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Capitals likely to keep same line combos going into Game 7


Capitals likely to keep same line combos going into Game 7

If Tuesday’s practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex is any indication, there will not be any drastic changes to the Capitals lineup for Wednesday night’s Game 7 against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Despite Monday’s recall of defenseman Nate Schmidt from the Hershey bears, Tim Gleason slated on a third defense pairing with Mike Green, while Schmidt took turns on a fourth pairing with Dmitry Orlov.

As for the forward lines, nothing changed from the end of Game 6, when a new combination of center Evgeny Kuznetsov played between left wing Jason Chimera and Joel Ward and the trio combined for three goals.

Eric Fehr, sidelined since April 19 with an upper body injury, skated as an extra foreward, along with center Michael Latta.

Here’s how the Caps looked at practice:

Forward lines

Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-Marcus Johansson

Jason Chimera-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Joel Ward

Andre Burakovsky-Jay Beagle-Troy Brouwer

Curtis Glencross-Brooks Laich-Tom Wilson

Extras: Michael Latta, Eric Fehr [upper body]

Defense pairings

Brooks Orpik-John Carlson

Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen

Tim Gleason-Mike Green

Extras: Dmitry Orlov, Nate Schmidt


Braden Holtby-Justin Peters

Tampa loses Callahan: The Tampa Bay Lightning, a possible third-round opponent for the Capitals, reportedly have lost forward Ryan Callahan to an emergency appendectomy. Callahan went head-to-head against Ovechkin in each of the Caps’ previous two playoff series against the Rangers in 2012 and 2013.

History supports Rangers: The Rangers are 9-0 in their last nine home elimination games dating back to 2008. They are 13-3 in 16 elimination games since the start of the 2012 playoffs and they are 6-0 all-time in Game 7s at the Garden.

Remembering Messier’s guarantee: Much has been made about Ovechkin’s post-game comment on Sunday night, when he said, “We’re going to come back and win the series.”

Messier’s exact quote prior to Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals against the Devils was very similar:

“We’re going to go in and win Game 6,” Messier said.

Of course, Messier backed up those words by recording a hat trick in a 4-2 victory at the Meadowlands, securing a Game 7 the Rangers won in double overtime.

Last year, Messier told the New York Daily News that he was simply saying what he thought his teammates needed to hear.

“My intention was purely focused on the 20 players and our team,” Messier told the Daily News. “At the time, I was so focused on figuring out a message that I failed to realize that every other New Yorker out there and every New Jersey Devil would be reading it in all the papers the next day.”

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Caps GM Brian MacLellan addresses latest Andre Burakovsky trade rumors


Caps GM Brian MacLellan addresses latest Andre Burakovsky trade rumors

Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky dodges trade rumors like Indiana Jones escaped giant rolling stones.

When Burakovsky made it through the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline still with Washington it appeared he was here to stay a while longer. He even played better down the stretch. But that might not have been enough to save him. 

Multiple NHL sources said Wednesday that Burakovsky would likely be dealt at this weekend’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. There is no question he is drawing interest from teams around the league.  

“We'd like to keep him around, but obviously his name is out there a little bit, so we do talk to some teams about him,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said in a conference call on Thursday. “But we're not going to move him unless we get something we're comfortable with back.”

MacLellan, as blunt a general manager as there is in the NHL, might be employing semantics there. The Capitals are trying to get what they can and won’t undercut their own leverage by saying Burakovsky is out the door.

Burakovsky has frustrated coaches and executives alike in Washington. He flashes great potential and has the pedigree to be a solid middle-six forward. But he’s been stuck on 12 goals three years in a row and can’t seem to find a consistent role. Last year he was a healthy scratch six times. 

Injuries played some role in that in previous years. But Burakovsky hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunities, either. Yet he has also come up with some incredible goals. Three times he’s scored in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs. No one can forget his goals against Tampa Bay in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final that secured Washington’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final. He’s also entering his age-25 season and had 17 goals in his second season in the NHL. 

But with a $3.25 million qualifying offer due Monday and the salary cap possibly tighter than expected, Washington might not have a choice even if it has a last-second change of heart on trading Burakovsky. 

It’s not know exactly what kind of deal the Capitals are pursuing: A one-for-one deal with a player who has his own issues? A mix of draft picks and prospects who won’t contribute to a team in “win-now” mode? Washington could always pull back – as they did at the deadline. But without knowing what MacLellan feels he needs from a Burakovsky trade it’s hard to know what would give him another chance to stay.

MacLellan wouldn’t even commit to tendering Burakovsky that $3.25 million qualifying offer by Monday’s deadline. He said Washington will take a look at the salary cap once the NHL gets around to announcing it hopefully by Saturday at the draft. Then they’ll check back with the agents of all their RFAs – Jakub Vrana is safe - and decide how to proceed. 

But if they don’t qualify Burakovsky, the one other RFA they have the rights to who would draw interest around the league, he becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign anywhere. Hard to see how that benefits the Capitals to lose an asset they claim to value for nothing. Time is running short.

“Andre had a frustrating year this year, but I think he finished it up well,” MacLellan said. “I think from the trade deadline on, I thought he had a good playoffs. We like the player. There's been some inconsistencies there, but when he's on his game, he's a good player.”


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Uncertainty over NHL salary cap has Caps GM Brian MacLellan frustrated

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Uncertainty over NHL salary cap has Caps GM Brian MacLellan frustrated

Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan had a number in his head. It is the most important one for any NHL executive heading into the offseason: $83 million. 

That was the expected salary cap for the 2019-20 season and – with some small margin for error – the amount MacLellan and his staff used to formulate their offseason plan. But it is June 20 and the number that was originally at $83 million could drop to as low as $81.5 million, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. 

Given that Washington has some carryover for bonuses and overages from last season worth about $1.150 million, it could be working with a cap number as low as $80.35 million. That is not ideal for a team where every dollar could spell the difference between upgrading its middle-six forwards or adding a veteran fourth-line player. 

The NHL is expected to come to an agreement with the NHL Players’ Association soon and let teams know the number by Saturday, the second day of the entry draft in Vancouver. That’s a few days later than normal, however, and forces GMs to make decisions during the draft regarding trades and picking prospects they otherwise might not.   

"It's frustrating. We've been projecting using that 83 (million dollars) number for the last part of the year,” MacLellan told reporters in a conference call on Thursday. “At some point, we switched back to the 82.5 because there was some rumblings there, and now it seems to be going back a little further. I know it seems like it's not a large amount of dollars, but it does impact teams that are right at the number as far as salary.”

On an $82 million cap, the Capitals have about $9.7 million in room according to the great web site But they need to sign restricted free agent Jakub Vrana and add four other bottom-six forwards and a depth defenseman. That is an extremely tight fit and might rule out some free agent options MacLellan had interest in. 

The free-agent “interview” period begins Sunday when teams can talk to agents of pending free agents and gauge what their demands will be and if they are a fit when the market opens on July 1. 

That, in turn, effects negotiations with Vrana and any other RFAs (Andre Burakovsky, Chandler Stephenson, Christian Djoos) that Washington might want to bring back. Burakovsky is likely to be traded at the draft this weekend, according to multiple NHL sources with knowledge of Washington’s thinking. A further budget crunch would seem to seal his fate.  

MacLellan wouldn’t confirm that and even said “we like the player.” But Burakovsky is due a $3.25 million qualifying offer by Monday so the decision might have been made for them. If the cap is the worst-case scenario ($81.5 million) the Capitals are in a real bind. But they’d like to know for sure.   

“When you see it go down to maybe 81.5, I think there's a pause on our part,” MacLellan said. “We want to see the number before we move forward because it's going to affect our roster decisions even on the bottom end - on fourth line and what we have to do going forward because the margins are that slim for us."