Capitals

This injured star is almost ready to return

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This injured star is almost ready to return

From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Rashard Mendenhall's surgically repaired right knee feels so good, the Steelers running back isn't even wearing so much as an ace bandage over it when he practices."I put a sleeve on for a day and didn't like it," Mendenhall said. "I feel better without anything on it."The 25-year-old hardly looked like he needed one on Wednesday. Asked by coach Mike Tomlin to knock Mendenhall around a little bit, Pittsburgh's defense obliged by getting a couple of shots in during their one padded workout of the week.How it'd feel?"It was cool," Mendenhall said. "I was all good."And -- the Steelers hope -- their running game will be too.Though it's still uncertain whether Mendenhall will be ready to play on Sunday when the Steelers (1-1) travel to Oakland (0-2), there's little doubt he's inching closer to a return barely nine months removed from surgery to repair the ACL he tore in last year's regular season finale against Cleveland."He looked fast," offensive guard Willie Colon said. "Everything I saw was a good sign."Pittsburgh could certainly use a healthy Mendenhall to help take some of the pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.The Steelers rank 30th in the NFL in rushing with just 141 yards through the season's first two weeks and are averaging an anemic 2.6 yards per carry. Nearly 20 percent of their 54 running plays have gone for negative yardage, though Roethlisberger and one of the league's top receiving corps has helped Pittsburgh control the ball for more than 35 minutes a game behind some third-down heroics.Roethlisberger, however, knows his team won't continue to convert 56 percent (19 of 34) of its third downs if something doesn't start happening on the ground."We don't want to do that all year," Roethlisberger said. "I can tell you that much."Mendehall's presence means they might not have to.He narrowly missed his third straight 1,000-yard season last fall due in part to a slightly decreased workload and an awkward step against Cleveland on New Year's Day when he tried to plant while trying to cut back near the sideline only to have his knee buckle.Mendenhall didn't even travel to Denver for the playoff game, where replacement Isaac Redman rushed for a respectable 121 yards in a 29-23 overtime loss to the Broncos. Though he underwent surgery shortly after getting hurt, Mendenhall has been careful not to put a definite timetable on his rehab. Still, he's grown increasingly more active in practice over the last two weeks.Asked if he believes he can play on Sunday against the Raiders, Mendenhall shrugged his shoulders and said "possibly," while remaining vague about what exactly it will take for him to get cleared."When there's a green light," Mendenhall said, "that's what I'm preparing for."Having Mendenhall's familiar No. 34 in the backfield would certainly be a welcome sight for the Steelers. Redman has done little through two games. A quarter of his 23 carries have ended with Redman getting tackled behind the line of scrimmage. Jonathan Dwyer has been more consistent -- rushing for 71 yards on 21 carries -- but is dealing with a turf toe that relegated him to watching practice in sweats on Wednesday.New Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley promised to develop a physical presence in the running game that he used so successfully during his two-plus year tenure as coach in Kansas City. It hasn't quite happened yet and Tomlin acknowledged it's an area that needs some work."We have got a desire to have balance, to be able to attack people in ways that we desire," Tomlin said. "Over time we better be continually moving toward that. Obviously there's been somewhat of an imbalance to this point, but that's just eight quarters of football."At times, the Steelers appear to be experimenting with schemes. They pitched wide to the lumbering Redman on the second play of the game last Sunday against the New York Jets only to see him get slammed for a seven-yard loss. On third-and-9 on the same possession, they converted by sending wide receiver Antonio Brown on an end around.Mendenhall described the mixed results on the ground the result of growing pains. Pittsburgh ran the ball on 17 of their 27 first-down plays against New York in an attempt to set a tone, though center Maurkice Pouncey doesn't think predictability is a problem."Whatever coach calls we've got to go out and execute," he said. "It doesn't matter if he calls a triple reverse, we've got to go out and block it."Besides, the season is still young and Mendenhall believes the offense is still searching for its identity."I think we're still getting in the groove of things with Haley," he said. "We're still shaping it."NOTES:In addition to Dwyer, linebacker James Harrison (knee), safety Troy Polamalu (calf), right tackle Marcus Gilbert (groin), tight end Heath Miller (abdomen) and wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (knee) and Mike Wallace (groin) did not practice ... Tackle Mike Adams (back) and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee) were limited.

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Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

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USA TODAY Sports

Caps make second blue line addition, acquire Jakub Jerabek from Montreal

The Capitals continued to retool their scuffling blue line on Wednesday, acquiring 26-year-old defenseman Jakub Jerabek from Montreal in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2019.

The move comes a couple of days after GM Brian MacLellan dealt a conditional third-round selection to Chicago for swift skating Michal Kempny.

Both Jerabek and Kempny are left shot, puck-moving defensemen who move well and make crisp outlet passes. Both also hail from the Czech Republic.

RELATED: BRADEN HOLTBY BLAMES HIMSELF FOR TAMPA LOSS

The team sees Jerabek as a No. 5 or 6, I’m told.

On Wednesday, the Caps also officially said goodbye to Taylor Chorney, who was claimed off waivers by Columbus. Chorney will report to the Blue Jackets.

The Caps were off on Wednesday as they made their way Florida for Thursday night’s meeting with the Panthers, so it’s unclear how Coach Barry Trotz intends to deploy his new defensemen.

But it’s probably safe to assume that Kempny will move into a spot within the top four with John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen.

MORE CAPITALS: GET TO KNOW MICHAL KEMPNY

That figures to leave Brooks Orpik and Jerabek on the third pair, while rookies Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey jockey for position as the next man up.

Kempny is expected to make his Caps’ debut on Thursday night.

Is the Caps’ D corps better? Well, that remains to be seen. But it had become clear to MacLellan and Co. in recent weeks that the status quo was not going to cut it. This month, in fact, the team has allowed 39 goals in 10 games. Only the Rangers (40) have allowed more in the same span.

With the trade deadline looming next Monday, the Caps now have roughly $617,000 in cap space, according to www.capfriendly.com, and are at the roster maximum of 23 players. So they would need to make a move in order to add another body.

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NHL Trade Tracker 2018: Latest deadline rumors, deals

NHL Trade Tracker 2018: Latest deadline rumors, deals

The 2018 NHL Trade Deadline is nearly here, marking the final point in the season teams can make major shakeups before preparing for the stretch run and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 2018 NHL Trade Deadline takes place a week earlier than in 2017, and teams have until 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon to make their final pre-deadline deals. That being said, the trade deadline is not the end of player movement in 2018, but signifies the end of the open trade window.

But with less than w eek left, the trade rumors are swirling, with teams putting out feelers and reaching out to potential trade partners.

The Capitals started the trade deadline period a week early, with a minor trade on Monday and another on Wednesday.

RELATED: TRACKING THE FAVORITES TO WIN NHL AWARDS

2018 NHL TRADE DEADLINE TRACKER:

February 21: TRADE — The Montreal Canadiens trade D Jakub Jerabek to the Washington Capitals for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. (TRADE ANALYSIS)

February 21: RUMOR — The Columbus Blue Jackets have shown interest in acquiring Artem Anisimov from the Chicago Blackhawks, a team attempting a major rebuild toward the end of the 2017-18 season.

February 20: TRADE — The Toronto Maple Leafs trade C Erif Fehr to the San Jose Sharks for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

February 20: RUMOR — The Ottawa Senators are looking to deal D Erik Karlsson and C Bobby Ryan. The Sens have already begun to enter "tank" mode. Moving Karlsson and/or Ryan would make it all but official.

February 20: TRADE — The New York Rangers trade D Nick Holden to the Boston Bruins for D Rob O'Gara and a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.

February 19: TRADE — The Chicago Blackhawks trade D Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. (TRADE ANALYSIS)

February 19: RUMOR — The Anaheim Ducks look to be targeting Vancouver Canucks LW Thomas Vanek, but the Canucks may 'kick tires" on a potential trade if the return isn't right. 

February 19: TRADE — The Detroit Red Wings trade G Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

February 19: RUMOR — The Pittsburgh Penguins are interested in pursuing speedy New York Rangers RW Michael Grabner.

February 17: RUMOR — The Ottawa Senators' fire sale continues to heat up. The St. Louis Blues are reportedly interested in Senators RW Mike Hoffman and C Derick Brassard.

February 15: TRADE — Toronto Maple Leafs trade RW Nikita Soshnikov to the St. Louis Blues for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

February 15: TRADE — The Chicago Blackhawks trade D Ville Pokka to the Ottawa Senators for LW Chris DiDomenico.

February 13: RUMOR — New York Rangers LW Rick Nash is rumored to be a major trade target for virtually every team within playoff reach. The Nashville Predators have been rumored to be the favorites for the former No. 1 overall draft pick.

February 13: TRADE — The Los Angeles Kings trade RW Marian Gaborik and C Nick Shore to the Ottawa Senators for D Dion Phaneuf and C Nate Thompson.