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Wolski 'very hungry' to rebound in D.C.


Wolski 'very hungry' to rebound in D.C.

The journey Wojtek Wolski pronounced VOY-tek VOL-skee took to get to the NHL is almost as fascinating as the rocky path that led him to signing a one-year, 600,000 contract with the Capitals on Wednesday.

Born in Poland, Wolski left his native country with his parents and older brother when he was 3 years old and settled in Toronto when he was 5. He began playing ice hockey shortly thereafter, stuffing his older brothers oversized skates with crumpled newspapers to allow his feet to fit into them.

There was magic in those skates and as Wolskis body grew, maxing out at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, so did his legend.

Although he was ranked fifth in a 2004 draft class that included current Capitals Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz, Wolski dropped to 21st overall, where the Colorado Avalanche took him.

Wolski spent the next two seasons tearing up the OHL and set a club record in his final season with the Brampton Battalion with 47 goals and 128 points in just 57 games.

His NHL career started off with a bang when he netted a goal and two assists in his first game with the Avs, and he emerged as a top six forward in his first four years in the NHL, averaging 19 goals and 51 points.

Since then Wolski, 26, has been a major disappointment, averaging just eight goals and 24 points in his past two seasons with the Coyotes, Rangers and Panthers. In fact, some describe Wolski as little more than a shootout specialist.

Its probably the biggest reason Wolski received little interest in the first 10 days of free agency and why his one-year cost to the Capitals is just 100,00 over the NHL minimum. Two years ago, Wolski signed a two-year contract with the Coyotes worth 7.6 million.

I had one bad year and this year was tough with the sports hernia surgery I had, Wolski said in a conference call. This upcoming year is a great time for me to bounce back and show Im still a great player and I still have a lot of life left in me.

Im simply at a point in my career where I want to accomplish something. Ive got to make it work and I think Im ready and able and its going to be a great year.

Because of his inconsistencies and questionable work habits, Wolski already has drawn comparisons to Alex Semin, the player he will be asked to replace in the Capitals lineup. Wolski said hes been told by the Capitals that they see him as a top six forward who can challenge for a role on one of the teams top two lines.

I think I can help on the offensive side, he said. I struggled the last two years but Im definitely highly motivated and very excited and very hungry at this point in time.

Wolski said hes also excited at the opportunity to play for new coach Adam Oates, saying Devils rookie Adam Henrique told him he learned a lot from Oates when he was an assistant in New Jersey. Wolski will also be reuniting with Caps forward Matt Hendricks, whom he roomed with when the two were teammates in Colorado.

What are your thoughts on the Wolski signing? Was he a good pickup at 600,000? Or is he too much of a risk? Join the conversation below.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).

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3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

3 stars of the game: Caps win brutal rematch to sweep home-and-home with Islanders

The Caps rocked the green in warmups, the red for the game and left a bit black and blue after a brutal 6-3 win over the New York Islanders.

Based on how things went in Brooklyn on Thursday, odds were that there would be some bad blood when the two teams met Washington on Friday. One night after giving up seven goals, the Islanders gave up another six in Washington and frustrations over a rough season boiled over all game long.

Ross Johnston was ejected for continuing to fight Tom Wilson even after the referees intervened, both teams combined for 56 PIMs and Evgeny Kuznetsov left the game in the second period after a slash from Thomas Hickey as he went headfirst into the boards.

The sting of the rough night was mitigated somewhat, however, by the 6-3 score as the Caps won their fourth straight.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Chiasson: Playing in his first game since March 8, Chiasson made the most of his opportunity with a three-point night. Jakub Vrana did the legwork as he drove the net with the puck. Jaroslav Halak stuck out his stick catching Vrana which spun the netminder around and out of the crease. Chiasson came up behind for the easy layup.

He would repay the favor with an assist for Vrana's goal later in the third. Chiasson's first assist on the night came in the second period as his initial shot was saved, but he stayed in the face of Halak long enough to prevent him from making the save on Matt Niskanen's goal.

2. Nicklas Backstrom: When things were getting ugly, Backstrom made the Islanders pay with a power play goal on the two-man advantage.

After Johnston lost his marbles and Cal Clutterbuck was called for interference on Oshie, the Capitals needed to take advantage and put the Islanders away or watch New York build momentum. That was the critical juncture of the game. Backstrom also added an assist on the two-point night.

3. Braden Holtby: The recent struggles of Holtby have been well documented. After yielding the crease to Philipp Grubauer the last four games, Holtby got the start on Friday and played very well in the winning effort. The defense in front of him certainly helped allowing only 13 shots in the first two periods, but the Islanders were buzzing in the third period. New York battled back to make it 5-3 and Mathew Barzal had a breakaway opportunity with a chance to cut the deficit to one. Holtby made the save to deny Barzal and shut the door on the comeback attempt.

In all, Holtby turned aside 22 of the 25 shots he faced.