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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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Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

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Nicklas Backstrom is trying really hard not to get frustrated with lack of goals

Nicklas Backstrom has made a career out of setting up other players, but what many forget is that he is a pretty darn good scorer in his own right. Just not these days.

Backstrom had three goals in the first six games of the season, but since then he has been held scoreless. His last goal game on Oct. 14 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

RELATED: LISTEN TO THE LATEST CAPITALS EXTRA PODCAST ON THE CAPS' WIN OVER MINNESOTA!

Offense, in general, has been hard to come by for the veteran center who also underwent a career-long seven-game pointless streak.

While Backstrom has managed to get back on the score sheet with three assists in his last five games, he still can’t seem to get a goal.

“Obviously you want to score,” Backstrom said. “That's a no brainer, but at the same time you've just got to stick with it. I mean, at least I created chances tonight.”

While the goals may not be there, however, the chances are. For Barry Trotz, that’s an encouraging sign.

“Backy was on the bench, I gave him a little tap I said you know the hockey gods will even that out,” Trotz said. “You probably could have had three tonight and he'll probably get one of those leaky lizards go through the legs or through the arms and one from a bad angle. They'll even it out for him.”

MORE CAPITALS: OVECHKIN GETS STITCHES AFTER GETTING HIT BY PUCK, BUT REMAINS INDESTRUCTIBLE

With Backstrom taking on a more defensive shutdown role this season, his offensive numbers have taken a hit. The Capitals, however, do not have the same scoring depth as in recent years and need Backstrom, still arguably their best center, to produce offensively in order to be successful. He is just too good of a player to not produce.

But given his recent play, Trotz is not all that concerned and believes the goals are coming. Backstrom seems to agree.

“The sun goes up the next day anyway even if I don't score,” he said, “So you've just got to stick with it, work hard and hopefully you'll get rewarded.”

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Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

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Alex Ovechkin gets stitches to the lip after getting hit by puck, but he remains indestructible

It's always scary when you see a player get hit in the head with a puck. It's even scarier when you're a fan of the Caps and that player is Alex Ovechkin.

But there's is one thing you should always remember before you worry about the Great 8: He is not built like a normal human being.

Ovechkin was struck in the face by a puck in the second period of Saturday's game against the Minnesota Wild. It was a scary moment made scarier by the pool of blood he left behind on the ice as he made his way to the locker room.

RELATED: 4 REASONS WHY THE CAPS BEAT THE WILD

"Anybody who takes a puck to the face, you hope that they're not hurt badly," Barry Trotz said after the game. "Anytime you get hit to the face there's usually pretty good leakage. I saw, I knew he got hit in the face and in the mouth area and there was pretty good leakage around our bench and he went off and we were just hoping that it's not too serious."

Remarkably, it wasn't serious. Ovechkin missed the remainder of the second period, but returned for the third. After the game, there were a few stitches in his lip, but otherwise there appeared to be no serious damage.

Ovechkin said that after he had been hit he "Just tried to feel my tooth and it was fine. Just moving a little bit, but it's fine. It's hockey."

The fact that no serious damage was done turned what was a scary moment into one both players and coach could laugh at afterward.

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"He's a big strong man and he's got a few zippers so he's a lot better looking now that they fixed him up and all that," Trotz said. "It's when you get stitched up, that's the great thing about medicine, they can make you look great."

"It can be much worser," Ovechkin said when asked if he was scared in the moment. "I could lose my teeth."

Nicklas Backstrom had the same thought many of you are probably asking yourself right now: "Does he have any more teeth?"

It was just another reminder that Ovechkin is truly a machine. You know what they say, "Russian Machine...never gets broken."

I think that's how the saying goes.