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Chimera: 'There's a deal to be had out there'

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Chimera: 'There's a deal to be had out there'

On Thursday, more than 250 NHL players are expected to meet at the NHLPA offices in New York to show their solidarity as a union and lend their support for executive director Donald Fehr.

Capitals veteran left wing Jason Chimera wont be among them hell be taking one of his children to pre-school for the first time.

There are still some things in life that are more important than CBA talks, Chimera said Monday after nearly 90 minutes on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Id rather take my kid to school than go listen to bad news.

The bad news most NHL players are bracing for is that on Saturday night at 11:59 they will be locked out by the leagues 30 owners, beginning the NHLs second work stoppage in eight years.But dont let Chimeras priorities mislead you. In July he left his home in Calgary to spend four days in New York, shortly after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made his first proposal to the players, which called for their share of league revenues sliced from 57 percent to 43 percent.

The leagues most recent proposal increases that share from 43 to 46 percent and includes a five-year maximum on the length of player contracts, but Chimera says that wont be enough to get a deal done.

Its pretty much stalemated, I think, Chimera said.

Chimera said the differences between labor talks this summer and the ones that took place prior to the 2004-05 lockout are night and day. Back then, the players eventually agreed to a salary cap that included a 24 percent rollback on salaries but not until an entire season was lost.

We said no cap and we finally took a cap, Chimera said. Its not easier this year, but theres a deal to be had out there, for sure. Were not trying to get no cap again. Its all divvying up the revenue and who wants a bigger piece of the pie.

As players we want to play and keep the revenues going. If they lock us out, I think it would be pretty unfortunate. I think the games going too well for us to be locked out.

Asked if he has a gut feeling on whether there will be a work stoppage, Chimera said, I hope its short. I hope theres no time lost. Id be ashamed to lose one game, thats for sure. I think as players we put a proposal together that kind of solves the problems of the teams they say are struggling and helps put money in their pockets.

Although few specifics have come from the players proposal, Fehr said it includes a revenue sharing formula that appears to be similar to a luxury tax, in which the leagues more financially stable teams would give financial relief to the leagues struggling teams.

Unfortunately, I dont know if the owners trust each other, Chimera said. They say they want shorter contracts but then Minnesotas majority owner Craig Leopold handed out two 15-year deals for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. So its kind of tough to judge where theyre at.

I dont know if the owners want a CBA that will regulate each other. Our proposal did actually help the little guys out by spreading money. I think the bigger owners like Toronto and New York probably dont want to give money back to the teams that are struggling. But then they want us to have a rollback to foot the bill for that. Its a tough situation.

Like teammate Alex Ovechkin noted last week, Chimera estimates the NHLs most recent proposal would result in a 20 percent rollback in player salaries. And with an estimated record high of 3.3 billion in league revenue last season, hes adamantly against it

Who in their right ," Chimera said. "If youre a reporter or youre a cashier and someone says youre going to take a 20 percent pay cut -- no ones going to say, OK where do I sign up for that?

It gets lost because it is lots of money. We still get money if its a 20 percent pay cut. But with any job, if you get a 20 percent pay cut people are going to find work elsewhere. If youre a pipe fitter and they offer you a 20 percent cutback Ill just go to another refinery and work there.

Its tough. Theres a lot of money at stake and its tough for a regular fan to get into it because people really work hard for 15 bucks an hour or minimum wage. For us to be bickering over 3.3 billion makes it pretty tough for fans to get on anybodys side.

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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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