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NHL cancels games through Nov. 1


NHL cancels games through Nov. 1

It was a formality, really.

One day after talks between the NHL’s owners and players broke down without palpable signs of a resolution the league cancelled all regular season games through Nov. 1 on Friday.

The cancellations bring the total of NHL games lost to 135 – from Oct. 11 through Nov. 1.
For the Capitals that means a total of 10 October games have been wiped away, five at home and five on the road. Included in those five home games is the highly anticipated return of Sidney Crosby and the Penguins on Halloween night.

The Devils, Panthers, Maple Leafs and Jets also had scheduled visits to Verizon Center in the month of October. The Caps were scheduled for October road trips to Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Calgary and Minnesota.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there is a deadline of Oct. 25 for the players to agree to the owners’ most recent 50-50 proposal and play an entire 82-game season. But when the owners flatly rejected three counter proposals by union executive director Don Fehr on Thursday, hopes of a full NHL season evaporated.

“I think [the owners] want to put pressure on the players to make a rushed decision,” Capitals left wing Jason Chimera said. “We want to get 82 games as much as anybody else does. But we want to get a fair deal for both sides.”

Bettman said he was “thoroughly disappointed” with the players’ proposals on Thursday and said the owners gave it their “best shot” at saving a full season. The question now seems to be, what are the chances there will be a season at all?

“Ahhh … well … I think they’re pretty good,” Chimera said. “It’s whether the owners want to honor the [current] contracts. We gave them three proposals which were turned down in 10 minutes. We took a day and a half to look over theirs. I don’t think they necessarily took it back to all their owners and showed them our proposals. I want to believe there’s hockey. That’s what we do.”

Chimera said Fehr was back in his office Friday morning trying to come up with another strategy that would allow the players to go back to work without giving up 12.3 percent of their salaries.

“Hopefully, cooler heads prevail over the weekend,” Chimera said. “Maybe we get some traction. Maybe Gary [Bettman] takes it back to the owners and some of the guys say it looks pretty good. I know from Don’s standpoint he’s already working this morning on how to move things forward.”

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

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Evgeny Kuznetsov considered day-to-day, will miss Sunday's game in Philadelphia

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been declared day-to-day with an undisclosed upper body injury, the Caps announced Saturday afternoon.

He will not play Sunday against the Flyers, marking the first time in four seasons that the durable 25-year-old center will have missed a game.

Kuznetsov, the Caps’ assists leader and first line pivot over the past week, was injured in the second period of Friday’s 6-3 win over the Islanders. On the play, he slashed on the arm by New York defenseman Thomas Hickey before he tumbled awkwardly into the end boards.


Kuznetsov did not return to the contest.

The Caps did not practice on Saturday as they made their way to Philadelphia, where they'll look to extend their winning streak to five games.  

The team, per usual, did not elaborate about the extent or nature of Kuznetsov’s injury. But it does seem to be a good sign that he was not listed as week-to-week—the designation the Caps typically reserve for more severe injuries. And with a two point lead on Pittsburgh in the Metro Division standings—and a game in hand—they can actually afford to be cautious with one of their most important players.


The injury does, however, come at a time when Kuznetsov appeared to be hitting his stride. Including the two assists he had racked up prior to leaving Friday’s game, Kuzy has amassed five goals and 11 assists in 10 games.    

Without Kuznetsov on Sunday, Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle will be the team’s most experienced centers. Travis Boyd and/or Chandler Stephenson figure to be deployed as the fourth pivot.

Coach Barry Trotz is expected to meet with reporters prior to Sunday’s game. It’s possible he’ll shed some more light on Kuznetsov’s outlook at that time.

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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