. 

"It's a different mentality," he said. "Before it was kind of like, 'That's the goalie's job to make the saves. Let them make the saves.' Whereas now, obviously depending on the play, if it's a wide-open chance, the goalie can make the save, but if you need to go down and get one there, definitely pro-block shots. It's instinct to go down and block a shot, so it's kind of nice."

Lambert has a formidable stable of potential penalty killers at his disposal this season. Last season, the Capitals leaned heavily on Alzner (289:57 of total shorthanded ice time, fourth-most in the NHL) and John Carlson, who was on the ice for a league-leading 65.2 percent of Washington's total shorthanded ice time. Lambert mentioned defenseman Brooks Orpik and forwards Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera, Joel Ward and Jay Beagle as other players that he will rely on to improve the Capitals' penalty kill. 

"There's a good mix of guys," Lambert said, "and once that group gets on the same page, we're looking to have success." 


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<![CDATA['Skins LB Tweets That He Was Hit by Drunk Driver]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 19:57:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/180*120/456108836.jpg

Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson tweeted that he was hit by a drunk driver on his way home from Washington's loss to the New  York Giants.

Maryland State Police were called to the scene of the crash around 12:50 a.m. Friday on the Inner Loop of the Beltway at Arena Drive, they confirmed.

Keenan Robinson's black Chevy Suburban carrying himself and his parents was struck by a black Chevy Tahoe driven by Leon David Robinson III of Silver Spring, a fan who was also leaving FedEx Field. Though he wore a Sean Taylor Pro Bowl jersey, most of the people in his SUV were Giants fans, News4's Mark Segraves reported.

Police said that Robinson, the driver of the Tahoe, refused to take a breath test and failed a field sobriety test. He was arrested for DUI, police said.

He told News4 he was not drinking and will go to court to try to beat the charge.


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<![CDATA['Skins Drop 45-14 Game to Giants]]> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 05:12:15 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/205*120/456106832.jpg

The Redskins' intradivisional losing streak reached eight games Thursday in a 45-14 loss to the Giants, New York's seventh victory in its past nine visits to FedEx Field. 

Eli Manning threw for 300 yards and four touchdowns -- three of which were to tight end Larry Donnell -- and ran for one more.

Meanwhile, to say Kirk Cousins struggled may be an understatement. He threw four interceptions, including three in the third quarter, stunting any Washington momentum. 

The Giants scored the game's first points with excellent field position created by a sack-and-strip of Cousins by Mathias Kiwanuka. Starting at Washington's 24-yard line, Manning eventually found Donnell for a five-yard touchdown catch to give New York a 7-0 lead. Entering Thursday, the Giants had not scored a first-quarter touchdown in their previous eight games, according to the CBS broadcast.

Within the first minute of the second quarter, Donnell hauled in his second touchdown of the game to double New York's lead. Washington countered with an Andre Roberts touchdown, but Donnell once again feasted on the Redskins' secondary with yet another scoring grab in the corner of the end zone with 2:16 remaining in the first half.

The Redskins threatened to cut into the Giants' lead shortly before halftime, but Logan Paulsen -- functioning as the primary tight end after Niles Paul was knocked out of the game with a head injury following a scary collision -- was stripped at New York's 18-yard line. Josh Brown hit a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give the Giants a 24-7 lead.

Alfred Morris rumbled into the end zone from 20 yards out for a much-needed touchdown in the opening minutes of the second half. Brandon Meriweather and Keenan Robinson later teamed up to pick Manning off at the one-yard line to prevent a touchdown, but Cousins threw his second interception of the quarter two plays later to negate any positive momentum. Manning then found Daniel Fells for his fourth touchdown, effectively ending the game.

(You probably checked out right around then, so no need to write about the rest.)

Things could get worse before they get better for the Redskins, who will face the defending champion (and rested) Seahawks next week.  


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



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<![CDATA[What If Cutler Was Redskins' QB?]]> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 11:45:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/455941214.jpg

As Kirk Cousins fills in admirably for the oft-injured Robert Griffin III, the Redskins, despite their efforts to extinguish a possible quarterback controversy, will certainly have to wrestle with that decision eventually.

Yet what if Jay Cutler, currently starting for the Bears, was under center for Washington? According to a lengthy report from CBS Sports, that came quite close to happening.

Jason La Canfora offered the timeline and details of the potential trade, including the Redskins' offer to the Broncos of two first-round picks for Cutler, who wanted to follow Mike Shanahan after souring on replacement Josh McDaniels. As you may recall, it took three first-round picks and a second-rounder for Washington to move up in the 2012 draft to select Griffin.

According to La Canfora, Denver wanted an experienced quarterback as part of the trade, and the Broncos felt more comfortable with Kyle Orton in Chicago than Washington's Jason Campbell.

Cutler ultimately ended up with the Bears, but it is interesting to think of what may have happened in Washington if he was the starting quarterback. Cutler

“It totally changed three organizations, and the direction they all went,” said Vinny Cerrato, now a sports talk show host in Baltimore but a former member of Washington's front office. “You look now with Cutler, and (Bears coach Marc) Trestman is going to make a player out of Cutler, and Cutler's grown up now, too. I'm a big Cutler fan. Cutler's going to be a Pro Bowl guy. And Denver, Josh, that was just a matter of time.

"That was a time bomb to go off there … Mike would have never traded for McNabb … And you think of what they could have drafted with those picks (three first-round picks and a second-round selection), if you got some receivers and some offensive linemen -- just the depth they would have had. They wouldn't have to spend it all on a quarterback. It would have changed the outcome of a lot of organizations, but things happen for a reason.”


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<![CDATA[The 'Skinny: Week 4 v. Giants]]> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 08:33:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/208*120/455881068.jpg

Welcome back to the second season of "The 'Skinny," a weekly preview of the local professional football team's upcoming game and opponent. Every Thursday, you can find any and all information* about the Redskins' next opponent in this space.

(*Sometimes, it may be some or most information. And this week, it is Wednesday because the game is Thursday.)

Week 4 Opponent: New York Giants (1-2)

Game Information: Thurs., Sept. 25 -- FedEx Field -- 8:25 p.m. -- CBS

Last Week: A contentious division game between the Redskins and Eagles ended in a 37-34 victory for Philadelphia. The Giants, meanwhile, earned their first win of the season in a 30-17 victory against the Texans.

What's The Skinny?

The Redskins are truly the walking wounded entering their game against the Giants. Seventeen players were listed on the injury report during a Monday walkthrough. DeAngelo Hall (ruptured left Achilles) and Duke Ihenacho (broken left foot) are out for the season, while Brian Orakpo (finger) expects to play with a hard cast and Jason Hatcher (hamstring) is questionable.

"Obviously this is a week that I would rather not have a Thursday night game," coach Jay Gruden told reporters.

New York is cognizant of Washington's injury woes on defense and how it will affect the latter's game plan, particularly the loss of Hall.

"I think it's going to change a lot," Giants receiver Victor Cruz told reporters. "I think he was such a stable guy that they revolved that style of defense around him being a ball hawk. I think losing him is a big blow."

Whatever is left of the Redskins' defense will have to harass Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who has historically struggled against Washington. He has thrown 16 touchdowns and 17 interceptions against the Redskins in his career.

Statistic Of The Week: Dating back to last season, the Redskins have lost seven straight games against NFC East rivals. Not since Week 17 of 2012 -- when the Redskins clinched the division title against the Cowboys -- have they won such a game. The Giants have won six of their last eight games at FedEx Field.

What They're Saying

"We're losing guys left and right. Football's a tough game. Look, if you've got kids and can't stand injuries, don't let 'em play football."

- Orakpo on Washington's injury concerns


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<![CDATA[Caps' Winter Classic Sweaters Unveiled]]> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 13:41:30 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/200*120/2015+Winter+Classic+washington+Capitals+sweater.jpg

The Washington Capitals unveiled the sweater the players will wear in the 2015 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park New Year's Day.

Center Nicklas Backstrom, left wing Alex Ovechkin and goalie Braden Holtby took the stage at Nats Park Tuesday afternoon wearing the primarily red sweaters, which pull from many uniforms worn by the Caps over the past five decades.

“We wanted to create a uniform that not only celebrates the history of the Capitals but also gives the team a unique, new look,” Capitals President Dick Patrick said in a statement. “We feel our fans will really embrace this uniform.”

White stripes on the shoulders, waist and legs predate the Caps, borrowed from professional hockey uniforms worn in Washington from the 1930s, the team said. And a blue "W" on the front includes a silhouette of the Washington Monument.

At Tuesday's event, owner Ted Leonsis said he first inquired about hosting the Winter Classic while watching the first one.

The Winter Classic takes New Year's Day away from college football, he said.

This will be the Caps' second time playing in the Winter Classic. They were the Pittsburgh Penguins' visitors in 2011.

For a gallery of images of the uniform, click here.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>