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Matt Niskanen says Patrice Bergeron's hit wasn't dirty

Matt Niskanen says Patrice Bergeron's hit wasn't dirty

Matt Niskanen says he does not believe Patrice Bergeron’s hit was a dirty one and added that the Bruins center reached out to him via text message after Wednesday’s game.

“I appreciate that,” Niskanen said, referring to Bergeron’s text. “I have a lot of respect for him as a player.”  

In the first period of Washington’s 4-3 overtime win, Bergeron hit Niskanen from behind, sending the Capitals defenseman into the end boards headfirst. Niskanen did not return to the game. Bergeron, meanwhile, was assessed two minutes for boarding.

On Friday, Niskanen missed his first game since signing with Washington prior to the 2014 season, ending his streak of consecutive games played at 189.  

Niskanen returned to practice on Saturday and afterward said he did not believe Bergeron acted with malice. In fact, Niskanen believes his injury, which the team has only called upper body in nature, was likely caused by a confluence of events, including unfortunate timing.

“I don’t think it was that bad of a hit,” Niskanen said. “I didn’t think it was live, and even after watching it, I can see where that can happen.”

He added: “It was one of those where I lost my balance the wrong distance from boards. If I’m two feet closer to the boards, nothing happens. If I’m two feet further away, nothing happens. Those kinds of things happen. He’s not a viscous player. [Texting] was a classy thing for him to do. He didn’t have to that.”

Niskanen is in the NHL’s concussion protocol, though it’s unclear if he actually sustained a head injury. If he clears all of the mandated steps, it’s possible he’ll be cleared in time to suit up against the Canucks on Sunday.  

“He practiced well and said he felt pretty good, so we’ll what his status is tomorrow morning,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s a protocol the NHL has for injuries and we’ll follow that protocol to a T. And that’s why we can’t give you an answer right now.”      


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: And so we meet again

We all knew this was coming, right?

The Capitals will face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs for the third consecutive season and for the 11th time in franchise history. Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once in their previous 10 series. This season gives them the opportunity to get over the second round and Pittsburgh hump once and for all.

Will this year be different? Will the Caps finally take down their arch nemesis? Will they finally advance to the conference final?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps-Penguins matchup in the Capitals Faceoff Podcast.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page

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Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin for Game 1

As the Capitals and Penguins prepare to open their second-round series, significant injury news came out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday. Head coach Mike Sullivan informed the media that both Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin would not play in Game 1 due to injuries.

The fact that Hagelin would not be traveling with the team suggests that he will miss Game 2 as well, but that has not been confirmed. That also means that Malkin is at least a possibility for Game 2.

Malkin did not play in Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers after getting injured in a collision with Jakub Voracek in Game 5. Hagelin was injured in Game 6 on a big hit from Claude Giroux.

So when the series against Washington begins, Pittsburgh will be playing without two-thirds of its second line.

Malkin made a real push for the Hart Trophy this season with 42 goals and 98 points. He was a major factor in last season's Cup run with 28 points in 26 games and was gearing up for another big postseason with five points in his first five games.

But don't celebrate too much, Caps fans. It is not as if either loss will be crippling to Pittsburgh's offense.

Despite not having Malkin for the entire Game 6 and losing Hagelin midway through the second period, the Penguins still managed to put up eight goals on the Flyers in the series-clinching win.

Still, with scoring depth being such a strength for Pittsburgh, the Capitals need to take advantage. The Penguins will be without one of the best players in the NHL and that makes Game 1 crucial. Washington has gone down 0-2 in each of their past two playoff series including last year against Pittsburgh. They lost that series in seven games. They need to have a better start this year and with no Malkin or Hagelin for Game 1, this may be a must-win for the Caps.

Riley Sheahan and Dominik Simon skated with Phil Kessel on the second line at practice on Wednesday and it is a good bet that is how the second line will remain for Game 1. That way, Pittsburgh can keep its third line of Conor Sheary, Derick Brassard and Bryan Rust line together which has been very effective.