Caps prep for Stadium Series with outdoor practice, family skate


RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Washington Capitals took the ice at Carter-Finley Stadium for roughly 90 minutes on Friday night, getting a good look at the playing conditions just about 24 hours before puck drop in Saturday's Stadium Series matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Despite on-and-off rainfall throughout the day, Capitals players came away impressed with the conditions at Carter-Finley Stadium.

"I thought the ice was pretty good," T.J. Oshie said following practice. "We were fine out there, a lot of guys were snapping it around pretty good. The boards were pretty lively, so you could see a couple of firm bounces off there."

In an interview with NBC Sports Washington's Al Koken, Capitals forward Tom Wilson agreed with Oshie that the ice was in good condition. Wilson has not played since Jan. 24 with a lower-body injury. Despite Wilson participating in Friday's skate, Capitals coach Peter Laviolette was non-commital whether he'll play against Carolina.

Besides testing the ice of the outdoor rink, several Capitals players used Friday's skate to take in the different sightlines and lighting in Carter-Finley Stadium. Oshie admitted it was different at first, but believes he and his teammates will get used to it once the game begins.

"The sightlines are different. Without having stands behind the glass, I think the depth perception is a little off," Oshie said. "We had that in Annapolis, too, and once the game started that didn't matter too much. .. All in all, a pretty amazing setup. The locker room is great. it looks really good out there by the ice. The lights are good, the glare isn't too bad off the ice."


After roughly 40 minutes of what mimicked a typical morning skate of a gameday, the ice at Carter-Finley Stadium quickly became a family affair.

Nicklas Backstrom was joined by his wife, Liza Berg, and their children. After Backstrom's six-year-old son Vince skated around the rink, Wilson joked that he'd be his agent down the line. When that idea was brought up to Backstrom later on, the Swede cracked a smile before saying "it depends on what fees. It's all about fees."

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Wilson was joined by his wife, Taylor, who was only skating for the second time. The couple made multiple laps around the ice, with Taylor holding on to Tom for extra support just in case. After a successful skate, Wilson told Koken he was impressed with the improvement she made.

The other Capitals player whose family stole the show was Garnet Hathaway, who was joined by his wife and his son, along with several family members who stood rinkside. Hathaway made multiple laps throughout the ice holding his son both on his shoulder and close to the ice, giving him the full experience.

The family skate brought plenty of smiles and joy to the Capitals players, a breath of fresh air after recent struggles and ahead of a crucial matchup Saturday for the playoff race. 

"It's awesome," Backstrom said. "First of all, it's very fortunate to be part of an outdoor game. To have your family here the day before and have an outdoor skate, it's a great thing and memories for life. That's for sure."

"It's awesome to share with our families," Hathaway said. "We're so lucky to play in this league with an awesome organization. Bringing families into it is the cherry on top."

For as thrilling or an environment as the Stadium Series matchup should be, Saturday's Washington-Carolina contest is a significant one for the postseason push. After falling to Florida on Thursday, the Capitals (62 points) are now tied with the Panthers for the last Wild Card spot in the East, just one point ahead of the New York Islanders.

After losing three games in a row, the Capitals know how important Saturday's game is.

"I think inside the locker room if you can't find one reason or another to be ultra-motivated for this match, I don't know if you have a heartbeat," Oshie said. "We've got an older team with a lot of families, a lot of kids on the team. To get a win while they're in the stands there, under these circumstances, it's super easy to wake up tomorrow and be ready to rock."