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Rubio: Knee feels good after 1st practice

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Rubio: Knee feels good after 1st practice

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) At one point in his first real practice in nine months, Ricky Rubio zipped a pass through defender Josh Howard's legs to an open teammate.

It may take some time for his surgically repaired left knee to get back up to speed. The instincts and court vision that made him such a crucial part of the resurgent Minnesota Timberwolves haven't gone anywhere as far as Rick Adelman is concerned.

Rubio practiced on Sunday for the first time this season and said his knee responded well. There is still no timetable for his first game, and Rubio is trying to be patient to make sure that he is completely ready when he does return after the first major injury of his career.

``After a long time, I'm on the court again,'' Rubio said. ``It felt pretty good to start knowing my teammates again.''

The Timberwolves have been banged up all season and Kevin Love (illness), Malcom Lee (groin) and Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) all missed practice on Sunday. Getting Rubio back sometime soon would be a huge lift to a team that has managed to hang around .500 even with all the absences.

Rubio participated in five-on-five work in practice on Sunday, then stayed after for nearly an hour to do some more running and catch-and-shoot work as he tries to get his legs back underneath him. He said he felt some discomfort in the knee on occasion, but team trainers expected that as some scar tissue from the surgery breaks up.

``It will feel weird for a while. Until I'm feeling great and nothing at all about my knee, I'm not going to play,'' he said. ``Actually, I'm happy about today.''

The mental recovery may be nearly as important as the physical for Rubio. He said he wants to get to the point where he's not wondering what will happen every time he makes a cut or plants on it on a drive to the basket. That will just take some time, and he knows it.

``I felt pretty good, but I want to be perfect,'' Rubio said. ``I have to work hard. I have to keep working and see where I'm at.''

The Timberwolves will practice again Monday before a back-to-back at Philadelphia and Boston starting on Tuesday. It would seem to be asking a lot for Rubio to return that quickly. The Wolves are off Thursday and then host Cleveland on Friday night, but it's still far too soon to predict when he will play.

A big indicator could be how his body responds on Monday to the strenuous workout. Adelman said it was already clear that Rubio still has a good handle on the offense and his responsibilities running the show.

``That's there. He showed that today,'' Adelman said. ``He passed the ball very well, got to spots. That's always going to be there. It's just going to be his conditioning and his legs and how long can he go? That's going to be the biggest thing.''

And it didn't hurt to see a few of those flashy passes he's known for, either.

``Today we didn't have any alley-oops,'' Rubio said, with a smile. ``But I hope soon we have some of those.''

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APkrawczynski

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

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USA TODAY Sports

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson. Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's goals on Monday. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.