Capitals

Canucks-Oilers Preview

Canucks-Oilers Preview

The Edmonton Oilers served notice in their season opener that they probably won't be pushovers against the Vancouver Canucks this season.

Already with a rare victory over Roberto Luongo, the Oilers look for more success against the Canucks in Monday night's rematch at Rexall Place.

Edmonton (4-3-1) took only one of six 2011-12 meetings against Vancouver, but got off to a good start this season with a 3-2 shootout win on the road Jan. 20. The Oilers rallied from a two-goal deficit in Nail Yakupov's NHL debut.

Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky scored for Edmonton to offset goals from Alexander Edler and Zack Kassian.

Now the Canucks (4-2-2) head to Rexall Place, where the Oilers have won two of three and gone 7 for 20 (35.0 percent) on the power play.

"We know that coming into Edmonton is not an easy thing," said Edler, who has a team-high seven points. "They're good at home with all their skilled, fast players so we've got to make sure we play at our best."

Luongo, who continues to be shopped by management, fell to 10-3-1 with a 2.06 goals-against average in his last 14 starts against the Oilers. He has started Vancouver's last three games over Cory Schneider, who is 3-1-0 with a 2.25 GAA in four starts versus Edmonton.

The first Vancouver contest was one of two this season in which Yakupov has failed to register a point. He's got at least one in four straight contests after scoring Edmonton's lone goal in Saturday's 3-1 loss at Colorado.

The Oilers allowed a season-high 40 shots in the finale of a three-game road trip. They took three points from the first two games in Phoenix and San Jose.

"At critical points in the game we've got to be better with our sticks and better with our body position,'' coach Ralph Krueger said. "We are slightly fatigued off the back-to-back and the early start but let's learn and grow from that."

Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff could return after missing two straight games with a neck injury.

"It's still a strain that the medical staff concluded that it would be better for him to take another day knowing that'll take him through to Monday night so hopefully we'll get him back for Vancouver," Krueger said.

Sam Gagner has at least one point in every game and is tied for the Oilers' lead with nine. Taylor Hall also has nine, but was held without one for the first time Saturday.

Vancouver won 2-1 in a shootout over Chicago on Friday, as Luongo stopped all four Blackhawks attempts. The Canucks have won two of three shootouts since losing to Edmonton.

"I know points are real important so that's one of the reasons why we're working a lot on our shootouts," coach Alain Vigneault said.

The Canucks did not allow a goal on five chances on the penalty kill against the Blackhawks. That unit has allowed three goals in its last 23 opportunities after yielding five in 12 chances in Vancouver's first three games.

"It's another area that we're hoping we're getting better at, we're working at and obviously with our guys right now, we're doing a lot of video," Vigneault said. "It's an area that we need to improve and we know that."

Daniel Sedin has gone four straight games without a point while Henrik has one assist in that span.

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Capitals vs. Pengiuns Preview: Three keys to how this year could be different for the Caps

Capitals vs. Pengiuns Preview: Three keys to how this year could be different for the Caps

The Washington Capitals enter the 2018 NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Second Round in a similar position. A Metro division championship in hand and a seven-game series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But while this year appears the same, the Caps are hoping for a different outcome. Will they finally be able to beat their arch rival and reach the conference final?

Here are three keys that will determine if this year will be different for the Caps.

Capitals vs. Penguins Preview:

Key to Victory No. 1: Discipline:

In the Capitals' two victories over the Penguins this season, Washington did not give up a power play goal. No team had a better power play unit during the regular season than the Penguins and we already saw how much foolish penalties hurt the Caps in the first round. Washington took 24 penalties in six games against the Blue Jackets and that is far too many.

They cannot win that way against the Penguins.

The problem is that in the second round with a heated rival, tempers can flare a bit. Just look at the last time these two teams played when Malkin was shooting Oshie's stick off the ice and tried to fight Kuznetsov for speaking Russian to him. Still, the Caps are going to have to keep their emotions in check.

Key to Victory No. 2:  Getting the goaltending advantage: 

The scoring depth of Pittsburgh is unmatched. The fact that a team can have Crosby, Malkin and Kessel all on the same team in the salary cap era is mind-boggling. Oh, and by the way, Jake Guentzel scores every time he touches the puck in the playoffs. Washington cannot win this series if they do not get better goaltending than Pittsburgh.

The good news is that Murray was not lights out in the first round. Yes, he had two shutouts, but there were also three games in which he let in at least four goals. A .911 save percentage is not where the Penguins really need him to be. The bad news is that while Holtby is statistically one of the best playoff netminders in NHL history, he struggles against Pittsburgh. In last year's series, Holtby managed only a .887 save percentage and 2.57 GAA.

One thing to keep in mind, on April 1 Grubauer started a critical game in Pittsburgh and was phenomenal. Could Trotz possibly think of going back to Grubauer if Holtby struggles against the Penguins?

Keys to Victory No. 3: The Mind Games

 Let's face it, there is a mental aspect to the Capitals' postseason struggles. When it comes to beating Pittsburgh or getting past the second round, this has become a mental hurdle. They have to come into this series with confidence they can win and maintain that confidence throughout, regardless of whether they get down in a game or in the series, regardless of whether there is a bad penalty call, regardless of whether Murray stands on his head again, regardless of any of the struggles they may face, they have to stay mentally confident.

When the Caps went down 0-2 against Columbus, Ovechkin said that the series would return to Washington tied at 2. The way he said it, it wasn't a guarantee or some massive proclamation, it was a statement of fact. Both he and the rest of the team believed they were going to come back and win the series. They need that level of confidence against Pittsburgh as well.

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Dez Bryant turned down multi-year deal from Ravens, is banking on himself in 2018

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Dez Bryant turned down multi-year deal from Ravens, is banking on himself in 2018

If you want to sign Dez Bryant in 2018, it will have to be on a one-year deal.

The 29 year-old wide receiver turned down a multi-year offer from the Baltimore Ravens in hopes of finding a one-year deal that enables him to test the open market again in 2019, Ed Werder of The Doomsday Podcast first reported.

Bryant - who finished 2017 with 69 receptions, 838 yards and six touchdowns -  is predicating a bounce back season in 2018 with hopes of a big money, long-term contract in 2019.

The offer was similar to that of Michael Crabtree's three-year, $21 million deal, according to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport. The Ravens had to offer Bryant a multi-year deal in order to fit his number under the salary cap.

Since turning down their offer, the Ravens signed former Saints WR Willie Snead to a two-year, $10.4 million contract. 

Bryant will now have to wait until after the 2018 NFL Draft to work out a deal with an organization, if one is still searching for a wide receiver going in to the tail end of his career. 

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