Capitals

Last-place Eagles realize no one's job is secure

Last-place Eagles realize no one's job is secure

PHILADELPHIA (AP) If the Philadelphia Eagles needed a reminder about job security, they got one when they returned to practice.

The abrupt release of two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin put the entire team on notice. The Eagles (3-8) have lost seven straight games and players shouldn't feel safe about their position, no matter what.

``I guess in a way you kind of expect something to happen,'' veteran Mike Patterson said Wednesday. ``You just feel like the team is trying to make the best choice for us to win games. That's the only thing as a player you look at it.''

Babin was cut a day after a 30-22 loss to Carolina on Monday night. He had 5 1/2 sacks in 11 games and his playing time had been reduced in recent weeks. Babin signed a $28 million, five-year contract last offseason after a breakout year in Tennessee in 2010. He had 18 sacks for the Eagles last season, but slumped along with the rest of the defense this year. He was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9).

The news of Babin's release came on the team's day off. Fellow starting defensive end Trent Cole was with Babin when he got the call from coach Andy Reid.

``I was surprised,'' Cole said. ``I've been in the league for eight years now and seen people come and go and it's just business. There's nothing you can really say. That's between him and the franchise and that's it. We're going to miss him. He was part of our D-line; we were tight. We're a close-knit group. He's a great player. He's a very aggressive player you want to have on your team.

``He's going to find another home.''

Babin's departure creates more playing time for third-year pro Brandon Graham, a first-round pick in 2010 who has yet to live up to expectations. Rookie Vinny Curry, a second-round pick this year, also should get more snaps. Curry made his season debut against the Panthers after being deactivated the first 10 games.

``I'm excited,'' Graham said. ``I can't wait to go out there and make plays. That's all I'm here for is to make plays and to go out there and do what I do. That's what I'm going to do. Everybody right now is fighting with pride. It's all about pride right now and how we're going to finish these last five games. I know I've got pride and I know my teammates do, so we're going to go out there, going to give it our all and whatever happens, happens.''

Releasing Babin is the first of what likely will be a massive roster overhaul. Reid is all-but-gone, too. Unless owner Jeffrey Lurie somehow backs off his preseason directive that another 8-8 season would be ``unacceptable,'' Reid won't return for a 15th year.

That means players will be looking to impress other teams and coaches in hopes of landing jobs somewhere next season. Even Eagles with big contracts - like Babin - are in danger of being let go.

``We're staying positive right now,'' safety Kurt Coleman said. ``We're not worried about the outsiders. We need to continue to get better every day. We need to keep picking each other up and continue to just push each other because right now, it's tough. This isn't an ideal situation that we want to be in, but what we can do is control what we do today. Then tomorrow will take care of itself.''

The Eagles play at Dallas (5-6) on Sunday night in their second consecutive nationally televised game. They'll be without two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve with broken ribs.

Quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy still haven't been cleared to practice because of concussions and it's likely they'll also miss the game. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (tailbone) and center Dallas Reynolds (ankle) also missed practice Wednesday.

``Losing DeSean's a big loss,'' rookie QB Nick Foles said. ``He's a heck of a player. He's such a threat out there, but we'll have guys step up. It's football and I know we'll have guys step into that position and do a great job.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Players to watch

It doesn't take an expert to tell you players like Alex Ovechkin or Marc-Andre Fleury will play a big role in the Stanley Cup Final.

Both the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights will need their best players to be at their best to take home the Cup. But who will be the unexpected heroes? Who are the players no one is talking about who will have a big hand in their team's success or defeat in this series?

Here are five players you should be watching in the Stanley Cup:

1. Devante Smith-Pelly: Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 79 games in the regular season. Now he has four goals in just 19 playoff games.

Smith-Pelly has been one of those unlikely playoff heroes for the Caps this postseason with very timely performances such as scoring the series-clinching goal in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue and scoring the goal that put the game away in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The physical play has really stood out as well for him, which fits well on the fourth line role he has settled back into now that the team is healthy again. Barry Trotz tried moving him to the top line in the absence of Tom Wilson and the results weren't great. He is best suited for the role he currently has and that will allow him to thrive.

2. James Neal: Neal came up just short of the Stanley Cup last season as a member of the Nashville Predators. He totaled nine points in 22 games during that run, a number he has already matched in just 15 games this postseason.

There are very few players on either team that boast the kind of postseason experience Neal has. He will be leaned upon this series for his leadership.

Vegas is a young team and their unprecedented success in the playoffs may make this feel like the first run of many for the Golden Knights, but not for Neal who is on the last year of his contract and came tantalizingly close to the Cup last season. He will play like there is no tomorrow because, for him, there may not be in Vegas.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky was one of the heroes of Game 7 with two goals to put away the Tampa Bay Lightning. That marked just the latest peak in a career full of peaks and valleys for the young winger. Just two games before, Burakovsky was a healthy scratch and spoke to the media about his plans to speak with a sports psychologist in the offseason.

The talent is there and it certainly appears that the injury that kept him out earlier in the playoffs is largely behind him. Burakovsky’s issues have always been mainly between the ears. In a series against a fast team with strong depth, he can be an absolutely critical piece for the Caps. Hopefully, his Game 7 performance gave him the confidence he needs to continue to be effective.

4. Ryan Reaves: Vegas acquired both Reaves and Tomas Tatar around the trade deadline. If I were to tell you that through three rounds of the playoffs, both players were healthy, had played the same number of games (6) and had the same number of points (1), you’d think I was crazy. Yet, here we are.

Reaves was largely an afterthought in a complicated trade between Vegas, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Ottawa Senators, but he has carved a nice role for himself on the Golden Knights’ fourth line and even scored the goal that sent Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final against the Winnipeg Jets.

Reaves is also an agitator on the ice, but what do the Caps do against a player like that when their normal fighter plays on the top line? We may see Reaves and Wilson come to blows this series, but it won't be very often because that is a bad tradeoff for the Caps.

5. Brooks Orpik: The elder statesman of the blue line, Orpik is the only player on the Caps with a Stanley Cup to his name and is the only one who has any idea what this experience is going to be like for the team.

Orpik is very diligent about keeping in shape which has allowed him to play in 81 games this season and all 19 playoff games despite being 37 years old, but you do have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Despite being the favorite whipping boy for the proponents of analytics, his physical play has been effective this postseason. The focus he placed on the skating in the offseason has paid dividends so far in matchups against the speedy Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning, but the Golden Knights will be the fastest team they have played yet. There is no denying Orpik is much more suited towards a physical style of game. Wil he continue to be effective or will Vegas exploit the Caps' third defensive pairing?

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

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Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 1 Stanley Cup Final: Date, Time, TV Channel, Livestrem

The wait is finally over. 

After two decades, the Capitals are back in the Stanley Cup Final. 

After a convincing 4-0 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Capitals are in Vegas to take on the Golden Knights. They'll be facing off against a handful of familiar names, with former Caps GM George McPhee, fan favorite Nate Schmidt, and ex-Penguins goalie Marc Andre-Fluery are just a few of the names that'll be suiting up for Vegas. 

What will the X-factors in the series be? Who will be the unexpected heroes of Game 1? The action is almost underway, and here are all the details you need to know.

Game 1 Capitals at Golden Knights
Date: Monday, May 28
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, NV.
TV Channel: NBCSN 
How To Watch Live StreamingNBC Sports App Live Stream
Radio: Capitals Radio Network (106.7 FM)

WHEN IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES?

Game 1 of the Capitals-Golden Knights 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final takes place on Monday, May 28 at 8:00 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.

WHAT TV CHANNEL IS GAME 1 OF THE CAPITALS-GOLDEN KNIGHTS SERIES ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 1 between the Capitals and Golden Knights is on NBC. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

5:00 p.m. — Caps Cup Preview
6:00 p.m. — Caps GameDay Live
6:30 p.m. — Caps Face Off
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Game 1 Capitals vs. Golden Knights
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1?

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and Golden Knights is available for online stream on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the NBC Sports live stream page.

CAPITALS vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS GAME 1 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals digital producer JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.