Capitals

Rubio: Knee feels good after 1st practice

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Rubio: Knee feels good after 1st practice

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) At one point in his first real practice in nine months, Ricky Rubio zipped a pass through defender Josh Howard's legs to an open teammate.

It may take some time for his surgically repaired left knee to get back up to speed. The instincts and court vision that made him such a crucial part of the resurgent Minnesota Timberwolves haven't gone anywhere as far as Rick Adelman is concerned.

Rubio practiced on Sunday for the first time this season and said his knee responded well. There is still no timetable for his first game, and Rubio is trying to be patient to make sure that he is completely ready when he does return after the first major injury of his career.

``After a long time, I'm on the court again,'' Rubio said. ``It felt pretty good to start knowing my teammates again.''

The Timberwolves have been banged up all season and Kevin Love (illness), Malcom Lee (groin) and Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) all missed practice on Sunday. Getting Rubio back sometime soon would be a huge lift to a team that has managed to hang around .500 even with all the absences.

Rubio participated in five-on-five work in practice on Sunday, then stayed after for nearly an hour to do some more running and catch-and-shoot work as he tries to get his legs back underneath him. He said he felt some discomfort in the knee on occasion, but team trainers expected that as some scar tissue from the surgery breaks up.

``It will feel weird for a while. Until I'm feeling great and nothing at all about my knee, I'm not going to play,'' he said. ``Actually, I'm happy about today.''

The mental recovery may be nearly as important as the physical for Rubio. He said he wants to get to the point where he's not wondering what will happen every time he makes a cut or plants on it on a drive to the basket. That will just take some time, and he knows it.

``I felt pretty good, but I want to be perfect,'' Rubio said. ``I have to work hard. I have to keep working and see where I'm at.''

The Timberwolves will practice again Monday before a back-to-back at Philadelphia and Boston starting on Tuesday. It would seem to be asking a lot for Rubio to return that quickly. The Wolves are off Thursday and then host Cleveland on Friday night, but it's still far too soon to predict when he will play.

A big indicator could be how his body responds on Monday to the strenuous workout. Adelman said it was already clear that Rubio still has a good handle on the offense and his responsibilities running the show.

``That's there. He showed that today,'' Adelman said. ``He passed the ball very well, got to spots. That's always going to be there. It's just going to be his conditioning and his legs and how long can he go? That's going to be the biggest thing.''

And it didn't hurt to see a few of those flashy passes he's known for, either.

``Today we didn't have any alley-oops,'' Rubio said, with a smile. ``But I hope soon we have some of those.''

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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.