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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recognizes finishing regular season 'may not be possible'

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recognizes finishing regular season 'may not be possible'

News of a possible plan by the MLB to return to play in May has sparked optimism around the country that sports could be returning sooner than expected. For the NHL, however, any news of a possible return date is still weeks away at the earliest.

“I think right now there’s too much uncertainty," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Tuesday on NBCSN's new "Lunch Talk Live" show. "Hopefully we’ll all know more by the end of April. From an NHL standpoint, we’re viewing all of our options. We want to be ready to go as soon as we get a green light…Nothing’s been ruled in, nothing’s been ruled out.”

President Donald Trump held a conference call with several leading sports figures including Bettman on Saturday, but Bettman remarked that call gave no clarity on any specific timetable for when sports might return.

"We're all going to have to wait until we have a lot more information, maybe in the next few weeks, before we can make any decisions," Bettman said.

The NHL season has been on pause since March 12. The regular season was scheduled to end this past Saturday with the Stanley Cup Playoffs beginning this week. Obviously, that has not happened.

Restarting the season will be no easy task and the deeper the league's pause goes into the spring and perhaps even the summer, the more difficult it becomes to finish out the remainder of the season. While there are some, such as Alex Ovechkin,  who are advocating that the league jump right into the playoffs once play resumes, Bettman believes the best scenario remains to finish the regular season, though he is not sure if the league ultimately will be able to do so.

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"The best thing and the easiest thing would be if at some point if we could complete the regular season and then go into the playoffs as we normally do," Bettman said. "We understand that that may not be possible and that’s why we are considering every conceivable alternative to deal with whatever the eventuality is.”

But it wasn't all pessimism from Bettman on Tuesday.

Obviously, hockey is not in the cards until health officials begin to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. The fact that the NHL wants to have a full 82-game season next year means that the current pause can't go on perpetually. There has to be a drop-dead date in which this season cannot extend past in order to protect the 2020-21 season.

Whatever that date may be, however, it is probably not as early as you may think as the NHL is prepared to play into the summer to decide a champion.

While maintaining ice is certainly easier in lower temperatures when arenas do not have to deal with as much humidity, Bettman definitively stated, "Ice won't be a factor."

“I do believe we can play well into the summer," Bettman said. He added, "The days of when games had to be postponed because there was no air conditioning in a building are long behind us…We can handle making ice now in any condition."

If awarding the Stanley Cup in 2020 means summer hockey, that's what the league will do.

But for now, all we can do is wait as there are more important things to worry about now than just hockey.

“All of us running sports are basically focused on the same things," Bettman said. "First and foremost, people’s health and well-being and safety is the most important, and while we all miss sports, either putting it on or watching it, and we all want to come back as quickly as possible, we understand what the number one priority is.”

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How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's best games with the Capitals

How to watch Evgeny Kuznetsov's best games with the Capitals

Over the past six seasons, forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has been one of the biggest reasons for the Capitals' success.

Kuzy has been extremely durable for the Capitals, playing in at least 76 games over the past six seasons, excluding the 2019-20 shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The winger has been one of Washington's best attacking players during that span, splitting time between both Washington's first and second lines. 

No. 92 has also found a knack for playing his best hockey on the sport's biggest stages. Kuznetsov netted arguably the most important goal in Capitals history, scoring the game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2018 Eastern Conference semi-finals in overtime to eliminate the Pittsburgh Penguins, "exorcising the demons" for a franchise that previously could not get past the second round. We all know how that story ends, with the Capitals hoisting the Stanley Cup just over a month later.

On Sunday, NBC Sports Washington is airing four of Kuznetsov's best regular-season performances. At 9 a.m., tune in to watch the Caps 6-5 overtime thriller over the Tampa Bay Maple Leafs from January 3, 2017. In that contest, Kuzy totaled four points, netting one goal and notching three assists, including one that set up Alex Ovechkin's game-winning goal.

Following that, we travel back to October of 2018, when Kuznetsov turned in another four-point performance in a 5-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in a rematch of the 2018 Stanley Cup. Kuzy started the scoring in the first period with a power-play goal and would tally three assists later on in the match as the Caps cruised to a dominating win.

At 2 p.m., the Caps 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings from February 11, 2019, will re-air. In this matchup, Kuznetsov finished with four points once again, this time finding the back of the net twice to go along with a pair of assists. To close out the day, tune in to see Kuznetsov net two goals in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes at 4:30 p.m.

A trip down memory lane that highlights Kuznetsov's greatest games is the perfect way to spend a Sunday.

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When:

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Where:

Broadcast Schedule:

9:00 a.m.: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Capitals from January 3, 2017

11:30 a.m.: Vegas Golden Knights @ Capitals from October 10, 2018

2:00 p.m.: Los Angeles Kings @ Capitals from February 11, 2019

4:30 p.m.: Arizona Coyotes @ Capitals from November 11, 2019 

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Ever Wonder: Why the Capitals' jerseys have three stars on them

Ever Wonder: Why the Capitals' jerseys have three stars on them

The current Washington Capitals jersey design — the red home sweaters with the white away ones — has been the defining look for the team throughout much of the Alex Ovechkin era.

During the summer of the 2007 season, the Caps rebranded. The franchise changed its colors from black and blue back to the organization's original design scheme of red, white, and blue. The jerseys that followed were similar to Washington's old-school look, having plenty of similarities with the uniform they wore from 1974-1994.

However, when the Caps unveiled their new look in 2007, there was one big difference from their old uniforms. The new-look had three stars on the front, compared to the six stars that had been across the top of the old sweaters.

Capitals assistant general manager Don Fishman spoke with NBC Sports Washington and explained why the franchise chose to go with just three stars, and it's because each star has a specific meaning.

"The three stars on our current Capitals jersey represent the three jurisdictions: Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.," Fishman said.

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While cutting the number of stars from six to three on the front of the sweater was a big change, Fishman explained that the new uniform was designed to be a modernized version of the franchise's original look.

"It was sort of meant to update and modernize the original Caps jersey, beautiful, old-school, 1970's work hard," Fishman said. "That jersey had six stars and was even on the jerseys in the 90s with the blue and black jersey. So we wanted to keep that concept of the stars, but we didn't want to keep that exact same look. So instead, we redid three stars right on the wordmark. The three stars seemed perfect."

The uniform change also marked the beginning of an incredible postseason run the Capitals have gone on since.

In 2007, the team's first year with the new look, the franchise made the playoffs for the first time in the Ovechkin era. Since then, they've made the postseason 11 of the past 12 seasons and won their first Stanley Cup in 2018.

For Fishman and many Caps fans, the red and white uniforms will always remind them of Washington's first championship and the franchise's biggest star.

"I think it's neat how this redesign will always be linked to Ovechkin and the Capitals' first Stanley Cup," Fishman said.

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