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Green, Caps ready for 'strange' night in Detroit

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Green, Caps ready for 'strange' night in Detroit

From the time they were pre-teens, the hockey careers of Mike Green and Jay Beagle have been linked. As peewees, they played together in their hometown of Calgary, where their fathers became friends.

When they became teammates with the Capitals, they would spend their summer training together in Calgary.

“Even this summer, when we were skating together, I said, ‘Alright, I’ll see you at training camp.’” Beagle said. “And then all of a sudden I realized we’re going to be enemies this year. It’s weird seeing him in Detroit gear.”

Tonight at Joe Louis Arena (7:30, CSN+), the main spotlight will be on Alex Ovechkin’s quest to pass Hall of Fame inductee Sergei Fedorov as Russia’s all-time leading NHL goal scorer. But before the game there will be plenty of banter going on between the Caps and Green, who spent his first 10 NHL seasons in Washington before signing a three-year, $18 million contract with the Red Wings last summer.

“For all the players who played with Greenie they’ll all be yuck-yucks at the morning skate and telling stories and all that,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. “But once you drop the puck he’s a Red Wing, not a Cap.”

Trotz said he expects his players to treat Green like any other opponent, but since the 30-year-old defenseman will be playing in just his second game after being sidelined by a shoulder injury, he wouldn’t be surprised if the Caps shied away from heavy body contact on their former teammate.

“I think if he has his head down,” Trotz said, “they’re probably going to let up a little bit on him, if they’re friends.”

RELATED: Laich misses practice, but expected to face Red Wings

Ovechkin says he’ll be targeting something other than Green’s body – saying he’s aiming for his beloved stick, which has been discontinued for years.

“I’m probably gonna slash his Easton stick,” Ovechkin joked.

But that’s his favorite, Ovechkin was reminded.

“Yeah, I’m gonna slash it,” he replied with a laugh.

In eight games with the Red Wings, Green has no goals on nine shots, three assists and is a minus-3 while averaging 20:23 of ice time on a top pairing with Danny DeKeyser. Last year, as the Caps’ fifth defenseman, Green averaged 19:06 in ice time, his lowest since his first full NHL season.

Green told reporters in Detroit that “it’ll be strange” facing his former teammates tonight, but noted he had become “stagnant” in Washington and wanted a change.

In his 10 seasons with the Caps Green totaled 113 goals and 247 assists for 360 points in 575 games. He also netted nine goals and 26 assists in 71 playoff games.

Caps defenseman Nate Schmidt, who played alongside Green in his first two NHL seasons, says Green meant a lot to him as a rookie.

“He kind of took me under his wing and spent a lot of time with me,” Schmidt said. “He’s a phenomenal guy off the ice, like he is on the ice. I learned a lot from him and I’m sure there will be some Green magic out there. Hopefully, not too much.”

Schmidt said the trait that stood out the most to him was Green’s ability to snap a pass from a relaxed position, catching opponents by surprise.

“When you least expect Mike Green to do something is when Mike Green does something,” Schmidt said. “He’s got ice in his veins. He doesn’t panic ever and he stands there to make plays longer than anybody who stands and make plays. If I stand there that long I get blown up.”

Beagle agreed, saying even at the age of 10 everyone knew Green was a “specimen from the start.” But it was Green’s thunderous slapshot that Beagle remembers most.

“We actually had a play where we’d just give it to him and he had a clapper,” Beagle recalled of his days in peewee hockey. “He’d go top shelf and goalies couldn’t stop it. Kind of like Fulton Reed from The Mighty Ducks.”

Several Capitals said they hoped to catch up with Green before tonight’s game, but when he met with reporters on Monday Green already was talking like a crafty opponent.  

“I might send them to the wrong restaurant,” he said with a sly smile, “and not show up.”

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin excited at chance to pass Fedorov

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The Caps will win Game 6 if they win, or at least survive, the first period

The Caps will win Game 6 if they win, or at least survive, the first period

The last three games have been pretty awesome if you're a Caps fan. For one minute, however, let's consider what it must feel like for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Columbus has seen a 0-2 series lead evaporate, they have lost both of their home games and now they face elimination after three straight losses including two overtime games and in two of those games, the Blue Jackets outplayed the Caps.

Oh, and head coach John Tortorella kinda, sorta guaranteed the Blue Jackets would force a Game 7.

As the series shifts back to Ohio for Game 6 on Monday, do you think the Blue Jackets may be a tad motivated when they take the ice in front of their home fans?

"We’ve got a chance in front of our home crowd to push this thing to seven games and we’re excited about it," Columbus forward Matt Calvert said Sunday. "... Got home last night and I was here a little earlier, got a chance to watch the news and they’re interviewing fans and how they’re pumped up, already saying it’s going to Game 7, so I can’t wait. The atmosphere’s going to be great. I know they’re going to give an all-out effort and so are we.”

In the third period of Game 5, the enormity of their situation began to set in for Columbus. Down 3-2 and facing their third straight loss, the Blue Jackets made a tremendous push to try to win the game. They tied the score at 3 early in the period and ultimately outshot Washington 16-1. If not for the tremendous effort of Braden Holtby in net to force overtime, the roles of this series could easily be reversed with Washington facing elimination in Game 6.

Now imagine that effort, plus the home crowd plus the desperation of a team facing elimination. An early lead for the Jackets could start a snowball effect in which their momentum and the crowd carry them through the rest of the game. But the longer the Caps can survive, the more doubt will begin to creep into Columbus, the antsier the fans will become and the more confident Washington will play.

The Caps better be ready.

The good news for Washington is that its been here before. Just last season, the Caps went to Toronto in Game 6 with an opportunity to close out the Maple Leafs. Toronto outshot Washington 14-10 in the first period, but they could not get the early goal and the game was scoreless through the first 20 minutes. Auston Matthews scored in the third period to break a scoreless tie, but Marcus Johansson scored five minutes later and then again in overtime to close out the series.

After experiencing last year's series in Toronto, the Caps know what they are going to be up against in Columbus.

"It's the toughest game to win because the other team is desperate," head coach Barry Trotz said Sunday on a conference call with the media. "Their backs are against the wall. They're there. They're going to give their absolute max effort tomorrow, and we've got to make sure that we have a max effort. If we do that, then we have a chance to win in Columbus."

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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

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NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Power Rankings: The West is set while the Caps still have work to do

There are only two series left in the first round that have yet to be decided. The Caps just so happen to be playing in one of those series.

After falling into a 0-2 hole to start, Washington has rattled off three straight wins and now sits just one away from putting away the Columbus Blue Jackets and advancing to the second round.

Should the Capitals advance, they will play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third consecutive season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

The Penguins ended their series against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday in Game 6. Jake Guentzel scored four goals in the effort proving once and for all that yes, goaltending is important in the playoffs. Head coach Mike Sullivan has still yet to lose a playoff series as the head coach of Pittsburgh as he led the Penguins to a Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons.

In the Atlantic, the Tampa Bay Lightning await the winner of the Boston Bruins - Toronto Maple Leafs series after dispatching the New Jersey Devils in five games. After a strong regular season, the Maple Leafs looked poised to take the next step, but Auston Matthews has only two points in five games and Toronto faces elimination at the hands of the Bruins Monday in Game 5.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>

All four series in the West, meanwhile, have already been decided. Both the Vegas Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks managed four-game sweeps in the first round and will face one another in the second  The miraculous season of the Golden Knights continues and it would be hard to argue at this point that they are not legitimate Stanly Cup contenders considering all they have accomplished in both the regular season and the playoffs.

Wins by the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets now sets up a second-round battle between the top two teams in the league from the regular season.

<<NHL POWER RANKINGS: STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS>>