Capitals

Batum, Matthews lead Blazers over Wolves

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Batum, Matthews lead Blazers over Wolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews each made five 3s and scored 26 points to lead the Portland Trail Blazers over the injury-depleted Minnesota Timberwolves 102-97 on Saturday night.

The Blazers made a season-high 16 3-pointers and withstood a fourth-quarter rally by the Timberwolves to win for the 10th time in 13 games and finish their four-game road trip with a 3-1 record.

Nikola Pekovic led the Timberwolves with 21 points but left the game in the third quarter because of a left hip strain. Only hours earlier, Minnesota learned it lost star forward Kevin Love to a broken right hand for the second time this season when an MRI confirmed the injury.

The banged-up Timberwolves - who dressed only 10 players - also played without point guard Ricky Rubio, who sat out with back spasms.

Damian Lillard had 20 points for the Blazers.

The Blazers led by as many as 22 before Derrick Williams fueled a 26-8 run with 18 points in the fourth quarter. His two-handed dunk with 1:19 to play cut Portland's lead to 96-94. Williams rebounded a miss from Lillard on the ensuing possession, but J.J. Barea threw the ball out of bounds with 50 seconds left.

LaMarcus Aldridge followed the turnover with a 13-footer to make it 98-94. Williams appeared to score on a tip on the next possession, but the officials waved off the score saying he traveled.

Matthews and Batum each added a pair of free throws to seal the win.

NOTES: Batum has hit at least three 3-pointers in 15 games this season. ... Love re-fractured his third metacarpal bone in the hand during the third quarter Thursday night at Denver. The Wolves said they expect to know more about a timetable for his return after he is examined by a hand specialist in New York. ... Pekovic had his fifth game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds this season ... The Blazers had not had a winning record on road trip of four games or longer since going 3-1 from Oct. 27-Nov. 2 in 2010.

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Capitals' Nic Dowd and wife Paige host logo design contest for Autism Awareness Month

Capitals' Nic Dowd and wife Paige host logo design contest for Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month, and Capitals center Nic Dowd and his wife Paige are using their foundation, "Dowd's Crowd," to bring awareness to the cause through a logo design contest.

Dowd's Crowd, founded by the couple during the 2018-19 season, aims to make the sport of hockey more inclusive for people with autism, who often suffer from sensory overload. The foundation is creating sensory kits in conjunction with Autism Speaks, and the Dowds announced Wednesday that fans now can have a hand in creating the logo for drawstring backpacks included in the kits. Other items within the kit include noise-canceling earphones, sunglasses, a foam puck and a conversation card so that children with autism can enjoy a Caps game without experiencing sensory overload.

Interested participants should complete their design on a blank puzzle piece, which is the symbol for autism. The template can be found on the Capitals' website. Completed designs should be submitted via email to capscare@washcaps.com by May 1.

The winning design will not only be featured on the backpacks, but the designer will also win four tickets to a future Caps game, a meet and greet with the Dowds and 10 backpacks featuring their design.

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Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What's the plan in net beyond 2020-21?

Capitals Mailbag Part 1: What's the plan in net beyond 2020-21?

It’s time for a new Capitals mailbag! Check out Part 1 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? You can submit your questions here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Justin Cade writes: It seems like the general consensus between the pipes for 2020-21 is that Braden Holtby walks and a proven backup comes in to help Ilya Samsonov settle in as an NHL #1. How do you see the future of the goaltender position in Washington beyond next season? If Samsonov proves to be a reliable starter, do the Caps call up Vanecek to back him up for years to come?

The Caps’ goalie pipeline currently consists of Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek in Hershey and Mitchell Gibson who is playing college hockey at Harvard. I am not really sure what to make of Gibson yet. He was OK, but not great in the USHL, but was really good in his freshman year at Harvard. I don’t know what the potential is there yet.

As for Copley and Vanecek, I see the ceiling for both as being NHL backups, at least in the traditional sense. As the NHL goes more and more toward tandems, that complicates things. I think Copley is a traditional backup, but I don’t want a situation where he is playing 30+ games per year. I think Vanecek has the higher ceiling, but I don’t see him as an NHL starter so I think there could be potential for a Samsonov-Vanecek tandem in the future with Samsonov being the primary starter. But I don’t know if that’s how the Caps see it.

If the team does indeed go the experienced backup route for next season, just how long that backup is signed for could be an indication for what Brian MacLellan views Vanecek’s future with the franchise will be. A three-year deal for an established No. 2 probably means Vanecek will be playing somewhere else before too long.

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Scott Egbert writes: Would Alex Ovechkin retire soon?

Ovechkin has given no indication that he is going to retire soon or that he is even fading as he currently sits tied with David Pastrnak for the league lead in goals with 48. Could he be a Barry Sanders and walk away while still being one of the best in the game? I really don’t see it. I think his love for the game of hockey and fierce competitiveness will drive him to continue on. He may not want to talk about it, but he has laid the groundwork for a possible run at Wayne Gretzky's goal record. It is going to be really hard for him to walk away from that.

When Nicklas Backstrom discussed his five-year extension, he mentioned that Ovechkin was asking him all the time about it. I don’t think that was because he wanted to make sure Backstrom was around just next season. I think he was looking down the road.

No, I do not see Ovechkin retiring any time soon. Then again, he is 34 so we are definitely on the back-end of his career so it is fair to wonder just how many more years he has left.

Justin Cade writes: Which Caps player do you think is most likely to be lost to Seattle in the expansion draft?

Assuming that Washington elects the option of protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, my best guess would be we see the Caps protect Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Lars Eller and Jakub Vrana. Notice that is only six forwards. I don’t really see any other forwards they would really need to protect. They may have the flexibility to protect T.J. Oshie if they wanted, but he will be 34 years old at that point and still have an additional four years left on his contract with a cap hit of $5.75 million. He is a marketable player that I think Seattle could have some interest in, especially given his ties to the area, but only if his production hasn’t fallen off a cliff by that point.

On defense, the situation is a bit hazier.

First, per my understanding, neither Alex Alexeyev nor Martin Fehervary will be eligible to be selected so Washington won’t need to protect either of them. John Carlson absolutely will be protected, but the two players after him are a question mark. If it were me, I would protect Jonas Siegenthaler and I ultimately believe that is what they will do. Then it is a choice between Dmitry Orlov and Michal Kempny.

I think Orlov is a very good, top-four puck-moving defenseman who is frequently underrated by fans who just point to his turnovers and see nothing else. To me, he is worth protecting. That seems like an easy call now with how much Kempny has struggled this year, but this becomes much more difficult if Kempny returns to form.

So to summarize, I believe the two most likely players to be taken will be either Oshie or Kempny.

Thanks for all your questions! Part 2 of the mailbag will be coming on Thursday. If you have a question you want to be answered in the next mailbag, you can submit it here at the Capitals Mailbag submissions page on NBCSportsWashington.com.

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