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Bondra shares thoughts on lockout

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Bondra shares thoughts on lockout

Former Capitals star Peter Bondra has two words of advice for players being locked out in the most recent NHL work stoppage: Just play.

“If anybody has a chance to play somewhere else I suggest they do,” Bondra said Friday in a phone interview.

“I played for seven games back home [in 2004] and I was in the game. I felt that’s where I wanted to be, that’s what I wanted to do. I think the guys who have gone to play in the KHL and the European leagues, it’s much more easy to go through this process than the guys sitting home.”

The NHL lockout has prompted a mass exodus overseas, with 128 NHL players signing with teams in Europe, including the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Wojtek Wolski and Michal Neuvirth.

Bondra lived through two NHL lockouts as a member of the Capitals. During the abbreviated 1994-95 season, he signed with the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League and played seven games. And in 2004-05 he signed with HK Poprad of the Slovak Extraliga and played six games.

“Some guys may benefit from staying home because hockey is a lot of travel and if they have families their wives are probably happy to have their husbands around,” Bondra said. “But for a whole year it would be tough.”

With no agreement in place and no scheduled talks between the owners and players, the NHL announced on Friday the cancellation of all games through November.

“It’s kind of tough,” Bondra said. “Obviously, [as a player] you want to stay positive. You’re trusting your union. As a player you’re trying to find as much information as you can and you just have to hang in.”

Like most players, Bondra said he still regrets missing out on the entire 2004-05 NHL season and now wonders how much was gained from that work stoppage.

“As a retired player, I’ve been through it,” he said. “Looking back, I missed a whole year and that’s a year you’re never going to get back. How stupid was it? The salary is a part of it, but you miss a whole year in your career. Now it’s just a big zero on my stats.

“It’s not necessarily about the stats, but I hope the players don’t have to go through another year of not playing. Some players might miss two years of their career because of these lockouts.”

Back in 2004-05, before the installment of a salary cap, the NHL was taking in $2.2 billion in revenues and players were averaging $1.4 million in annual salaries. Last season, the NHL brought in $3.3 billion and players earned an average of $2.4 million. Now the two sides can’t agree on how to split the revenue.

“It’s a business with a lot of money and there is a big cake laying on the table,” Bondra said. “Who’s going to cut the bigger piece? It’s like two brothers trying to share. It sounds nice but the time hopefully comes soon that they solve the problem and both sides benefit from this. I hope fans will stay with hockey and not turn in another direction.”

Bondra has a personal stake in the NHL and its players coming to an agreement, or at least his oldest son does. David Bondra plays hockey for Michigan State, which is scheduled to participate in the Hockeytown Winter Festival Dec. 27 at Comerica Park. The event is contingent upon the playing of the 2013 Winter Classic between the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium.

Bondra said that while things may look bleak between the owners and players he does not see the NHL blowing up the entire season as they did eight years ago.

“I think there will be a season,” he said. “Just looking back at the numbers, hockey has grown as a sport and it would be a shame to not have a season. The last time, hockey benefited from the lockout, but I think this time will be different.

“Just look at the economy and look at how much money is involved in this. It’s a shame. Hopefully, in the next couple weeks or before December 15th, hockey season will be on.”

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

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Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly ready for his second chance in Game 5

ARLINGTON — Devante Smith-Pelly will skate onto the ice at Capital One Arena tonight and the crowd will roar. They will chant “D-S-P!” and give him an ovation and he will try to keep a stone-faced focus, though it will be hard.

Not bad for a player who was cut in February, passed on by 30 other NHL teams and banished to the minors after a disappointing season and a salary-cap crunch. But that is life as a Stanley Cup playoff folk hero. After scoring seven goals with 19 points during last year’s postseason, including the game-tying goal in the decisive Game 5 of the final series against the Vegas Golden Knights, Smith-Pelly bought himself a lifetime of good will. 

Now, an injury to T.J. Oshie gets him another chance with the Capitals. Smith-Pelly will be in the lineup tonight when Washington hosts the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of a first-round playoff series (8 p.m., NBC). 

“I don’t know if weird is the word. It’s a business,” Smith-Pelly said. “It’s hard to go through something like that. I missed the guys a lot. I still kept in touch with pretty much everyone. It was just going there and doing what I had to do and waiting for a shot. It’s unfortunate that [Oshie] had to get hurt.”

Smith Pelly had just four goals and four assists in 54 games this season and was held out of several preseason games to get his conditioning where it needed to be. When the Capitals traded for forward Carl Hagelin on Feb. 21 they needed salary-cap space to make the move, according to general manager Brian MacLellan. He chose waiving Smith-Pelly over Dmitrij Jaskin. 

When Smith-Pelly cleared waivers, Washington sent him to AHL Hershey so he could play and be ready if needed again. That didn’t seem likely when the playoffs began and the salary cap was no longer an issue. MacLellan said the team had no immediate plans to recall Smith-Pelly just so he could sit. 

But the Capitals wanted him to stay in game shape in case injuries struck – and they finally did on Monday in Game 4. T.J. Oshie is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury. Smith-Pelly got the recall and is in the lineup tonight at right wing on the fourth line. It is another chance for a player who was once a second-round draft pick, but has been let go by three previous organizations (Anaheim, Montreal, New Jersey) and found himself on tenuous ground with the Capitals. This isn’t how he wanted it to be. But now he’s back. 

“I wasn’t really thinking too much about it. I was watching the games and cheering the guys on,” Smith-Pelly said. “I wasn’t really sure. I definitely didn’t want to get a chance by someone else getting hurt. That’s for sure. So I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird spot. I’m focused on playing the playoffs there and helping the team there. I wasn’t really thinking about too much about what would happen.”

News and notes

Still no update on Oshie other than he’s out indefinitely, according to coach Todd Reirden. He will obviously not play in Game 5 after crashing into the boards following a nudge from behind by Carolina forward Warren Foegele. … Reirden’s lineup changes include Carl Hagelin moving to right wing on the second line and Chandler Stephenson joining Smith-Pelly and Nic Dowd on the fourth line. … After a nice first playoff game, rookie Jonas Siegenthaler will start with John Carlson, who moves to his natural right side. He'd been starting games on the left with Nick Jensen.  

Game 5 lineup

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Carl Hagelin

Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson – Nic Dowd – Devante Smith-Pelly

 

Jonas Siegenthaler – John Carlson 

Dmitry Orlov – Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik – Nick Jensen 

 

Braden Holtby 

 

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Maple Leafs pull ahead of Bruins, Avalanche eliminate Flames

Thursday's games gave us another tied series with the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, a slugfest between the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets, and the San Jose Sharks avoiding elimination at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights.

Friday's games pushed the Boston Bruins to the brink of elimination, and the Colorado Avalanche eliminated the Calgary Flames in the Saddledome.

Here are all of Friday's results.

Maple Leafs take 3-2 series lead with 2-1 win over Bruins

Frederik Andersen and Tuukka Rask were sharp for the first two periods, but Auston Matthews broke the scoreless tie with a controversial goal 10 minutes into the third period. Boston challenged for goaltender interference, but the goal stood. Matthews now has four goals in the last three games of the series.

Kasperi Kapanen gave the Leafs the game winner on a 3-on-2 just two minutes later.

The Bruins battled back to make it 2-1 with a backdoor feed for David Krejci, but they couldn't force a tie to send the game to overtime. Should the Leafs hold on to win, not only would they reverse their two-year trend of losing in the first round of the playoffs, they would win a series for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

Avalanche extinguish Flames, win series with 5-1 victory

The upstart Avalanche had four players hit three points in their Friday night upset over the Flames. Mikko Rantanen continued his punishing pace with two goals in the game, including the opening and closing goals.

Colin Wilson also notched a two-goal night, and Philipp Grubauer held steady with 28 saves.

This is Colorado's first series win since the 2007-08 season, and the Flames became the second first seed to be knocked out of these playoffs, as the Tampa Bay Lightning were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier this week.

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