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Capitals at Devils: Ovechkin sits just one away

Capitals at Devils: Ovechkin sits just one away

The Capitals (37-17-6) enter Saturday's game looking to rebound from a disastrous stretch that has seen them lose three straight and five of their last six. Will they be able to rebound against the New Jersey Devils (23-27-10)? Catch the game broadcast and all the pre and postgame action on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 12 p.m. with Caps FaceOff Live followed by Caps Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. bringing you up to the 1 p.m. puck drop. Stick with NBC Sports Washington after the game broadcast for postgame coverage with Caps Postgame Live and Caps Overtime Live.

Here is what you need to know for Saturday's game.

One away

Alex Ovechkin snapped a season-long five-game goal drought on Thursday with his 699th career goal. He now sits just one away from becoming the eighth player in history to score 700 goals.

Changing things up

With Washington struggling, Todd Reirden made a few changes to the lines at Friday's practice. Evgeny Kuznetsov moves to the top line with Nicklas Backstrom moving down to the second. Brendan Leipsic is back in on the fourth line for Travis Boyd and the defense is shuffled up with Jonas Siegenthaler back on the third pair with Radko Gudas out.

Reirden cautioned that those may not be the lines he ultimately will settle on Saturday, but with no morning skate, Friday's lineup will very likely be what we see against the Devils.

Here are the lines from Friday's practice:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Richard Panik
Brendan Leipsic - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Brenden Dillon - John Carlson
Michal Kempny - Dmitry Orlov
Jonas Siegenthaler - Nick Jensen

Samsonov starts

With a game on Saturday and Sunday, Reirden was likely to split the goalie starts over the weekend and that is what he will do. Ilya Samsonov will start Saturday game while Braden Holtby will play Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This will be Samsonov's first game since getting pulled against the New York Islanders on Feb. 10 for the first time in his NHL career. Overall, it has been a great rookie season for Samsonov with a 16-4-1 record, 2.38 GAA and .917 save percentage. While the loss to the Islanders certainly cannot be laid on Samsonov's shoulders, the team defense was atrocious, it will be interesting to see how he responds to what was statistically his worst NHL game.

When last we met

Saturday's game will be the fourth and final meeting between Washington and New Jersey this season. The Caps have won two out of three, including the last time these two teams met on Jan. 16 at Capital One Arena.

Ovechkin took a stick to the face from Devils defenseman Miles Wood and left bloodied, but returned to the game to score twice in the first period and finished off the hat trick in the third.

Heading in the wrong direction

The Devils are not a good team, but don't make the mistake of thinking they will be a pushover. If you want to know how tough this stretch has been for Washington, the Caps are 11-11-1 since Dec. 23 and are tied with the New York Islanders for the fewest points in the Metropolitan Division during that stretch.

During that same stretch, lowly New Jersey has gone 12-8-5. Since Dec. 23, the Devils have arguably been the better team, at least in terms of the standings. If given the choice between the two rosters, obviously anyone would pick Washington's, but the record of both teams certainly reflects how difficult things have been for the Caps of late.

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Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

Backstrom backs away from previous comment that Ovechkin is always yelling for the puck

With no live sports to watch, people have to find ways to pass the time. A fun way to do it is with NBC Sports Washington's NHL 20 simulations of the Capitals' scheduled games. Some of the players have even gotten involved joining the broadcast or reacting to the game results. So now, we have Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin providing commentary plus actual players reacting to a video game simulation. What a time to be alive.

Nicklas Backstrom was the star of the first game that was broadcast on NBC Sports Washington -- a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues on March 24 -- with a hat trick performance. The real Backstrom gave a FaceTime interview afterward and said, "I don't do hat tricks that often, so it was nice to seal it off with a hat trick. You see what happens when you can't hear Ovi scream all the time for the puck."

On Wednesday, Backstrom joined the media for a Zoom video conference and was asked about that very answer. He quickly clarified that it was meant as a joke.

"You know what?" he said. "I felt so awkward doing that interview to be honest. I'm like, I've got to try to make this funny as possible. I don't know how to answer questions about simulation games. That was obviously a joke."

When you think about a real person having to do an interview about their digital player's performance, you can see how things could get awkward pretty quickly. Then again, if Ovechkin were always calling for the puck it would not be that surprising. He is, after all, one of the greatest goal scorers of all time. He could be forgiven for wanting the puck on his stick as often as possible.

Backstrom, however, said of Ovechkin that he doesn't need to call for the puck. Part of what makes him great is his ability to find the best place to be to score at all times.

"I think looking at it, [Ovechkin's] never yelling for the puck," Bacsktrom said. "He's just that good of a goal-scorer and I'm happy to give him the puck every time too. I was just trying to make that funny interview."

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Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Hath's Heroes is keeping Garnet Hathaway busy during the quarantine

Like the rest of us, Capitals' winger Garnet Hathaway is just trying to stay sane and helping out where he can.

His charity, Hath's Heroes, which provides meals to first responders, is especially important in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Hath's Heroes started working with Capitals' Chef Robert "Robbie" Wood to provide even more meals to first responders, which Wood is matching, plus an additional meal to a high-risk individual in need.

“Chef Robbie has been serving the Caps for a long time and makes unbelievable food, I can attest to it, and they also have a great initiative with Kid Power and DC Central Kitchen," Hathaway said on the Capitals Talk Podcast.

While many are fortunate to be able to work from home or be with family during the pandemic, first responders are out on the front lines.

“It’s the social responsibility of staying safe, keeping your distance and trying to stay healthy and protecting those around you," Hathaway said. "So I feel that’s where we can all feel great about helping somebody, by taking responsibility for your actions and helping out if you can."


Doing one's part is important to flatten the curve and Hathaway says donations of any amount are appreciated.

“For donations, if you can, if you have the opportunity to and you’re capable of, any amount really does make a difference.”

When he's not working with Hath's Heroes, Hathaway has been spending time with his fianceé and dog and trying to learn the Harmonica he got for Christmas. "Silent Night" was the first song he learned to play.

“Months away from the Christmas season, but I think I’ll be ready by then," Hathaway said.

Aside from downtime, Hathaway has taken solace in finding structure in his day.

“I think the biggest thing is trying to find a structure that works, that I can stay physically healthy and mentally healthy." 

“For everyone that’s feeling cooped up in their house, they gotta stay active and they gotta get some fresh air and they gotta stay healthy," Hathaway said.

While everyone has been binge-watching Netflix's hit documentary "Tiger King," Hathaway says he hasn't had the opportunity to watch yet.

“I might be the only person in America not watching Tiger King, but that’s not to say that I won’t get there at some point."

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