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New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

A defending champion will face a number of obstacles in its quest to repeat.

But for the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals, the path back has an additional hurdle.

Gone is Barry Trotz, the head coach who helped lead the team to its first Stanley Cup. A team hoping to overcome a long postseason and a short offseason will now also have to do it with a new head coach.

Among all the challenges the Caps will face this season, however, no one seems to be worried about the transition to new coach Todd Reirden.

“This is probably going to be the smoothest transition of any coaching change that I’ve ever heard of,” T.J. Oshie said. “Everyone respects Todd, respects the way he coaches, respects how he treats people.”

Reirden was a member of Trotz’s staff as an assistant coach whose primary duty was working with the defensemen. His ability to develop relationships and bring out the best in the team’s blue-liners certainly endeared him to the players.

“Even with all of the D he worked really closely with, from day one, he sat us all down and kind of mapped us all out -- what you need to get better at, what's holding you back mentally or physically, your game, D-zone, O-zone, whatever,” John Carlson said.

“I think he's a good reader of people and really detailed about certain things that I know changed my game -- just little things to think about that you do so many times, but maybe you never work on them or you never think about improving in that area.”

Reirden’s coaching was on display last season when he took a fringe NHL defenseman in Michal Kempny at the trade deadline and turned him into a top-four defenseman for the Caps’ Cup run.

The expertise and proven results have players like Madison Bowey excited for how they can grow with Reirden now the man in charge behind the bench.

“I think we all just want to learn from [Reirden], myself included,” Bowey said.

“Last year was just a big learning curve for me and he helped be tremendously along that way. I just want to keep learning from him.”

Rave reviews from the defensemen should be expected given that is the main area of his experience and expertise. Since taking over the team, however, it is not just the defensemen who have taken notice.

Not to be outdone, the forwards appreciate both his hockey expertise and the personal relationships he develops with the players.

“He's got really good ideas and the way he's approaching us which I like,” Nicklas Backstrom said.

“[Reirden] is so good at creating relationships with people and talking things out,” Oshie said. “And that’s the thing that I think I like the best. He likes to hear from the players, what they think.”

Many players were also quick to point out that, while Trotz may have been the head coach and the main voice that helped the Caps reach the ultimate prize, Reirden had a big hand in that championship run as well.

“He was a huge influence on our success,” Tom Wilson said.” The whole coaching staff the last few years has been second to none. Todd is well deserving, he's well qualified, he's been right in the thick of things throughout the ride the last couple of years and I expect nothing less moving forward. He's a smart guy, a passionate coach and I think a lot of the guys are excited to get moving with it.”

“What a guy Trotzie is,” Oshie said.

“He’s going to be missed. But he’s on the other side now. We got a new year going and I’m excited to play for [Reirden] and just see what he has in store for the guys. It’s going to be a fresh voice for us – even though he had a lot of say before. But like I said, I’m excited to get going here with [Reirden] at the helm.”

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Barry Trotz’s return eight months after Stanley Cup an unprecedented moment in D.C. sports

Barry Trotz’s return eight months after Stanley Cup an unprecedented moment in D.C. sports

ARLINGTON — It will be a moment unprecedented in Washington sports history. 

Just eight months ago, Barry Trotz was the toast of D.C., the man who labored four years to get the Capitals a Stanley Cup and finally did it. The champagne-and-beer-soaked celebration lasted almost a week. 

But before the end of June, before the parade confetti had been swept from Constitution Avenue, Trotz was gone, a contract impasse too much for either side to overcome. He resigned with Washington’s permission and landed a new job with the New York Islanders, who visit Capital One Arena for the first time this season on Friday. 
 
There will be a video tribute to Trotz during the first period and you can expect a standing ovation from Capitals fans for the man who delivered them a title for the first time in franchise history.
 
After that, two teams battling for first place in the Metropolitan Division will try to resume an important January game. The Capitals have slipped lately. The Islanders, who lost star center Jon Tavares in free agency to the Toronto Maple Leafs, are the surprise of the NHL. Trotz at midseason is a candidate for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year. 
 
“We see every game as a normal game and try to get ready as a normal game whether there’s a former coach or it’s a playoff game,” Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. “But obviously we all know what Barry’s done for us here as players and for us as a city and it’s pretty special so I’m sure he will be well-received here tomorrow and he should be. He deserves it.”
 
There have been other prominent athletes and coaches who have returned to the District. But nothing like this. Joe Gibbs coached the Redskins to three Super Bowl titles in 11 seasons and they reached a fourth. Burned out and ready to pursue other interests, including his NASCAR team and a brief stint as a television analyst, Gibbs eventually returned to coach the Redskins in 2004. One local newspaper headlined the seismic event “Return of the King.” But Gibbs came back as the Redskins coach, not as an opponent, and it was 11 years after he’d left. He led Washington to the playoffs twice before retiring for good after the 2007 season. 
 
Championships aren’t exactly common in this city. Dick Motta led the Bullets to an NBA title in 1978 and to the NBA Finals in 1979 before the team fell apart in the 1979-80 season. Frustrated, Motta received permission to speak to other NBA teams before the start of the 1980-81 season and was hired by the expansion Dallas Mavericks. 
 
But he had left on poor terms with his former players and the memories of the championship season had dimmed by then. The Mavericks were outmatched when Motta returned to Capital Centre on Nov. 6, 1980 in a 116-95 loss to the Bullets. His return didn’t exactly capture the city’s imagination, either. Only 6,285 fans were there to see it.
 
Many thousands more will be on hand when Trotz and the Islanders play the Capitals on Friday. Washington won the first meeting on Nov. 26 in Brooklyn. Trotz was presented with his championship ring in the Capitals’ locker room before that game. The expected ovation from the Capital One Arena crowd will put a final closure on the most memorable season of his hockey career.    
 
Prominent athletes have also returned to Washington after distinguished careers. Gilbert Arenas was a beloved character for the Wizards from 2003 to 2010, but injuries kept those teams from a deep playoff run and an infamous locker room gun incident led to a 50-game suspension in 2010. The following year Arenas was traded to the Orlando Magic and received a warm ovation when he returned to Capital One Arena on Feb. 4, 2011. But those mid-to-late 2000s Wizards were looked upon as a self-destructive group winning just one playoff series and never more than 45 games. 
 
Peter Bondra played 961 games for the Capitals before they traded him to the Ottawa Senators in the midst of a total teardown. He was traded Feb. 18, 2004 and was back in Washington by March 8, where the fans serenaded him with “Let’s Go, Bondra!” chants. But again the atmosphere was muted given the Capitals had already traded almost all of their veteran players that season and wouldn’t make the playoffs again until 2008. They lost 4-1. 
 
Trotz ranks second all time in coaching wins with the Capitals (205) behind Bryan Murray (346) despite coaching in Washington just four years. He led the team to two Presidents’ Trophies and three Metropolitan Division titles to go with that Stanley Cup. The ring ceremony was special, he told his former team in a moving speech before the Nov. 26 game. His Islanders have won 13 of their past 16 games and are now just one point behind the Capitals in the division, making Friday's game especially meaningful.
 
“For him it’ll be a pretty emotional night,” Capitals forward Tom Wilson said. “We went through a lot, he was here for a long time, ups and downs, he was part of the community and I think he’s well respected by the community of D.C., so it will be a great moment for him and his family. He deserves it. He put in a lot of time and worked extremely hard to get this team to accomplish what we did last year. It will be good to see him again - and to take him down.”

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Capitals vs. Islanders: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Islanders: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Making his return to Capital One Arena, Barry Trotz will lead his New York Islanders against the Washington Capitals. 

It will be the first time Trotz sees the Stanley Cup banner in person and the second time that he will go at odds with his former team. 

But as things stand for both teams, they are going in opposite directions. The Isles are one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of 12 of their last 16 contests.  Washington quite possibly has hit their post-Stanley Cup hangover, and is 4-4-2 in their last 10. 

These two teams met up earlier this season and they already gave Trotz his ring, but the Caps got the victory. With the way the two teams are trending right now in the Metro division, Trotz may get his revenge. 

Here is everything you need to know about the Friday night game, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington.

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders Game 47 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Capitals vs. Islanders game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington

Live Stream:  You can live stream Islanders at Capitals on the MyTeams by NBC Sports App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS TV SCHEDULE

6:30 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
7:00 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:30 PM: Capitals vs. Islanders
10:00 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:30 PM: Caps Overtime Live
11:00 PM: D.C. Sports Live

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS INJURY REPORT:

Capitals: Christian Djoos (leg, Injured Reserve)

Islanders: Thomas Hickey (upper body, day-to-day), Andrew Ladd (lower body, Injured Reserve)

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Braden Holtby, G, Capitals (17-10-2, 2.80 GAA): Holtby missed the past two games for Caps due to an eye injury he suffered on Jan. 12 against Columbus. His status is still up in the air for this matchup, but in the past 150+ minutes (2.5 games) without Holtby the team has allowed 12 goals.

Alex Ovechkin, F, Capitals (33 G, 19 A, 52 Pts): As much as the defense has struggled, so has the offense. Four goals in the past three games is all the Caps can muster, with one of the four coming off of the stick of Ovechkin. He has not been the reason for the lack of the offense, but Ovi needs to get them out of the funk. 

Robin Lehner, G, Islanders (13-7-3, 2.16 GAA): Dominating is all that Lehner has been doing for the Isles as of late and is a huge part of their comeback. When he's made it on the ice, the team has won nine of their last 10. His GAA is tops in the NHL and his save percentage (.928) is second. Not a good recipe for a Caps team that has trouble finding the net. 

CAPITALS vs. ISLANDERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 252 (37 postseason)

All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead 124-115-13

Regular Season Record: Capitals lead 108-94-13

Playoff Record: Islanders lead 21-16

Last Meeting: Caps win 4-1 OT (11/26/18)

Last 10: Capitals lead 6-4

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