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Caps brace themselves for life without hockey

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Caps brace themselves for life without hockey

Now what?Now that Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have proclaimedthey are at an impasse in negotiations for a new Collective BargainingAgreement, and with no talks scheduled between now and Saturdaysmidnight deadline, NHL players will need to start making preparations for lifewithout hockey.Yeah, weve got to get our ducks in a row here becauseweve always been thinking, Oh, something will happen, something will happen.Capitals veteran left wing Jason Chimera said.What will happen on Sunday is that the Capitals lockerroom at Kettler Capitals Iceplex will be locked. If the players who remain inthe area want to keep in skating shape, theyll need to rent ice at Kettler.
There may be some ice available here at KCI and someother rinks around town, Chimera said. I think during the day, with kids inschool, there should be ice available. The prices are more for ice here than in Edmonton, thats forsure. I saw some of the prices to rent ice for an hour and I was like Holy !We better solve this soon or guys are going to need an ice-time stipend orsomething from the PA players association.Worse yet, players would be forced to do their own laundryand stock up on some air fresheners.Yeah, well have to put stuff on the patio, Chimera said.I dont think my wife will like my gear hanging in the house too much.With the possibility of a lockout looming, players were encouragedlast season to save one of their paychecks. And with escrow checks expected tobe delivered in mid-October, most players will not feel the financial pinch of alockout until early November, when the checks stop entirely.Now 36 with a wife and two school-age children, Chimera saidhell remain in the area until a settlement is reached. But in 2004, he remembersholding out the same hope for labor peace and endured an entire season withoutan NHL paycheck.I just kind of hung around hoping for something tohappen, said Chimera, who was a 25-year-old member of the Edmonton Oilers duringthe last lockout Some guys did three-on-three leagues for a bit, justtouring around, but eventually I went to Italy. One of my agents bestfriends was coaching a team, so I went there and played for a couple of months.It was a different experience, thats for sure.Back then, Chimera was dating his future wife and the twoapproached the trip to Italyas an adventure.We just kind of packed up and moved, he said. It wasjust the two of us so it was easy and it was neat to see different stops, but Iremember the feeling last time when the season got cancelled, I think it wasprobably one of the worst days.While the players and owners brought entirely differentproposals to the table in meetings this week in New York, few around the league believe thedifferences between the two side are great enough for them to surrender 3.3billion in annual revenue.Guys lifetimes in the NHL, the span during which theyplay, is pretty small, Chimera said. I think its five years, average, so ifyou lose two of those five years, its pretty drastic. It would be a shame tolose any time, thats for sure.And not just for the players. Chimera joked that a lockoutcould put some strain on a few hockey marriages, as well, saying his wife isalready pushing him out of the house after a summer of together time.She wants me to go on a road trip, seriously, hesaid. She wants to get rid of me. So its a weird feeling when this stuffhappens. Hopefully, something will get done.

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4 players who impressed in the Capitals home preseason opener against Boston

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4 players who impressed in the Capitals home preseason opener against Boston

Capital One Arena saw its first action of the season on Tuesday, albeit in a preseason game, as the Capitals fell 5-2 to the Boston Bruins. T.J. Oshie looked like he wanted to hit everything that moved every time he was on the ice. Matt Niskanen also scored a power play tally, but both he and Oshie’s spots on the team are already secure. There were plenty of other players with a lot on the line looking to make an impression in the home preseason opener.

Here are four players who impressed.

Riley Barber

The Caps scored less than five minutes into the game thanks to a nifty deflection by Barber on a quick shot by Alex Alexeyev. Barber was Washington’s top offensive threat on the night and was all over the net with nine (!!!) shots on goal and another four attempts. His goal was a dirty one, but Barber also showed some soft hands and good stick work as well throughout the night.

“I thought he had a real strong showing tonight and a number of opportunities and chances and was able to make a real nice play on the first goal,” head coach Todd Reirden said. “I liked his game in particular and I think he was someone that was able to show us a little bit more of an offensive flair than maybe he has done in the past.”

At 24, Barber is at a critical point in his career as he is battling to make the NHL and not become a career AHLer. Right now he still looks like a long shot to make the roster and will likely need a few more efforts like Tuesday’s game to really give himself a shot to stick around in Washington.

Nic Dowd

Dowd is in a battle for the fourth line center job to replace Jay Beagle. Tuesday was a good dress rehearsal for him in terms of winning the job. Dowd was the team’s best player in the face-off dot, took 17 draws and won 12 of them, by far Washington’s top face-off man on the night (not counting Jayson Megna who won the one draw he took).

"It’s a big part of everyone's game in the National Hockey League,” Dowd said. “You lose possession of the puck, you're chasing it for 30 seconds. So, I will continue to work on that and continue to make it a big part of my game."

“That’s an integral role to any team’s success,” Todd Reirden said. “Certainly we were able to benefit from having faceoff success especially in that dot with a right-hand centerman taking those draws. I put him in situations to take a lot of those draws tonight. He did a good job of that, he did a good job on the penalty kill. He continues to be as expected in what we’ve researched and seen from him and he was all of that tonight. I liked his game tonight.”

Dowd also drew two penalties on the night.

The biggest competition for Dowd at fourth line center looks to be Travis Boyd who also played Tuesday. With both players in action, Dowd had the greater impact on the game. The offensive upside looks much higher for Boyd, but Dowd looks like he provide more of those little things that Beagle provided such as face-off wins and penalty killing.

Connor Hobbs

Hobbs took exception to a hit delivered to him by Tanner Pond and the two dropped the gloves. Liam O’Brien dropped the gloves as well and took on Mark McNeil, but Hobbs gets the shout out here because it was a pretty darn good bout with Hobbs delivering several pretty nice rights to Pond.

Braden Holtby

Just in case you were wondering, yes, Holtby is going to make the team. While you could put him in the same category as Oshie, Holtby makes the list for having the top play on the night.

In the first period, former Cap Daniel Winnik looked like he had an empty net to shoot on, but Holtby stretched out the toe to make the fantastic save and somehow deny Winnik.

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New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

New head coach Todd Reirden gets nothing by rave early reviews from Caps players

A defending champion will face a number of obstacles in its quest to repeat.

But for the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Capitals, the path back has an additional hurdle.

Gone is Barry Trotz, the head coach who helped lead the team to its first Stanley Cup. A team hoping to overcome a long postseason and a short offseason will now also have to do it with a new head coach.

Among all the challenges the Caps will face this season, however, no one seems to be worried about the transition to new coach Todd Reirden.

“This is probably going to be the smoothest transition of any coaching change that I’ve ever heard of,” T.J. Oshie said. “Everyone respects Todd, respects the way he coaches, respects how he treats people.”

Reirden was a member of Trotz’s staff as an assistant coach whose primary duty was working with the defensemen. His ability to develop relationships and bring out the best in the team’s blue-liners certainly endeared him to the players.

“Even with all of the D he worked really closely with, from day one, he sat us all down and kind of mapped us all out -- what you need to get better at, what's holding you back mentally or physically, your game, D-zone, O-zone, whatever,” John Carlson said.

“I think he's a good reader of people and really detailed about certain things that I know changed my game -- just little things to think about that you do so many times, but maybe you never work on them or you never think about improving in that area.”

Reirden’s coaching was on display last season when he took a fringe NHL defenseman in Michal Kempny at the trade deadline and turned him into a top-four defenseman for the Caps’ Cup run.

The expertise and proven results have players like Madison Bowey excited for how they can grow with Reirden now the man in charge behind the bench.

“I think we all just want to learn from [Reirden], myself included,” Bowey said.

“Last year was just a big learning curve for me and he helped be tremendously along that way. I just want to keep learning from him.”

Rave reviews from the defensemen should be expected given that is the main area of his experience and expertise. Since taking over the team, however, it is not just the defensemen who have taken notice.

Not to be outdone, the forwards appreciate both his hockey expertise and the personal relationships he develops with the players.

“He's got really good ideas and the way he's approaching us which I like,” Nicklas Backstrom said.

“[Reirden] is so good at creating relationships with people and talking things out,” Oshie said. “And that’s the thing that I think I like the best. He likes to hear from the players, what they think.”

Many players were also quick to point out that, while Trotz may have been the head coach and the main voice that helped the Caps reach the ultimate prize, Reirden had a big hand in that championship run as well.

“He was a huge influence on our success,” Tom Wilson said.” The whole coaching staff the last few years has been second to none. Todd is well deserving, he's well qualified, he's been right in the thick of things throughout the ride the last couple of years and I expect nothing less moving forward. He's a smart guy, a passionate coach and I think a lot of the guys are excited to get moving with it.”

“What a guy Trotzie is,” Oshie said.

“He’s going to be missed. But he’s on the other side now. We got a new year going and I’m excited to play for [Reirden] and just see what he has in store for the guys. It’s going to be a fresh voice for us – even though he had a lot of say before. But like I said, I’m excited to get going here with [Reirden] at the helm.”

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