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Caps' Carlson excited for pope's visit, message

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Caps' Carlson excited for pope's visit, message

It’s not every day religious beliefs are openly expressed in hockey locker rooms, but Pope Francis’ historic two-day visit to Washington may change that, at least for the next day or two.

With the leader of the Catholic church scheduled to make stops at the White House, the Basilica of the National Shrine, the Capitol and St. Patrick’s Catholic church, Capitals defenseman John Carlson said he’s anxious to hear what the pontiff has to say.

“It’s something I’ve never been around for; it’s cool to see,” said Carlson, a Catholic who was born in Marlborough, Mass., but moved to Colonia, N.J. as a child and attended St. Joseph in Metuchen, N.J. as a high school freshman.

“I think he’s awesome. I think his ideals are definitely a change of pace and I like what he does.”

Back in August, Carlson posted a Walk With Francis video on his Twitter account, pledging to “work on my faith and be a better father every day.”

RELATED Oshie, Carlson endorse hiring of Tortorella

With the Capitals in the midst of training camp and the team playing in Montreal on Thursday night, Carlson said he’s not sure if he’ll be able to attend any of today’s papal festivities, but he’s interested to hear Pope Francis’ message in his first American visit.

“I think he’s ahead of the curve and I think that’s what’s kind of held people back,” Carlson said. “So I think it’s great to see someone like that, who kind of puts to bed a lot of things that maybe shouldn’t be there.”

Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie said he’s also excited to see the buzz surrounding the pope’s visit to D.C.

“I think it’s very cool,” Oshie said. “It’s great for a lot of people to see him. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the streets should be pretty busy.”

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.