Capitals

The L.A. Kings are absolutely on fire

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The L.A. Kings are absolutely on fire

From Comcast SportsNet
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Los Angeles Kings knew the Coyotes would come with everything they had. Even when that meant some questionable hits as the frustration grew, the Kings never let it bother them. Withstanding an early push and a slew of penalties late, the Kings took control of the Western Conference finals with another dominating performance, beating the Coyotes 4-0 Tuesday night to match an NHL record with their seventh straight road playoff victory. Jeff Carter scored three goals, Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots and Los Angeles will head back home with a commanding series lead after flummoxing the Coyotes in two games in the desert. "We didn't want to do anything after the whistle," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We just wanted to stay away from it. We didn't have anything to prove that way." All Los Angeles wanted was the victory and the Kings got it, overwhelming the Coyotes after doing the same in Game 1. The Kings shook off the big hits -- a couple that led to game misconducts -- and continued a can't-stop-us roll that started with a playoff push the last month of the regular season. Dwight King scored his third goal in two games, Quick tied Felix Potvin's team record with his third career playoff shutout, and Carter finished off the Kings' first playoff hat trick since Wayne Gretzky in 1993 in the third period. Los Angeles has won seven straight overall, tied an NHL record by opening the playoffs 7-0 on the road, and matched another record by winning nine straight road playoff games over two seasons. The New York Islanders won a pair of Stanley Cup titles while winning nine straight road games from 1982-83, and the Kings are starting to look like a team that could go on a Cup run of its own. Game 3 is Thursday night in Los Angeles. "It's a mindset; we get away, there's no distractions," Carter said. "For some reason, this team likes to play on the road." The Coyotes played better early and fell apart late, becoming frustrated after being unable to contain the more-skilled Kings. Phoenix was hit with a string of penalties starting late in the second period, including a game misconduct to captain Shane Doan for boarding Kings center Trevor Lewis. Martin Hanzal also received one for boarding Dustin Brown in the third period and the Coyotes had 13 penalties for 56 minutes -- most coming after the final 5 minutes of the second period. "I think the frustration level sets in," Coyotes goalie Mike Smith said. "You're in the penalty box that much against a team that's in the conference finals, you're going to pay." The Kings won the opener 4-2 by outplaying and outhustling the Coyotes. Knowing Phoenix's makeup, the Kings figured to get more of a pushback in Game 2. And the Coyotes were much more aggressive early, winning some of the individual battles they lost in Game 1 while creating some decent scoring chances. Even with all of Phoenix's hard work and a couple of line changes by coach Dave Tippett, the Kings still managed to score first. King got it, redirecting a shot by Drew Doughty that beat Smith stick side late in the period. Hard work in the corners by Mike Richards set up Los Angeles' second goal, by Carter. He muscled the puck past Smith's glove side as he was going down on a feed from Dustin Penner that made it 2-0 early in the second period. Then things completely unraveled for the Coyotes. Doan, who was suspended three games for elbowing earlier in the season, was given a game misconduct and a five-minute boarding penalty for ramming Lewis from behind. Defenseman Keith Yandle was already in the penalty box and Daymond Langkow joined him after a slashing penalty, giving Los Angeles a two-man advantage for more than 2 minutes. Brown was sent off for diving on a slash by Smith, but that didn't bother the Kings. Carter scored his second a few seconds later on a redirect of a shot by Anze Kopitar, putting Los Angeles up 3-0. With the Coyotes racking up penalties seemingly on every shift, Carter finished them off with his fifth career hat trick, punching in a rebound with the Kings on a two-man advantage after Hanzal's hit on Brown. "There's no question there's going to be frustration, especially when you get down in a game like that, guys try to finish their checks on the edge," Coyotes forward Taylor Pyatt said. "We've got to try and find some positives and get things turned around in Game 3." Even if they do, it may not matter the way the Kings are playing. Notes: The Kings were without D Colin Fraser, out of the lineup attending to a family matter. ... Coyotes LW Ray Whitney played in his 100th career playoff game. D Michael Stone played his first with Adrian Aucoin still out of the lineup and David Schlemko still not fully healthy. ... Rocker Alice Cooper, who lives in the Valley, attended the game. ... The last team to win seven straight road playoff games in one season was Chicago in 2010.

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Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Heading into the 2017-18 season, defense was a question mark for the Capitals. That question mark grew even bigger with Matt Niskanen on LTIR. Now, in the wake of an 8-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and with Niskanen out until at least early November, Barry Trotz knows the team needs to fix the blue line and they need to do it fast.

“We've got to be better,” Trotz told reporters after Tuesday’s morning skate. “But there’s areas of our game that we can be better. We can be better in our own zone. We can take care of business defensively. That’s got to be our security blanket. We had too many holes in our d-zone. It was like Swiss cheese.”

RELATED: TROTZ HAS SHUFFLED THE DEFENSIVE PAIRS. WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE NOW?

The team’s first response to Niskanen’s injury was to recall Madison Bowey, a player who impressed in training camp and who likely would have started the season on the team if not for a salary cap crunch and his waiver exempt status.

Bowey’s first game did not go well with the lasting memory being a highlight reel deke Jakub Voracek delivered to turn Bowey around before setting up another Philadelphia goal.

Trotz took ownership of Saturday’s game saying the team did not “insulate” Bowey very well in his NHL debut.

The problem is that it will difficult to insulate him or anyone on the Caps’ defense given how thin the blue line currently is. Washington’s defense currently features two rookies in Bowey and Christian Djoos and Bowey is only one of three right-handed shots. Plus, both Bowey and Djoos are likely better options than either Taylor Chorney or Aaron Ness so it will be tough to take either rookie out of the lineup.

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-LEAFS

Given Washington’s salary cap constraints as they are right back up against the cap when Niskanen returns from injury and his salary is back on the books, it will be difficult for the Caps to make any sort of trade to bring in outside help. Many may point to goalie Philipp Grubauer as a trade chip, but his salary cap hit is only $1.5 million and you can subtract $650,000 from that as the team would have to recall Pheonix Copley to serve as backup. What kind of help can you really get with less than $1 million to play with?

If the team is going to turn things around and shore up its defense, it will mean improving from within.

Said Trotz, “We're in this for the long haul with our defense.”

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Markelle Fultz, Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7:00 p.m.
TV: ESPN (coverage begins at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington)
Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Three things to watch...

It all begins

The long, crazy, unprecedented NBA offseason is officially over. It's time to watch some Wizards basketball. This year Washington enters the season with the highest expectations they have had in a while. Coming off their best season since the 1970s, a year in which they won 49 games, their division and reached the second round of the playoffs, the goal is to go further. They want to win more than 50 games and reach the Eastern Conference Finals or beyond.

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Markieff Morris are all coming off the best seasons of their careers and will hope to take another step. Marcin Gortat will look to continue being a double-double machine. Ian Mahinmi will hope for better health. Kelly Oubre, Jr. will seek a breakout season. And their new-look bench will try to improve on last year's group. The Wizards have the tools to be one of the best teams in the NBA, but they have to stay healthy and prove it now that the rest of the NBA knows what they are capable of.

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A different Wall?

Wall made All-NBA for the first time last season, but there are many reasons to believe the best is yet to come. Wall earned that honor despite sitting out much of last offseason following two knee surgeries. This summer he was healthy and benefitted because of it. He was able to focus on his conditioning like never before and reported in fantastic shape. Now he has his sights on the MVP award and first team All-Defense. We get to see the new version of him on Wednesday night.

Wall, of course, is still finding motivation in the littlest of things. He took issue this summer with ESPN not ranking him in the top 10 among NBA players. And on Tuesday he tweeted what seemed to be a gripe with ESPN not including him in their tweet welcoming back the NBA. Wall, again, appears to be on a mission and the rest of the league should watch out, perhaps especially if you're a rookie point guard getting a lot of hype. While we're on the subject...

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High profile NBA debuts

The Sixers will have two, not one, but two No. 1 overall picks making their NBA debuts on Wednesday night. It's not often you see that and it's a big reason why this one is slated for a national TV audience, that and because big things are expected of Joel Embiid. Markelle Fultz was the top selection in 2017 and will be playing his first game in his own backyard. He grew up in nearby Upper Marlboro, Md. and went to DeMatha Catholic. He won't start, but this is a huge night for him. He is playing his first game on ESPN at home and against Wall, one of the game's best point guards. No pressure, kid.

The other No. 1 pick is Ben Simmons, whom the Sixers took in the 2016 draft. He missed all of last year with a foot injury but is back and ready to remind us of why he went first overall. Simmons had a tremendous preseason and showed off his rare talents as a 6-foot-10 guy who can run the floor with anyone and pass like a point guard. He is going to make an impact in this league, but we don't know exactly what type of player he will be. Watching his debut should be fascinating.

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