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Oates getting Hall of Fame jitters


Oates getting Hall of Fame jitters

How do you thank a lifetime of coaches, teammates and family members in a span of five minutes?

How do you put into words the gratitude you have for those who helped you become one of the greatest set-up men in the history of hockey?

 “It’s pretty impossible to thank everyone in five minutes,” Capitals coach and soon-to-be Hockey Hall of Famer Adam Oates said about the acceptance speech he will make Monday night in Toronto when he is enshrined with NHL greats Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin and Pavel Bure.

 “I’m the lucky one. I got to play the game for 19 years. Since June all I’ve done is reflect on the people you played with, the people that helped you get there and your family.

 “You try to put it together in order so that you thank the right people.”

 Oates played for seven different teams in his NHL career – the Red Wings, Blues, Bruins, Capitals, Flyers, Ducks and Oilers – and finished with 341 goals and 1,079 assists. He ranks sixth in NHL history in assists, behind Wayne Gretzky, Ron Francis, Mark Messier, Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey.

 Oates is sure to mention fellow Hall of Famers Brett Hull and Cam Neely in his acceptance speech. He was a big part in each player scoring 50 goals in 50 games.

 Neely, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005 and is now president of the Boston Bruins, said he understands Oates’ anxiety on mentioning all the right people in a short amount of time.

 “You want to make sure you get across what it means to you and what people in your life have meant to you,” Neely said. “But it’s difficult because you always leave people out under their time constraints.”

 It’s those people that Oates says make up the fabric of a player’s hockey career.

 “One of the points I’m going to bring up is that in life you make connections and they don’t always last,” he said. “But you connected with someone, whenever it was, and hockey’s no different.

 “You play on a team and you connect with a guy for a little while, then your paths go different ways. He’s married, I’m single. Guys get traded. But there was a connection there.”

 It happened for Oates over the weekend. Before coaching a game for the Hershey Bears, Oates ran into the trainer for Mercyhurst College, Mike Folga, who was the trainer for the Blues when Oates played in St. Louis.

 “He comes walking in and it’s like, ‘Hey Mike! Oh my! What are you doing?’ Right away there’s a connection, there’s a spark. Your mind goes back there. You bump into someone all the time in hockey. That’s life.  Those memories are the ones I’m tryng to bring out.”

 Of course, Oates will also thank his parents, David and Loretta, who pushed him to go to college at RPI when he went undrafted out of high school.

 “I just don’t want to break down,” he said.

 Although he masks it well, Oates is an emotional guy and he admits he’s allowed his mnd to wander in recent weeks – from his coaching duties with the Bears to the ongoing NHL labor negotiations and the responsibilities of making accommodations for his family this weekend, which includes a slew of events and dinners.

 “I’ve been trying to put it in different compartments all day long, every day,” he said. “It just cycles back and forth. It’s actually been stressful because the Hall of Fame is an important thing and having to spend a lot of time on that and coaching, it’s been very stressful.”

 Neely offered one word of advice for Oates as he prepares for his acceptance speech: practice.

 “From my own experience I found that the more I practiced my speech the easier it was to get through it,” Neely said. “But there are certainly a lot of emotions that go through you that evening.”



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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.