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Ovechkin looked good on Day 1 of camp, and Trotz is pleased about that

Ovechkin looked good on Day 1 of camp, and Trotz is pleased about that

Alex Ovechkin’s commitment to boosting his conditioning this summer did not go unnoticed by Capitals Coach Barry Trotz on Day 1 of training camp.

“To me,” Trotz said Friday afternoon, “he looked like it was easier for him. It was easier for him. When guys are going through that skate test, I can tell which guys are going to struggle with it and which guys aren't.”

Although Ovechkin told reporters that his weight is about the same as it was following the Caps' playoff ouster in May, Trotz acknowledged that the burly Russian’s fitness did indeed appear to be improved.

“Body composition, that’s probably the best way to say it than weight,” Trotz said of Ovechkin, who is still listed at 6-3, 239 pounds on the roster. “He’s gotten some of that gigantic strength and exceptional strength that he’s known for, he’s got some of that back. And that changes his body composition.”

Trotz added: “The weight is not necessarily [about] that, it’s more, are you fit? Are you a good athlete? Are you ready to go? I think he’s made a lot stronger commitment there, so that’s great.”

Over the summer, Trotz went to Russia to visit his son. While he was there, he met up with Ovechkin so that the two could talk about last season and what he wanted to see from Ovechkin going forward.

“I wanted to meet with him because he is the captain,” Trotz said. “I wanted to talk about last year because we really didn’t talk about it that much at the end of the year. We talked about a few things. One of the things was becoming an athlete again because that’s important in this business, especially with the way the game is going. It’s fast. You’ve got to be fit in this game to be productive. Some guys can get away with it [thanks to] a high skill set and a level. But at the end of the day, your foundation has to be fitness.”

Since arriving in Washington last month, Ovechkin has often been spotted around Kettler Capitals Iceplex with his personal trainer in tow. While Ovi didn’t divulge many specifics about his offseason training, the three-time league MVP said he did less weight lifting and added more running to his daily routine.

“This offseason my goal was just to feel very good on the ice, my breathing, so I can play longer, stay on the ice a little bit longer,” Ovechkin told CSN. “Be more faster, move a little bit faster.”

One of the challenges Ovechkin faces as he ages—he turns 32 on Sunday—is keeping up in a game that seemingly gets younger and faster every year.

“Right now,” he said, “I feel very good.”

Trotz, too, feels very good about what he’s seen so far from the Capitals’ captain, who’s looking to bounce back from his lowest goal output (33) in a non-lockout year since 2010-11.

“You always ask players to evolve [and] what can you add to your game that you haven’t added?” Trotz said. “In his case, the game is getting quick and he wants to stay relevant in the quickness aspect.”

RELATED: WHY BRADEN HOLTBY IS THE CAPS' MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER

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JJ vs. the fans: Offense should be easy to come by on Tuesday

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USA TODAY Sports

JJ vs. the fans: Offense should be easy to come by on Tuesday

Have you read my three bold predictions and thought to yourself, “I could do better than that guy?” Well, here’s your chance.

Rather than just embarrass myself with how bad my predictions are, I will be going up against the fans to see how you guys stack up!

Let’s take a look at what the fans think will happen Tuesday’s game between the Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington).

RELATED: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-LEAFS

Fan predictions:

Auston Mathews has five goals in five games. If he keeps that pace up, this seems like a safe bet.

He needs to. Andre Burakovsky has only two points this season which is not what Barry Trotz was hoping for when he gave him the promotion to the top line.

Now this is bold. Tip of the cap to you, sir.

Bonus:

MORE CAPITALS: HOW CAN THE CAPS FIX THEIR 'SWISS CHEESE' DEFENSE?

JJ’s predictions:

Both teams will combine for at least 10 goals

Toronto leads the league with a whopping 5.20 goals per game. The Capitals are not quite that high, but they are in the top ten at 3.67. Oh, and in case you forgot, the Caps just gave up eight goals to a Philadelphia team that does not boast an offense as good as Toronto’s.

Evgeny Kuznetsov will score a goal

Kuznetsov is tied for the league lead in points at 11 (tied with Nicklas Backstrom). What is interesting about those 11 points? None of them are goals. As I am expecting a big night of offense, I expect Kuznetsov to finally call his own number and get one in the back of the net.

Toronto will outshoot Washington by at least 10 shots

The Capitals are last in the NHL in shots per game at 25. Dead last. The Leafs, meanwhile, average 37.4. Braden Holtby is going to have a very busy night.

Want to see your tweet among the fan predictions for the next game? Tweet your prediction to @JJReganNBCS every game day! Remember, we don’t just want to know who will win or the score, we want to see specifics. Be bold!

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Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Fixing their 'Swiss cheese' defense now a top priority for the Caps

Heading into the 2017-18 season, defense was a question mark for the Capitals. That question mark grew even bigger with Matt Niskanen on LTIR. Now, in the wake of an 8-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and with Niskanen out until at least early November, Barry Trotz knows the team needs to fix the blue line and they need to do it fast.

“We've got to be better,” Trotz told reporters after Tuesday’s morning skate. “But there’s areas of our game that we can be better. We can be better in our own zone. We can take care of business defensively. That’s got to be our security blanket. We had too many holes in our d-zone. It was like Swiss cheese.”

RELATED: TROTZ HAS SHUFFLED THE DEFENSIVE PAIRS. WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE NOW?

The team’s first response to Niskanen’s injury was to recall Madison Bowey, a player who impressed in training camp and who likely would have started the season on the team if not for a salary cap crunch and his waiver exempt status.

Bowey’s first game did not go well with the lasting memory being a highlight reel deke Jakub Voracek delivered to turn Bowey around before setting up another Philadelphia goal.

Trotz took ownership of Saturday’s game saying the team did not “insulate” Bowey very well in his NHL debut.

The problem is that it will difficult to insulate him or anyone on the Caps’ defense given how thin the blue line currently is. Washington’s defense currently features two rookies in Bowey and Christian Djoos and Bowey is only one of three right-handed shots. Plus, both Bowey and Djoos are likely better options than either Taylor Chorney or Aaron Ness so it will be tough to take either rookie out of the lineup.

MORE CAPITALS: HOW TO WATCH CAPS-LEAFS

Given Washington’s salary cap constraints as they are right back up against the cap when Niskanen returns from injury and his salary is back on the books, it will be difficult for the Caps to make any sort of trade to bring in outside help. Many may point to goalie Philipp Grubauer as a trade chip, but his salary cap hit is only $1.5 million and you can subtract $650,000 from that as the team would have to recall Pheonix Copley to serve as backup. What kind of help can you really get with less than $1 million to play with?

If the team is going to turn things around and shore up its defense, it will mean improving from within.

Said Trotz, “We're in this for the long haul with our defense.”