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Caps make major changes to medical staff

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Caps make major changes to medical staff

The Capitals' athletic training staff is undergoing some major changes.

The team announced Tuesday that it has hired former Coyotes head athletic trainer Jason Serbus to handle the same responsibilities in Washington. Serbus, who worked in Arizona from 2008 through last season, replaces longtime trainer Greg Smith, who is retiring.

Smith had been the Caps’ head trainer since 1999. The 48-year-old Bowie native will continue in his role with D.C.-based Pivot Physical Therapy, the company he co-founded and owns.

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Under Smith, the Caps had been one of the NHL’s heathiest teams the past two seasons, having accrued an NHL-low 48 man games lost a year ago and just 109 the year before.

“It’s been a great 18 years behind the bench in Washington, and unfortunately I made the hard decision to reconnect and spend more time with the family,” Smith told CSN. “I haven’t missed one of my kids’ sporting events this summer.”

Smith and the team management had discussed a reduced/advisory position in recent weeks, but the team was unable to settle on a role for him.

Serbus, meanwhile, comes to Washington after nine seasons in Arizona. The Coyotes did not renew his contract this summer amid a broader house-cleaning following the team’s 28th place finish.

Prior to heading up the Coyotes’ training staff, Serbus was an assistant in Tampa Bay for three years. The Minnesota native has also been involved with Team USA at various international competitions.

In addition to adding Serbus, the Caps have also named Michael Booi assistant athletic trainer and Cleo Bates the team's new massage therapist. Booi takes over for Ben Reisz, who has decided to pursue other interests. Reisz had been with the Capitals for 10 years.

“We would like to thank Greg and Ben for their service, commitment and dedication to the Capitals,” GM Brian MacLellan said in a statement. “On behalf of everyone in our organization, we wish them both all the best in the future. We are also pleased to welcome Jason, Michael and Cleo to the organization. Their credentials and previous experience make them uniquely qualified to oversee our medical department and the health of our players.”

Although Smith’s contract expired in late June, he stayed around this summer to assist in the transition. Serbus and Booi have been with the Caps for several weeks now so they figure to be up to speed when training camp begins on Friday.

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3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

3 reasons the Caps lost to the Canadiens

The Caps battled through the rust on Thursday to earn a point in New Jersey. On Friday, rust cost them yet again as they fell 3-2 to the Montreal Canadiens.

Here's why they lost.

4 shots on goal in the first period

Canadiens goalie Antti Niemi has had his struggles this season. Yes, he has played better since getting claimed off waivers by Montreal, but getting to play against Niemi instead of Carey Price wass a golden opportunity for the Caps to generate some offense. Washington, however, had very little offense to speak at the end of the night. How did they respond with Niemi in net? By getting only four shots in the first period. Four. They finished with 26 shots on goal for the game, but had they come out swinging in the first and put pressure up early on Niemi, they could have gotten a much different result.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FOR CAPS-HABS

Bad passing

After the game, Lars Eller said "It was one of the sloppiest games we've played if not the sloppiest. I don't think we've given up so any odd-man rushes or chances in one game." In no aspect were the Caps more sloppy than with their passing. Here are just a few examples.

A cross-ice backhand pass in the defensive zone? Really? You are not going to be successful trying to make those type of plays and it cost the Caps. They could not maintain possession of the puck or breakout of their zone and it led to several odd-man rushes for Montreal.

Rust

It's not an excuse. The Caps should have played better on Friday regardless, but there's no arguing the fact that rust was a factor. It was abundantly clear that the Caps were out of sync. That will happen when you are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back with no practice time.

Saturday's practice will be absolutely critical since Washington faces a matinee game on Sunday, their third contest in four days.

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3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

3 stars of the game: Grubauer's heroics not enough against the Habs

The first time the Caps hosted the Montreal Canadiens this season, Alex Ovechkin tallied four goals as the Caps dominated in a 6-1 thrashing.

Friday's game featured considerably less offense as Montreal just managed to squeak by Washington 3-2.

Philipp Grubuaer got the start and did everything he could to keep Washington in it, but the Caps struggled to find much offense.

Alex Ovechkin did manage to register assist No. 499 as he set up John Carlson on the power play and Lars Eller scored late, but it would not be enough for the Caps to come back.

Here are the three stars of the game.

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1. Max Pacioretty: The Canadiens struggled to get anything past Grubauer in this one, but Pacioretty finally did in the second period on the power play. It was simple enough, he found the puck at his feet, turned and shot.

When goalies start to frustrate teams, we see a lot of players respond by looking for the perfect play and give up good opportunities for more difficult passes. Pacioretty was smart, he just shot. He also added an assist on Paul Byron's goal as the puck bounced off the board and off Pacioretty's skate right to Byron.

He ultimately put the exclamation point on the win with an empty-net goal as well to complete a three-point night.

2. Philipp Grubauer: Grubauer certainly didn't look like a backup goalie in this one. He was strong in net all night long, but his best save came in the first period. Pacioretty hit the side of the net to Grubauer's left on a pretty passing play, but the puck bounced out to the slot and Charles Hudon passed it over to Paul Byron on Grubauer's right. Grubauer dove with his arm outstretched and managed to corral the puck into his body to keep it out of the net.

He would finish the game with several more fantastic saves, 23 in all despite the loss.

3. Andre Burakovsky: It would be hard to draw up a better return to the lineup for Burakovsky.

He started on the fourth line, but he wasn't there for long. He had four shot attempts in a first period in which the Caps struggled to get anything going offensively at all. He also had a breakaway opportunity in the third period as he came out of the penalty box. He had Antti Niemi beat, but hit the post.

It was the second time Burakovsky struck iron in the game. Hedid just about everything right, but just couldn't light the lamp.