Capitals

Vikings place ailing Harvin on injured reserve

Vikings place ailing Harvin on injured reserve

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) The Minnesota Vikings placed ailing wide receiver Percy Harvin on injured reserve Wednesday, abruptly ending a season that began so well for one of the NFL's most versatile players.

Coach Leslie Frazier answered questions about Harvin's status cryptically and vaguely at his regular news conference, when he ruled Harvin out of practice again because of the severely sprained ankle that has kept him out of the last three games. Then about six hours later, the Vikings announced the move that declared their top pass-catcher done for the year.

During an outstanding first half that put him in the conversation for the league's Most Valuable Player award, Harvin's season sure deteriorated quickly. He was hurt one month ago. Now this.

``We'll see what happens,'' quarterback Christian Ponder said before the news came out. ``I don't know what or when he'll be back. We're just focused on who's going to be out there, who's going to be practicing today.''

Even bad sprains don't normally take more than four to six weeks to fully heal, so it's possible the injury is worse than originally revealed, perhaps requiring surgery. Neither team officials nor players were available for comment on the decision.

Harvin wasn't on the indoor field at Winter Park as the Vikings went through drills in preparation for another critical NFC North game, this one at home against division co-leader Chicago. He wasn't in the locker room when it was open to reporters, either.

Harvin was injured Nov. 4 at Seattle, leaving briefly in the third quarter of that game but returning with an obvious limp. He has missed three games since and only taken part in practice once since the injury, a week ago as a limited participant.

Harvin was favoring his right foot running routes that afternoon during the portion of the workout that was open to the media, looking far less than full strength when pushing off or planting to change direction. Ponder has struggled at times even with Harvin, by far his favorite target, so this certainly won't help the team's lagging passing attack.

In nine games, Harvin finished with 677 yards and three touchdowns on 62 receptions, 22 rushes for 96 yards and one score and one kickoff return for a touchdown. Now he's headed for the final year of his rookie contract, without any promise of an extension offer from the team.

``I know that he wants to win like we do, and I'm sure he's going to do everything he can do to help our football team. We'll see where it goes,'' Frazier said when asked if there were issues with Harvin beyond the injury. The coach said he couldn't go into greater detail about Harvin's condition but said the former first-round draft pick has ``done pretty much the things that the trainers have asked him to do'' in his rehabilitation.

Frazier said he'd probably have a better answer Thursday to the question about whether Harvin would be able to face Chicago, alluding to the injured reserve move before it became known. Frazier said ``not a whole lot'' has changed with Harvin's condition but alluded to ``some things'' he's waiting for.

``Just got to see what's going to happen with him,'' said Frazier.

Harvin caused a stir this summer by expressing unspecified disappointment with the organization and issuing a trade request he quietly rescinded. Harvin's gripe, he later acknowledged, was in part because of the way the team unevenly used him in the offense.

He often moved from spot to spot to maximize his versatility and sometimes was limited to certain personnel groups so the Vikings could protect his health. But that became confusing and frustrating to him at times, he said, because he didn't always know what to expect.

That fuss was all but forgotten with the season he was having, leading the NFL in total rushing, receiving and returning yards until his injury.

Harvin missed a total of three games over his first three seasons, enduring problems with migraine headaches, which haven't given him trouble lately.

Notes: DE Jared Allen's back has caused him some discomfort over the last week. He also confirmed after last Sunday's game he's been playing with a torn labrum in one of his shoulders but downplayed any negative effect that has had on his performance. Allen was on the field with the team at the end of Wednesday's practice, but he didn't participate. Frazier said the injury is not to the extent it would keep him out of this week's game, however. ... Allen was originally given half of a sack, shared with DT Kevin Williams, for a takedown of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers midway through the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. According to the Vikings, the NFL changed the ruling to give Allen the full credit, bringing his season total to nine. Allen had 22 sacks last year, one-half short of the NFL record. He's tied for 10th in the league this season.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: What happens in Vegas....

It's almost here.

After a lengthy break between the conference finals and the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights are set to meet on Monday for Game 1.

Who will hoist Lord Stanley's Cup?

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir give their keys to the series and their predictions for the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, JJ speaks with several member from the local media to get their insights and predictions.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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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?

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