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Capitals closing in on assistant coach


Capitals closing in on assistant coach

Now that the Capitals development camp is over and the amateur scouts have completed their evaluations, the clubs next order of business is hiring two assistant coaches for Adam Oates.

And its no menial task.

For me, it's vital who my assistants are going to be because it is my first job, Oates said on Saturday. I need someone to help me pass my messages along fast to a veteran team. To have a guy that played in the game that I've had some personal time with is very important to me.

According the general manager George McPhee, the Caps already have found one of those assistants and are expected to make their announcement in the coming days.

I think its a good fit for the club and I think were getting close to wrapping it up, McPhee said. Weve agreed, theyve agreed. We just have to iron out a few more things.

Ideally, Oates would like to have one assistant who can run the defensive rotation and another who can help him run the bench and assist in special teams play. The list of Oates former NHL teammates with coaching experience is extensive.

For a defensive coach, among his options are former teammates Rob Zettler, who recently worked as an assistant under Ron Wilson in Toronto; Phil Housley, who has served as head coach of the U.S. Under-18 team; Scott Stevens, who worked as a developmental coach with Oates in New Jersey; and Calle Johansson, an assistant coach in Sweden who has played more games in Washington than any other Capital.

For a bench coach, Oates options include Jeff Brown, a former NHL defenseman who is now head coach and general of the St. Louis Bandits of the NAHL; Tim Hunter, another Ron Wilson protg who worked with Zettler in Toronto; Peter Bondra, who has expressed interest in having a more active role with the Capitals; and Rick Tocchet, who worked with Oates in Tampa Bay when he was head coach of the Lightning.

Both coaching roles are significant, but moreso on defense, where Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Mike Green, Dmitry Orlov and Cam Schilling are at key stages of their development. With that in mind, convincing Stevens to leave New Jersey and return to the city in which his NHL career began would be quite an accomplishment.

If given the choice, who would be your choices for the Caps two assistants? Join the conversation below.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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