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With World Cup looming, Backstrom, Carlson are training earlier (and harder) than usual

With World Cup looming, Backstrom, Carlson are training earlier (and harder) than usual

For pro hockey players, there's a natural flow to every offseason. They take some time off to rest and heal up. Most return to the ice mid-summer. And then they begin to gradually ramp up their workouts as training camp approaches. 

For some NHLers participating in next month’s World Cup of Hockey, though, that schedule has been accelerated this summer.

Take Capitals stars John Carlson and Nicklas Backstrom for example. Not only did they get back on the ice earlier than usual, they’ve also begun increasing the intensity of their practice sessions sooner than in years past.

“I probably started skating two-and-a-half weeks earlier, just because everything is a little bit earlier and it’s a little bit crazier of a schedule,” Carlson on Friday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where he joined Backstrom and Stan Galiev for an informal skate. “In the NHL, you get a month long training camp. [With the World Cup], we’re going to have seven or eight practices before we’re playing a game that really means something.”


The defenseman added: “It’s a lot different. But that’s why I’ve prepared differently for it. You have to make sure you’re ready to do certain things because once you’re in games, you have to stop and start. You can’t turn. You have play things a little bit differently. There’s a lot more attention to detail. That’s what I’m doing now, but I’m doing it a lot earlier.”

Backstrom said he also returned to the ice about two weeks earlier than in previous summers.

“I can only speak for myself, but I went on the ice earlier than usual,” he said. “I want to make sure I come [to the World Cup] prepared and ready to go right away. You pretty much have five days, a couple of exhibition games, then you have to be ready when the puck drops."

“So,” Backstrom continued, “I got on the ice earlier, just to make sure I have that feel. And I’m skating a little harder. I’m just going to keep ramping up as it gets closer.”

In all, eight Capitals players and Head Coach Barry Trotz will participate in the eight-team World Cup.

Carlson will, of course, suit up on Team USA alongside fellow Capitals teammates T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen. Backstrom will represent Sweden. Meantime, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov will play for Russia, while Braden Holtby and Trotz (assistant coach) are on Team Canada.

Each team will convene for meetings, practices and pre-tournament games before the tournament gets underway Sept. 17 in Toronto and runs through Oct. 1.

For the Caps in the tournament, it's going to be a lot more than they're accustomed to doing in mid-September, which is typically the beginning of training camp. But Carlson and Backstrom said they’re not concerned that the increased workload will have any adverse effects on their bodies or preparation for the grueling 82-game NHL campaign, which begins Oct. 13 in Pittsburgh. 

Backstrom, in fact, says he sees the World Cup as potentially a good thing for teams like the Caps that are sending a bunch of players. (Only the Lightning and Blackhawks, with 12, are sending more players).

“I think it can only help,” Backstrom said. “For all the players [in the World Cup], hopefully we’ll get used to playing tough games and bring that into season and we can get a good start because of it.”  

Whether that actually happens remains to be seen. But Carlson and Backstrom are already sure of this much: international hockey tournaments are almost always a lot of fun, for the fans and the participants.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Carlson said. “I think it’s going to be a great show. Whenever you can play for your country vs. other countries, it’s an added bonus in terms of pride and level of cool. It’s awesome that we’re watching the Olympics now, and then we get to go out and compete for your country in just a few weeks here.”  

Backstrom added: “It’s going to be a great experience. I’m really excited about it. I just want to start playing. There are some good teams and it’s going to be tough. But [Sweden] has a good team. We have a good chance.”


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3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia


3 stars of the game: A lethargic loss in Philadelphia

Playing three games in four days takes a toll on even the fittest athletes, and it was their sluggish start that doomed the Capitals in a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

After being noncomittal about his starting goalie all weekend, Coach Barry Trotz put Philipp Grubauer in net. Grubauer ended up making 29 saves on 34 shots. Offensively, the Caps got goals from Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, and John Carlson. Carlson's third period goal cut the Flyers' lead to two with a little over three minutes to go, but a Jakub Voracek empty-netter a few moments later was the nail in the coffin. 

Here are your three stars from the game: 

1. Travis Boyd had the play of the game for the Capitals. Boyd carried the puck into the Flyer's zone, cut through multiple defenders and fired a slick shot to a streaking Ovechkin, who burried the puck in the back of the net. Check it out: 

Not only was the play nice on its own, but it was Boyd's first NHL point. Not a bad way to get it. 

2. Shayne Gostisbehere​ got the Flyers going with his goal in the first period. The defenseman had one goal on five shots along with being an intimidating force in the defensive zone. After going six weeks without scoring, today's goal was Gostisbehere's second goal in three games. 

3. Wayne Simmonds was the best offensive player on the ice on Sunday, scoring twice - both in the final period. It was the 22nd and 23rd goals of the season for the 29-year-old winger. It was also the first multi-goal game for Simmonds since Opening Night, when he had two against San Jose. 

The Caps hit the ice next on Tuesday, when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Capital One Center. 

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Game 72 Capitals at Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 72 Capitals at Flyers Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pa.

When: 5:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Flyers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Flyers game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.


The Capitals (41-23-7) take on the Flyers (36-25-11) Sunday, March 18 at 5:00 p.m. ET in Philadelphia.


The Capitals-Flyers game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:00 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

4:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
4:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
5:00 p.m. — Capitals at Flyers
7:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
8:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime
9:00 p.m. — Caps in 30


The Capitals-Flyers game, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.