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Tom Wilson knows how hard the Kuznetsov suspension will sting: 'It's not easy to watch your team go into battle'

Tom Wilson knows how hard the Kuznetsov suspension will sting: 'It's not easy to watch your team go into battle'

ARLINGTON, Va. -- When the Capitals start the 2019-20 season, Evgeny Kuznetsov will not be on the ice. He will not play in the season opener against the St. Louis Blues, he will not play former coach Barry Trotz when the team travels to play the New York Islanders and he will not play in the home opener against the team that eliminated Washington from the playoffs last season.

Tom Wilson knows how Kuznetsov feels.

“It's not easy to watch your team go into battle and you be on the sidelines,” Wilson told NBC Sports Washington. “You definitely want to be out there with them, but can't do anything about it now and you've just got to make sure that you're ready to go once you're back out there.”

Wilson missed the first 16 games of the 2018-19 season when he was suspended for a preseason hit to St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. Like Kuznetsov, Wilson was also forced to miss the start of the season.

When Kuznetsov spoke to the media on Saturday regarding his suspension, he expressed his appreciation to the fans for their support. With his suspension, however, Kuznetsov will be forced to miss the home opener on Oct. 5 and will not be able to play in front of those fans when the city celebrates the return of hockey.

That was even tougher for Wilson last year as he was not able to play in the home opener when the team raised its Stanley Cup banner to the rafters.

“It is tough,” he said. “It's a cool moment for the fans, it's a cool moment for the players. Stuff happens and you have to deal with it, but you never want to miss a game whether it's the first game or the 50th or whatever. You want to be on the ice every night. That's what we love to do.

“It'll be alright. I'm sure he'll be around to take it in, he just won't be out and playing.”

But the suspension to Kuznetsov will not just be hard on him, it will be hard on the team as well.

Washington faces a brutal schedule and, though Kuznetsov will only miss the first three games, the schedule and matchups in those three games were going to be difficult even before the team knew it would be without one of its top two centers.

The Caps open the season in St, Louis on the night the Blues celebrate their Stanley Cup victory and unfurl their championship banner. Two days later, the team will be in New York for the Islanders’ home-opener. The first game in Washington will come the next day on the back-end of a back-to-back and it will pit the Caps against the Carolina Hurricanes who eliminated them from the playoffs last season.

That’s a tough stretch and if the team struggles, that could make the suspension even harder for Kuznetsov, according to Wilson.

“When you're watching those games, you just have that motivation that when you come back, just to try to make up for lost time and be the best player that you can be in order to make it up to your teammates,” Wilson said.

There is a silver-lining to glean from Wilson’s suspension last year and that is what happened when he returned.

When Wilson’s suspension finally ended in 2018, the team got back a motivated winger who was dominant in his return. Wilson recorded eight goals and six assists in his first 10 games back including a goal in his very first game. After a lackluster season, perhaps the suspension can jolt Kuznetsov back into the 2018 playoff form that allowed him to dominate the league.

“I expect him to come back flying and playing his best hockey,” Wilson said. “We'll appreciate having him back in the lineup and a little spark in Game 4 for sure.”

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Capitals at Ducks Game 31: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

Capitals at Ducks Game 31: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, how to watch

These teams faced off just two weeks ago, and things got a little crazy. Fists flew, punches were thrown, and tensions were high. 

The Washington Capitals are eager to seal this road trip with what would be their sixth consecutive victory (and ultimately staying 1.00 on this trip westward). 

Atop the league standings and sitting seventh-to-last respectively, the Capitals and Ducks are at very different points nearly two months in to the 2019-2020 NHL season.

Anaheim is 12-12-4 after beating the LA Kings 4-2 Monday night, the only team they are doing better than in the Pacific Division. The Ducks face a crucial point to spur some upward momentum, but will be met by swift Capitals offense (+26 differential so far this season) as well as Norris contender John Carlson, who scored his 100th and 101st career goals in Los Angeles Wednesday night against the Kings. 

CAPITALS-DUCKS GAME 31: HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. Anaheim Ducks

Where: The Honda Center, Anaheim, CA

When: Friday, December 6, 2019 at 10 PM ET

TV Channel: Capitals-Ducks will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus. (NBC Sports Washington channel finder)

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Ducks game on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

Radio: Caps Radio 24/7

CAPITALS-DUCKS TV SCHEDULE:

9:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live (LIVE)
9:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live (LIVE)
10:00 PM: NHL: Capitals @ Anaheim Ducks (LIVE) [NBC Sports Washington Plus]
12:30 AM: Caps Postgame Live (LIVE) [NBC Sports Washington Plus]

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'I look so damn good': Beninati, Laughlin humbled, thrilled by their bobbleheads

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'I look so damn good': Beninati, Laughlin humbled, thrilled by their bobbleheads

The legendary duo of Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin will soon be immortalized with their very own bobblehead on Saturday as part of a giveaway for a blood drive being held at MedStarCapitals Iceplex. You can get a good sense of the personalities of the two from their reaction when they first heard about the bobblehead.

"I think it's incredible, I'm totally flattered by it," Beninati said.

"About time," Locker said. "Everyone else has one, I figured I've got longevity here. I thought I would've had one sooner."

"Just kidding," he quickly added.

It's that sense of humor and contrasting personalities that has endeared the duo to Capitals fans for so long. Beninati and Laughlin have been paired together on NBC Sports Washington's Capitals game broadcast since 1994.

Because of their place within the Caps community, it is perhaps no surprise to see them get the notable honor of a bobblehead. Despite the initial jokes, both broadcasters were incredibly honored when approached with the idea.

"It's cool that we were asked to have one," Laughlin said. "I think it's very cool if you get a bobblehead. I thought all the players had got one so I thought maybe someway in the years to come we might have a chance to get one."

Both have enjoyed the process as well.

"The cool thing is I've seen it change from like a clay formation to an early mockup to, ok let's put some paint on it," Beninati said. "I had no idea that these things change so radically from the original first blush look to the finished product."

Both Beninati and Laughlin were shown various iterations of the bobblehead and offered their critiques. The bobblehead was then updated each time leading to the final product which will be given out to participants at Saturday's blood drive.

"It's very tough to get realistic," Laughlin said. "It's a mold, they're doing different things, we went back and forth, I said well I hold my mic in this hand so they changed that, I'm sure Joe had a lot of changes to his."

Beninati indeed had a few suggestions, but not just for his own visage.

While both were thrilled with how the bobblehead began to develop, Beninati could not help but notice just how...young Laughlin looked.

"I was the one who was critiquing his side of the bobblehead the whole time," Beninati said. The biggest question he had: "What are you doing with Locker's hair?"

"It's probably me when I played back in the playing days, but I like it," Laughlin said.

There's a lot of brown hair on that bobblehead which...may not be the most accurate depiction of Laughlin's current look.

"He's laughing because it's Locker minus 30 years which is what he will lord over me and continue to razz me about for the rest of time," Beninati said. "He'll look at it and he'll just start laughing and that's enough, that's what he does."

"I think I look so damn good, so young, way better than Joe B. and that's why I want a single of myself," Laughlin said. "I'm going to cut mine in half."

Regardless of how many years it may have shaved off of Laughlin, it's all in good fun and for a great cause.

The blood drive will be held on Saturday at MedStar Capitals Iceplex from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. At the time of writing, every appointment for whole blood, double red cell and platelet donations was full.

"We've been blessed for a long, long time.," Beninati said. "The fans have treated us very, very well. Most importantly, I'm hoping that the blood drive is extremely successful. It's something obviously that's needed."

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