Capitals

Love says he's happy with T-Wolves direction

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Love says he's happy with T-Wolves direction

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Kevin Love didn't apologize. He didn't make excuses or suggest his words were taken out of context.

What the Minnesota Timberwolves power forward did do on Wednesday in the wake of some harsh words toward the organization was offer some balance to the idea of him as another unhappy star in a small market seemingly destined to move on to bigger and better things.

Love met with the media on Wednesday morning before the Wolves were scheduled to host the Denver Nuggets to address comments he made to Yahoo! Sports that were critical of Timberwolves leadership. In it, he complained about getting a four-year deal instead of the maximum five-year contract extension last January, called into question the plan that team president David Kahn has for building around him and even seemed to hint at a perception that the organization was favoring Ricky Rubio over him in the team's long-term plan.

Love stood by his complaints about his contract and his criticism of Kahn on Wednesday, but also said that he's happy with the direction of the franchise and hopeful he will be here for a long time.

``I'm not going to fall back and say I didn't mean the things that I said,'' Love said. ``I do believe this is the closest-knit team that we have, the coaching staff has been great and we have a chance to make something very special this year and for years to come.''

Love can opt out of his deal in two years, putting more pressure on the organization to help get him to the playoffs for the first time in his career. He said he had no regrets or apologies for making the critical remarks, but he does wish that he would have aired them internally and not in a public setting.

He also said he still sees the possibility of a bright, and long, future for him with the Wolves.

``I'd love to end my career as a Timberwolf,'' he said.

Love's displeasure with his contract has been no secret, practically from the moment he signed it. He wanted the five-year deal and the validation that it brings. But the Wolves can only offer one of their drafted players a five-year deal during the life of the current collective bargaining agreement. There is speculation that they are saving that for Rubio, though Kahn has said that he would prefer not to give that deal to anyone on the roster so the team can have as much salary cap flexibility as possible.

Love has heard the whispers about Rubio getting the five-year deal, and he told Yahoo that ``it was a projection over a sure thing. There's no question there was an agenda here. A different agenda.''

Love and Rubio are close friends, and when asked about it on Wednesday, he continued to heap praise on the point guard who is due to come back from a torn ACL in his left knee any day now.

``I never have a problem with anybody getting paid,'' Love said. ``If there's one other guy to pay on this team it's Ricky Rubio. I've kind of been enamored with him since he got here. He's a pass-first point guard, a guy I haven't really played with before.

``I'm not going to pick favorites but he's one of my favorite teammates and one of the best guys to be around. And I've mentioned since Day 1 that it's refreshing to be around him because he loves the game so much.''

As for his issues with Kahn's roster upheaval the first three years on the job, Love said he was very pleased with the additions that have been made this year. Andrei Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham and Alexey Shved have made the Wolves deeper than they have been in years and also came partly at the behest of Love, who campaigned for more veterans to be added at the end of last season.

Love has always used perceived slights and doubts as fuel. He is constantly working on his game and his body to prove to anyone who thought otherwise that he can be an elite player in the NBA. He proved as much last year by averaging 26 points and 13.3 rebounds per game, then becoming one of the most important players on Team USA's run to the gold medal in the London Olympics.

So in many ways, Love will never forget the contract issue. That's what stars do. They search for motivation wherever they can find it.

``In some people's mental makeup it's just not in them,'' he said of forgetting. ``Just moving forward is the biggest thing. That's the same thing I talked about with coach and with David yesterday. I just need to move forward and hopefully this thing won't keep coming up. I'm done talking about it, really from here on out after today. I'm hoping we can just move on and winning will take care of everything.''

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter:http://twitter.com/APkrawczynski

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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.