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Stephenson all smiles after being 'thrown in the fire'

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Stephenson all smiles after being 'thrown in the fire'

When Chandler Stephenson woke up on Thursday morning he had no idea he’d be making his National Hockey League debut for the Washington Capitals later that night.

Sent down to the Hershey Bears on the last day of training camp cuts on Oct. 5, Stephenson, 21, was asked to hop in his car and get to Washington in time to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Without the benefit of a morning skate, Stephenson did as he was told and logged the most important 8 minutes and 43 seconds of his life in front of a sellout crowd at Verizon Center.

Back home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a herd of family and friends huddled around televisions waiting to see when No. 18 would hop over the boards.

“I told them I was playing and they couldn’t really believe it,” Stephenson said after the Caps’ 4-1 win over the Hawks. “I was kind of thrown in the fire. I know my dad was a little disappointed he couldn’t be here. It’s not a short flight from Saskatoon.”

RELATED: Friday Six-Pack: First Q&A of the Capitals 2015-16 season!

With the Capitals playing at home again on Saturday night (7 p.m., CSN) before embarking on a three-game trip to western Canada, Stephenson said he wasn’t sure if any family members could make it to D.C. in time for Saturday’s game. Or whether he would be in the Caps’ lineup.

“We’re kind of playing everything by ear,” he said.

If first impressions are lasting ones, Caps coach Barry Trotz may have a tough time pulling Stephenson from the lineup. In his limited action Stephenson had one giveaway, one takeaway and won five of six faceoffs while playing on a fourth line with Brooks Laich and Stan Galiev.

“Chandler was really good,” said Trotz, who, like Stephenson, played for the Regina Pats of the Western League. “I thought he showed good patience. Positionally, he’s really, really good. That’s his strength.

“I thought he was just fine. You look across and you’re seeing Jonathan Toews and (Patrick) Kane and the Stanley Cup champions for your first game and sometimes that can be a little overwhelming. But he didn’t seem overwhelmed at all.”

At least not on the outside.

“With all the jitters and all the nerves, I thought it was good to keep as calm, cool and collected as I could,” Stephenson said. “(Laich) was awesome. He’s been in the league for a while and he tried to keep me as calm as he could. Having (Galiev) on the wing was good because we had some chemistry last year in Hershey. So it was good to see a familiar face on my line.

“Playing a team like the Hawks was a big test,” he said. “It was good getting those four preseason games. It helps you feel more comfortable. You can’t help but think what’s at stake and all the fans. It was very, very special for me.”

MORE CAPITALS: Second thoughts on Holtby, Ovi, Chorney, Nisky versus Chicago

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Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

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NBC Sports Washington/USATSI

Alex Ovechkin and wife Nastya Ovechkina welcome baby boy

After lifting the Stanley Cup just over two months ago, something else very exciting has happened in Alex Ovechkin's life.

Saturday morning, Nastya and Alex Ovechkin welcomed their first child, a baby boy named Sergei, after Ovechkin's late brother. 

Ovi spent this week practicing at the Florida Panthers' facilities with other NHL players living in the surrounding area.

After the Cup's visit to Moscow, Nastya and Alex settled down at their apartment in Miami, staying put and preparing for the birth. 

The couple were married two years ago but didn't hold an official ceremony until July of last year. The celebration was as lavish as you'd expect.

She revealed her pregnancy shortly after the Cup victory, and has kept us up to date on life this summer via Instagram. A few weeks ago, the Ovechkins graced HELLO! Russia magazine, showing off Nastya's baby bump among their glamour shots.

💛 @aleksandrovechkinofficial #hello #hellorussia @hello__ru

A post shared by Nastasiya Ovechkina (@nastyashubskaya) on

Congratulations to Ovi and Nastya, and all our best wishes for health and happiness!

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Capitals draft pick admits he is...a Flyers fan

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals draft pick admits he is...a Flyers fan

Say it ain't so.

Mitchell Gibson is the first goalie the Capitals have drafted since Ilya Samsonov in 2015, but they may be thinking twice about their selection after a recent shocking interview.

Gibson spoke with a local Philadelphia CBS station and revealed that both he and his family...are Flyers fans.

Insert dramatic music.

"I think my family will always be Flyers fans in their hearts and I guess I will be a little bit," Gibson admitted, hopefully with guilt in his voice.

Gibson was selected by the Caps in the fourth round of the 2018 draft, but clearly the scouts did not do their homework. It's as if Gibson grew up a hockey fan in a place like Phoenixville, Pa. (about an hour outside of Philadelphia) without anticipating the future that he may one day be drafted by a rival team like Washington.

Shame, shame.

The young netminder tried to make up for his horrifying admission later in the interview.

"The Capitals are definitely treating me well right now so I would like to be their goalie," he said.

A likely story.

Gibson is only 19 and set to begin his first collegiate season at Harvard in 2018 so at least there is still time for Gibson to overcome his shameful past. And hey, it could always be worse. At least he's not a Penguins fan.

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