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Ovechkin on Caps, Russia teammate Kuznetsov: 'He can score 40'

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Ovechkin on Caps, Russia teammate Kuznetsov: 'He can score 40'

For Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, representing Russia in world hockey tournaments has become second nature.  For Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov it could become a common occurrence.

All three were named to Team Russia for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey tournament, which will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 in Toronto.

For Ovechkin, 30, this will mark his second time representing Russia in a World Cup. He’s also played in two Winter Olympics and 11 IIHF World Championships.

“It’s a huge honor, obviously, representing your country,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter which tournament. It’s a huge honor. It’s nice to be on the list and I’m proud to represent my country.”

Kuznetsov, 23, and Orlov, 24, each have played for Russia in international tournaments, but not on a stage as big as the one next summer.

“I think it’s kind of like Olympic Games because all the best players are going to be there,” Ovechkin said.

“It’s going to be huge for us players to be in that atmosphere. When you play in Canada, it’s something that you always dream and you always want. Just the atmosphere, the fans, the media. Like, everything is on the top, so it’s great for us to have that kind of time, especially before the year.”

Ovechkin played in the most recent World Cup of Hockey in 2004, two months after being selected by the Capitals with the first pick of the NHL draft. He played two games on that Russian team, which included Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Sergei Gonchar.    

“I was a teenager then (19) and I played in a couple games and it was an unbelievable experience for me just to see players from the NHL," Ovechkin said. “You're just watching TV and reading the newspaper as a little guy and you play against them.”

Kuznetsov and Orlov will have a similar experience as one of the 16 players selected to be on Russia’s preliminary roster. Kuznetsov has had a breakout year with the Caps, ranking fifth in the NHL in points (65), third in assists (45) and first in plus-minus (plus-30).

“Everybody knew he had the talent to be one of the best players in the league,” Ovechkin said. “He’s still young, obviously. In the future, he’s going to be more mature, have more experience, and I’m pretty sure 20 goals is just the beginning for him. He can score 40 easily in this league if he’s going to continue what he’s doing. He’s going to be a top player.”

If things go as expected for the Capitals, Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and Orlov might be playing in the World Cup on short rest. The last possible day for the Stanley Cup Final is June 18.

“Yeah, we’re going to have a month, month and a half,” Ovechkin said with a grin.

[RELATED: Laich learned he was traded from Julianne Hough]

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.