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Bettman on lockout: 'I feel terrible about it'

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Bettman on lockout: 'I feel terrible about it'

Drawing comparisons to the salary cap models of the NBA and NFL, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it clear again on Thursday that unless players are willing to take a reduction in salaries there will be a lockout at midnight on Saturday.

Given the fact the leagues players have stood firm on their stance of not participating in salary rollbacks, the NHL appears headed for its second work stoppage in eight years.

Listen, nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do, OK? Bettman told reporters after receiving unanimous support in a two-hour meeting with the NHLs Board of Governors.

This is what I do. This is what my life is about in terms of how I spend most of my waking hours. This is very hard and I feel terrible about it.

Saying the NHL can not afford a system in which players receive 57 percent of the leagues 3.3 billion in hockey-related revenues, Bettman said he is willing to meet NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr anytime, any place to hammer out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

But it wont come until the players agree to a reduction in salaries.

In the NFLs 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement, the players share of revenue starts at 47 percent and increases to 48.5 percent in the final year of 2021. In the NBAs CBA, also 10 years, the players share begins at 49 percent and increases to 51 percent in 2021.

The players in those two other leagues recognized that it was not inappropriate or unfair to reduce what they were getting, Bettman said. And thats in a challenging and recent economic climate.

In his most recent six-year proposal, Bettman called for the players share of revenue to decrease from its current 57 percent to 49 percent this season and gradually decreasing to 47 percent in the final year.

The players most recent proposal based on a 7.1 percent annual growth in revenue -- calls for gradual increases to their share of revenue, from 2 percent next season, to 4 percent the following year and 6 percent in 2014-15.

Even a brief lockout will cost players more than what were proposing, Bettman countered.

So what happens next?

On Sunday players will begin heading back to their respective homes. Some will head to Europe to play in professional leagues in Russia, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Germany.

As for Bettman, he says his latest offer is not a take-it-or-leave-it proposal but made it clear the next offer may not be as sweet as the last.

I said the same offer would not be on the table because of the amount of damage that would take place with lockout, Bettman said.

We made the last offer. We havent gotten a formal response to our proposal and Im hoping we get one that recognizes we made yet another meaningful move.

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What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

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USA TODAY

What is a back-up goalie’s job during a game?

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. What is his job during the game?

Friday’s game between the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers was one of the rare games that featured four goalies. Braden Holtby and James Reimer started, but both were ultimately pulled in what was a high-scoring affair. In stepped Pheonix Copley and Michael Hutchinson.

And yet, despite being little more than an afterthought in the team’s preparation for the game, both Copley (one goal allowed on 19 shots, .947 save percentage) and Hutchinson (one goal allowed on 11 shots, .909 save percentage) stepped in and out-performed the starters giving both of their respective teams a chance to win the game.

“It's easier in some aspects,” Holtby said of coming into a game off the bench, something he has done at various points of his career despite being the primary starter for Washington. “I think that's why you see a lot of guys go in and have success right away and have good games because you don't have that day or two days to be getting rid of your thoughts and that kind of thing.”

At the end of every bench in the NHL is a goalie sitting in full pads and a hat. Every team dresses two goalies on the roster for a game. One starts and one sits on the bench as the backup in case he is needed because of injury or because a coach chooses to make a goalie switch. That backup is tasked with being ready at all times to step into the game knowing full well that, if all goes according to plan, he will not get to play at all.

Holtby and Reimer had prepared for Friday’s game knowing they were going to start. Both players took warmups in order to prepare them to play a full game while Copley and Hutchinson had little reason to think they would see any action at all.

By the end of the second period, however, both Holtby and Reimer had been replaced. Copley at least had an intermission to prepare as he came on at the start of the second period while Hutchinson had to step in midway through the second period.

“I guess it can be a little challenging,” Copley said, “But I feel like as long as you’re kind of paying attention to the game and your mind's kind of in that hockey mindset then if something happens, I'll be ready to go.”

Professional athletes are creatures of habit. To have to step into a game unexpectedly with little to no warning or preparation and be expected to perform at the highest level is an incredibly tough mental challenge.

And yet, in many ways, it can be easier than starting.

“The whole thing about mental preparation is so that you go out there not thinking about anything, not worrying about any of that,” Holtby said. “When you're forced in with a matter of 30 seconds, there's no time to think about anything. You just go in and play.”

For goalies, not starting does not mean having the night off. Both coaches and teammates alike can lean upon a backup netminder as an extra set of eyes.

“Sometimes they'll ask a question like did it look like I had room there?” Copley said. “Was it a shot or missed? Did you see what happened on this play? So I just try to be there and watch.”

Some coaches even give goalies assignments in game, though that practice seems to be on the decline.

“I know [Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock] makes them look at faceoffs or something,” Holtby said. “It's pretty archaic. There's guys that do that now that are better than the backup goalie at looking at things.”

In truth, there is no defined in-game requirements for most goalies in the NHL when they sit as backups and that is true of the Caps’ tandem. That makes the job of a backup a very simple one.

“I just try and be ready if I have to go in,” Copley said. “Make sure I'm physically and mentally ready and be a good teammate.”

Holtby put it even more succinctly as he said, “Don't do anything stupid.”

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Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Did the Capitals solve their depth scoring issues in Friday's loss?

Friday’s loss to the Florida Panthers was disappointing in a number of ways for the Capitals, but some good may yet come from it with the emergence of the third line.

A poor performance in the opening frame led to Todd Reirden switching up his lines to start the second. No change had a greater effect than the addition of Jakub Vrana to the third line in place of Andre Burakovsky to play with Lars Eller and Brett Connolly.

The move yielded instant results.

Connolly scored his first goal of the season less than two minutes into the period and added an assist. Vrana also recorded a goal and an assist, while Eller had a three-point night with three assists.

“It was just to make something happen,” Eller said, “Not that [Burakovsky] did something wrong, but just to make something happen and it worked. We kept riding the wave from there on and got two in that period. That seemed to work so that was positive.”

Vrana, Eller and Connolly were three players who had been playing well for the Caps, but were just not producing.

Heading into Friday’s game, Vrana and Eller both had only one point apiece on the season. Connolly had four, but three of those points came earlier in the season while he was skating on the team’s top line.

Friday was his first goal of the season.

“It’s good to get a goal,” Connolly said. “Getting some assists and all that and being a factor on some goals, but it’s nice to see one go in. I’ve had a lot of chances to start the year, thought I’ve been playing well. Lot more shots, lot more chances than I had last year and throughout the last two seasons per game. So I feel I’m ahead of the game right now in terms of that.”

Depth scoring has been a major weakness for the Caps so far in the early season. Washington had gotten only two bottom six goals prior to Friday’s game, and both came in the team’s blowout win over Boston in the opener.

They needed a spark to get offense from the bottom six, and they just may have found it on Friday with that third line combination.

Don’t be surprised to see that Vrana-Eller-Connolly trio stick together in Vancouver for the Caps’ next game against the Canucks.

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