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Kuznetsov's return comes in the nick of time for both him and the team

Kuznetsov's return comes in the nick of time for both him and the team

ARLINGTON, Va. -- As the Capitals pondered what went wrong Saturday after being handed their first loss, it seemed clear the answer may have been just as much about who did not play on Saturday as the players who did.

“We just didn't execute what we wanted to do,” T.J. Oshie said of the power play after the team’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. “When you don't do that and you're not winning too many battles down low, the other team's PK's going to send a lot of pucks down the ice and that's a lot of skating for a power play unit. They got the better of us tonight, but we'll learn from it.”

The biggest issue for the team’s power play on Saturday was the break-ins into the offensive zone which should come as no surprise with Evgeny Kuznetov out.

Suspended for the first three games of the season, Kuznetsov is now slated to return to the lineup on Tuesday as the Capitals host the Dallas Stars.

Lars Eller stepped into Kuznetsov's spot at second-line center and performed well with three assists. The Caps are fortunate to have a player of his caliber who can slide into Kuznetsov’s role in his absence, but ultimately a team cannot lose a player as good as Kuznetsov and not feel his absence.

After winning the first two games, the suspension finally caught up with Washington on Saturday in the form of the power play.

In a game that could not be decided in 60 minutes, the Caps going 0-for-6 on the power play was a key factor in the loss. Kuznetsov is the primary puck-handler on the break-ins and without him, the power play on Saturday seemed out of sync. There were multiple offsides and icings as the getting past the blue line was a major struggle.

“You can't go 0-for-6 and then expect to have the outcome you want so it comes down to looking at why it was happening,” Todd Reirden said. “I thought their penalty kill worked extremely hard and were able to come up with more puck battles than we were and our entries weren't clean.”

“Obviously Kuz-mon's coming back here,” Oshie said. “I imagine he steps into that spot down there and hopefully we can get some chemistry going.”

The Caps may have earned five out of six points in the first three games, but it was clear on Saturday they were still missing Kuznetsov. As he spoke on Monday, it was clear he had missed the team just as much as they missed him.

“It's not easy to watch the games from upstairs or on the TV,” Kuznetsov said. “As the hockey player, when you play a lot of games you probably not realize how cool it is to actually go through warmup, go through all the process and play the hockey game. When you miss couple games, you start realize how much easier, much better, much cooler to play the hockey then be at the workout area.”

“It's just the three games, but for me it was like a couple months,” he added.

It likely felt the same way for Reirden.

The Caps have a brutal October schedule and losing one of the team’s top two centers for the first three games could have potentially put the team in a major hole. Washington, however, rallied to go 2-0-1 to start the season and will look to gain some momentum with Kuznetsov back.

It does not appear Kuznetsov will immediately step into a top-six role upon his return to the lineup against Dallas. He skated on the third line centering Carl Hagelin and Richard Panik during practice on Monday.

Reirden said after practice there was no significance or message to be sent by having Kuznetsov on the third line. It was just a factor of Eller playing well with Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie.

That’s just fine with Kuznetsov who said: “it's just a chance finally to get out of here from my house.”

“My job is just do not make worse,” Kuznetsov said. “Whatever the coach going to tell me to do, I just have to execute and have to play the game and whatever his plan will be for me, I just have to do it.”

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How to watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs NHL 20 simulation and Caps' chippy Nov. 18 win over Ducks

How to watch Capitals vs. Maple Leafs NHL 20 simulation and Caps' chippy Nov. 18 win over Ducks

The Capitals’ simulated season continues on Tuesday night when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL 20, aired on NBC Sports Washington. Real-life Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin will be on the call.

In a partnership with Monumental Sports Network, NBCSW is airing all Wizards and Capitals games in simulated NBA 2K20 and NHL 20 games, taking place on the dates and times according to each team's regular season schedule with commentary from NBCSW's experts surrounding the coverage.

After the game wraps up, NBCSW will also air the Caps’ physical Nov. 18 affair with the Anaheim Ducks. Richard Panik scores his first goal in a Washington and Garnet Hathaway is ejected after exchanging more than just blows in a fight with several Ducks.

Here’s how you can catch both games Tuesday night.

Broadcast Schedule

7:00 PM – NHL 20: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Capitals (P)

8:00 PM – NHL Classics: Anaheim Ducks @ Capitals from Nov. 18, 2019 (R)

10:30 PM – NHL 20: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Capitals (R)

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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Garnet Hathaway helping to provide meals for first responders and high-risk individuals

Garnet Hathaway helping to provide meals for first responders and high-risk individuals

When Washington Capitals winger Garnet Hathaway started Hath's Heroes last year, he originally aimed to give local first responders an authentic game experience at the Capital One Arena. 

Now, he's shifting the focus of his platform to raise money for local first responders most at risk of contracting COVID-19. 

Originally an initiative supplying Arlington first responders with Capitals tickets and a postgame tour of the locker room, Hath's Heroes is now raising funds to provide free meals to local first responders and at-risk individuals. 

Hathaway pledged to match the first $5,000 in donations.

You can donate here. 

Hathaway first got the idea to start an initiative geared towards giving back to first responders because his great grandfather, also named Garnet, was a firefighter in Winnipeg. During these tough unprecedented times, Hathaway is using his platform for something of greater importance. 

Now that the NHL has been suspended for a couple of weeks, the tickets that were offered to the first responders were no longer appropriate. With fans and players quarantining at home in isolation these days, providing some relief for the workers in contact with patients who have the disease is an incredible gesture from Hathaway. 

While SuperFd Market catering teamed up with Hath's Heroes to make it all possible, it doesn't end there. Hathaway announced Kid Nation and D.C. Central Kitchen will also be helping out to provide a meal for high-risk people for every meal donated to first responders.

Hathaway has been passionate about helping first responders in the past, and you can tell from his recent Twitter posts.

Hathaway surely heard many brave stories from the first responders before the coronavirus outbreak, and will surely hear many more in the coming months too. 

It's great to see a talented offensive player go offensive to combat the viral outbreak. Become a Hath's Hero and donate to a great cause. 

Stay connected to the Capitals and Wizards with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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