Capitals

McFadden remains part of Raiders future

McFadden remains part of Raiders future

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie remains committed to Darren McFadden despite a disappointing 2012 season and hopes a new offensive system helps the running back get his career back on track.

McKenzie spoke to beat reporters on Thursday for the first time since Nov. 30 and looked back at a disappointing first season in Oakland and ahead to the future. He said McFadden will be part of that future as he enters the final year of his contract.

``I'm confident Darren's going to play his last season,'' McKenzie said. ``Regardless of what's out there, we have no decision to do anything with Darren.''

After struggling early in his career with injuries and a zone blocking scheme used in Oakland, McFadden broke out as a star in two seasons with Hue Jackson running the offense. He averaged more than 5 yards per carry in both those seasons and was one of the league's top big-play backs.

But he reverted to his early career form last season under coordinator Greg Knapp, who ran the same zone blocking system that calls on backs to run laterally before making a cut upfield rather than attack the line of scrimmage from the start.

McFadden averaged just 3.3 yards per carry this season - the lowest ever for a Raiders back with at least 150 carries in a season.

``It's obvious that Darren is much better on certain types of plays,'' McKenzie said. ``That goes without saying. That's how you've got to do it. When you talk about being productive, when you talk about offensively moving the ball, scoring points, getting some plays out of your big-play guys, you've got to find ways to let him do what he does best. We didn't. We didn't do that.''

Knapp was fired by coach Dennis Allen after a 4-12 season, along with special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman, offensive line coach Frank Pollack and linebackers coach Johnny Holland. McKenzie said the Raiders are close to filling those openings and he hopes to have everything finalized within the next few days.

McKenzie said he has talked to Norv Turner and Marc Trestman, who both got other jobs, but would not name other potential candidates. The Contra Costa Times reported that former St. Louis head coach Mike Martz interviewed for the offensive coordinator job and Jacksonville quarterbacks coach Greg Olson is reportedly also a candidate.

After filling out the staff, the biggest task for McKenzie will be upgrading a roster that lacked depth and stars in his first season as the Raiders were hamstrung by having few draft picks and a bloated salary cap.

McKenzie said he has more cap room to use on free agents this offseason but believes the organization is a year away from having the cap back in order.

``I'm looking for the future,'' McKenzie said. ``We're trying to build something here. And with building, you can't mortgage the future. So we're trying to lay down a good foundation, get the core players that we think can build this team the right way and make good, sound decisions, be it financial, the personnel, coaching, whatever it is. You see the mistakes, correct it. That's the only way you're going to get better, and that's kind of our philosophy.''

In other topics, McKenzie said neither he nor Allen has talked to linebacker Rolando McClain since he was arrested in Alabama this month for violating rules on car window tint and trying to lie to police about his identity. McKenzie said he has no plans to talk to McClain about the arrest.

McClain, a first-round pick in 2010, was a disappointment this past season when he lost his starting job for ineffectiveness and was suspended two games for conduct detrimental to the team. McKenzie acknowledged it would have been complicated to release him during the season because of salary cap ramifications but would not indicate what McClain's future was with the team.

McKenzie said he was pleased with the little he saw from backup quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who started the final game of his second season. Pryor threw two TD passes and ran for a third score. McKenzie said he was happy with how Pryor protected the ball and was intrigued by his mobility.

``You can see the plays, and when things break down, where he can kind of create and do some things,'' McKenzie said. ``But he had a chance to make some throws and he did pretty good. I was encouraged. Hopefully, the new offensive coordinator will find a way to see what he can do best during this offseason and see what he looks like in preseason games.''

NOTES: McKenzie said QB Carson Palmer is healing from cracked ribs and a bruised lung that sidelined him for the season finale and should be ready to be on the field for OTAs in May. ... G Mike Brisiel had ``major surgery'' on an ankle injury that hindered him all season. ... RT Khalif Barnes had surgery on a triceps injury and LB Miles Burris had arthroscopic surgery on an injured knee.

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Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Wilson's return sparks Capitals to a 5-2 win at Minnesota

Tom Wilson stayed on brand in his return from a long suspension.

The Capitals’ big man scored a goal and took a penalty on the same play in his first game of the season, a 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. 

Wilson won’t get the 16 games back he missed for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. But he tried to make up for it in his debut. 

Wilson scored Washington’s second goal at 19:32 of the first period when he drove the net hard and deflected a pass from teammate Dmitry Orlov past Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk. But this being Wilson, nothing is totally uncontroversial.  

The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder was moving fast. There was no stopping him. Wilson, with some help from Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, collided with Dubnyk. The puck was already in the net, but the referee decided Wilson needed to go think about what he’d done after Dubnyk got clocked in the head. It was a two-minute goalie interference call. 

That’s an odd play rarely called. Either the goal counts or it doesn’t, but maybe because Wilson had already scored before running into Dubnyk both calls could stand. 

“It was a first for me to score and get a penalty on the same play,” Wilson told reporters in St. Paul. “I was just going hard to the net and Snarls [Orlov] put it right on my tape. It was a great pass at full speed. I was trying to do everything I could to get out of the way. I’ll take the goal and the kill went out there and got it done. It was good to see.”

It was far from Wilson’s only contribution in his first game back. He also fought Marcus Foligno at 11:58 of the second period on the faceoff after Minnesota cut a Washington lead to 3-1. He didn’t back down when asked to go by Foligno. 

“He’s a key player for our team, brings so much energy both on the ice and off the ice,” forward Andre Burakovsky said. “Huge lift for the team to get him back earlier. Didn’t expect that and I think he had a really strong game today. Obviously, he got the goal in his first game back and then some dirty works. Obviously, I think he’s a huge guy for us in PK and it showed today.”

Wilson didn’t get the assist on the goal that put the game away. Alex Ovechkin found Orlov for a one-timer on a pass from the left faceoff circle to the right. But it was Wilson driving hard toward the goal that kept a Wild defenseman with him and allowed Orlov the space to finish Ovechkin’s pass. Those little things have been missed in the 16 games Wilson was suspended. He was relentless. 

One big issue for the Capitals: The penalty kill. Wilson has been a big part of that group in recent years and without him – and, to be fair the departed Jay Beagle and the injured Brooks Orpik – Washington entered the game 29thin the NHL in penalty kill percentage (71.7 percent). Wilson wasn’t eased into anything. He played 5:23 on the penalty kill and the Capitals killed five of six Wild power plays. 

[Wilson] does a lot not just on the ice, but in our room. Adds a ton of energy. Well respected player for how he trains,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden. “Going through a tough time and obviously kind of a surprise for us to get him back today. We were hoping to at any point here and we were able to take advantage of a fortunate bounce for our team before even the game started. But I didn’t expect him to have as strong a game as he did." 

"Obviously able to convert on a great play on a line rush, but just the other things he did. Our penalty kill, the opposition scores a goal and, you talk about shifts after goals, not giving the team any more momentum than they’ve already gotten and he gets in a fight there. There’s a lot to like about Tom Wilson and I thought he had a strong game. It was great to have him back.”

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Wild

4 reasons the Caps beat the Wild

Think the Caps missed Tom Wilson? It sure looked like it.

Washington looked like a completely different team with Wilson back in the lineup Tuesday in a dominant 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild.

Here are four reasons the Caps won:

Tom Wilson

Wilson made his season debut Tuesday after his suspension was reduced by a neutral arbitrator earlier in the day. Wilson’s addition to the lineup had two effects. One, it made the lineup a lot deeper. Without Wilson, Todd Reirden was having trouble putting together the right lineup. Several players cycled on the top line and every line behind the top had to shuffle. Wilson came back onto the top line and immediately the rest of the lineup fell into place.

The top line looked better, the second line looked better and the third line looked better with their regular lineups back intact.

Wilson’s return also brought a lot of energy to the team and that was evident from the very start of the game. The Caps outshot Minnesota 12-6 and took the 2-0 lead in the first period of the game. Compare that to the rather lethargic game we saw on Sunday, clearly, Wilson brought a spark.

Oh, yeah, Wilson has also had a pretty darn good game too. He scored in the first period of the game in a typical Wilson play. He completely blew past Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter and tipped in a pass from Dmitry Orlov as he crashed the net on goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Somehow Wilson was also given a goalie interference penalty… but the goal still counted? Regardless of what was an obvious reputation penalty, it was a good return for Wilson, who also had a fight with Marcus Foligno and helped set up Orlov’s second goal by crashing again and drawing the defense over to him.

Dmitry Orlov

Orlov broke a 19-game goal drought with a goal just 7:23 into the game.

Lars Eller had the puck and cut to the blue line in the offensive zone turning to the middle. Minnesota got caught puck watching as the defense shifted with Eller, leaving Orlov open on the left. Eller found him and Orlov took advantage of the extra space to score his first goal of the season.

Orlov would add an assist on Wilson’s goal and a second goal in the third period off a beautiful pass from Alex Ovechkin.

The typically reliable defensive pairing of Orlov and Matt Niskanen struggled at the start of the season prompting Todd Reirden to switch up the pairs and place Orlov with John Carlson. Clearly, the move had the desired effect in Tuesday’s game.

The schedule

Tuesday’s game was the Wild’s first at home since Oct. 27. Minnesota was coming off a seven-game road swing and they looked a bit weary at the start of the game. As mentioned above, the Wild were outshot 12-6 in the first period and then 15-8 in the second.

Really, this game was a perfect storm. Not only were the Wild tired from a lengthy road trip, but they also were dealing with a Caps team that was pumped up by the return of Wilson.

Part of what made Sunday’s loss to Arizona so disappointing was the fact that the Coyotes were on the second leg of a back-to-back with their starting goalie on IR. The Caps were not able to take advantage, but they certainly took it to a vulnerable, road-weary team on Tuesday.

The penalty kill

Washington’s porous penalty kill was the reason the Caps lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday and a major reason they fell to Arizona. The PK finally stood tall on Tuesday as the Caps were able to kill off four out of five penalties on the night. The lone power play goal the team gave up came in the third period when the Caps were already up 5-1 and the game was no longer in doubt.

You can add the penalty kill to the long list of things that Wilson instantly improved in his return. Wilson logged 16:47 of total ice time on Tuesday and 5:23 of that came on the penalty kill.

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