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Friday Six-Pack: Trade talk, injuries, and are Caps for real?

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Friday Six-Pack: Trade talk, injuries, and are Caps for real?

Welcome back to our Friday six-pack of Capitals questions. Plenty to choose from this week, so keep them coming!

what teams are sending scouts to caps games? Any interest in galiev? - @PSLouis85

In the two Capitals games since the NHL All-Star break NHL teams represented in the Verizon Center the press box have been the Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets (twice), Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers (twice).  That doesn’t always mean there’s a strong interest by any of those teams. Some scouts plan these trips early in the season and others regularly scout Capitals games because of where they live. Intentionally or not, the Caps showcased Stan Galiev on Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers but it didn’t last very long. After starting the game on the top line the Caps fell behind early and Barry Trotz replaced Galiev with Jason Chimera on the top line. Galiev, 24, has another year left on his contract and next season it becomes a one-way at $575,000. The problem with Galiev is thart his sample size is very small. He’s only played in 14 games this season and has two assists. Thart is not going to draw much interest in the open market and it certainly won’t get you much of a return. I could see the Caps putting Galiev in a package that could yield a player they think can help them in the playoffs. 

Could we possibly see a big trade before the deadline? Possibly acquire a D-man. If so, who? @waleed_shaikh

It depends on how you quantify “big.” The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 29 and, yes, I think the Caps are in the market for a defenseman, just because you can never have too many. I like the way the Caps’ blue liners have played in the absence of Brooks Orpik – especially the development of Nate Schmidt and the reliable play of Taylor Chorney – and Dmitry Orlov has made significant strides, but I think one more veteran defenseman could put them over the top. I’ve mentioned before in this space that I think Dan Hamhuis would be a good fit with the Caps. A 33-year-old veteran who played six seasons under Barry Trotz in Nashville, Hamhuis is back practicing with the Vancouver Canucks after suffering facial fractures when he was struck by a puck in December. He could return to action this weekend. Hamhuis is in the final year of his deal with the Canucks and carries a $3.25 million cap hit. Prorated, that would be roughly $700,000 against the cap. According to our good friends at www.generalfanager.com, the Caps currently have roughly $5 million in cap space. But they also have Brooks Orpik ($5.5 million) on long-term injury reserve. They have 49 players under contract, leaving them room for one more before hitting the 50-man limit. Making room for a contract like Hamhuis’ would simply require sending a player or two (Zach Sill and/or Galiev) down to the minors. The question, of course, is what the Caps would be willing to play for veteran depth on their blue line. Last year the Caps acquired Tim Gleason from the Hurricanes in exchange for Jack Hillen and a fourth-round pick. Would the Caps be willing to give up their first-round pick, which could be 30th overall, for a player like Hamhuis? And would that be enough for the Canucks?

RELATED: Backstrom the quiet caddy for Ovi, Oshie

Do you see Kuznetsov as a 100 pt player within a year or two? @E19HT_6

I hope I’m wrong, but no. That’s not to say I don’t like everything Evgeny Kuznetsov brings to the table. I just think reaching 100 points is more difficult now than ever. Since the 2011-12 season, only one player, Sidney Crosby, has recorded 100 or more points (104 points in 2013-14). This season, Patrick Kane is tearing it up in Chicago and is on pace for 112 points. Jamie Benn, who is closest to Kane in the race for the Art Ross Trophy, is on pace for 91 points. There is no question in my mind that if Kuznetsov can stay healthy -- and he has through his first two-plus seasons in the NHL – he will be a point-a-game player throughout his NHL career. That’s pretty darn good. Maybe even Hall of Fame worthy depending on if he can win a few championships. Justin Williams has won three Stanley Cups and has played with some incredible players and he told me yesterday he thinks Kuznetsov might be one of the smartest and most skilled players he’s ever played with. So, yes, Kuznetsov is capable of scoring 100 points. Time will tell if he will ever get there.    

Do we have any update on MoJo and his injury? D2D with the CAPS has meant week to week for other players. That scares me. @@zachg10

do you think orpik returns in the near future? Next couple weeks? @Jklass3n

Marcus Johansson (upper body) and Brooks Orpik (lower body) were on the ice practicing with the Caps on Friday and I think both will be back in the lineup during the Caps’ upcoming three-game road trip to Nashville (Tuesday), Minnesota (Thursday) and Dallas (Saturday). Since Monday is a travel day the Caps won’t have their next practice until Wednesday in Minnesota. Caps coach Barry Trotz said he’d like to have his injured players practice before returning to the lineup. That being the case, I could see both Orpik and Johansson returning Thursday against the Wild. Orpik told me this is the longest he’s ever been out of the lineup (35 games) in his NHL career and wants to prove to his coaches and teammates that he’s durable enough to be an impact player in the playoffs. Johansson wore a non-contact gray practice jersey today and will need to be cleared for full contact before he can play. 

When Jay Beagle becomes healthy again what do you think the caps lines look like? who sits? -@c_lo83

The good news is that Jay Beagle (hand surgery) is now skating with a stick in his hands and could be back practicing with the Caps when they return from next week’s road trip. With that in mind, I could see his return coming sometime in third week of February. Where he fits in will depend on the effectiveness of Mike Richards, who has been winning faceoffs (57 percent) but is still looking to find his touch offensively. That said, here’s how I see the Caps’ forward lines shaking out:

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Justin Williams

Jason Chimera – Marcus Johansson – Tom Wilson

Brooks Laich – Mike Richards – Jay Beagle

Extras: Michael Latta, Stan Galiev

you've been around the great regular season teams that have failed. What makes THIS team different? - @theNHLLocksmith

Great question and you’re right. I covered teams in Philadelphia that looked unbeatable in the regular season – the 2002-03 Flyers had 107 points and the 2010-11 Flyers had 106 points – but both were knocked out in the second round. The Flyers lost top defenseman Eric Desjardins in 2003 and were doomed after that. The 2011 team had defenseman Chris Pronger for just three playoff games and rotated three goalies, which led to a second-round sweep to the Bruins. But I also covered a Flyers team in 2009-10 that limped into the playoffs on a shootout victory in the final game of the regular season but made it all the way to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, when a bad-angle goal by Patrick Kane won it for the Blackhawks. That’s why it’s important to note that Stanley Cups are never won in February or March. What makes this Capitals team different than the one, say, in 2009-10 is the age and maturity of its core players, its willingness to play team defense, the experience of its coaching staff, and its elite-level goaltending. I understand the consternation of Capitals fans who have been disappointed in the past. But every season presents new challenges and opportunities and I honestly think this team is capable of going all the way.

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin to the rescue as Caps beat Isles

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Capitals vs. Rangers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Capitals vs. Rangers: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Capitals (2-2-1) were dealt a herky-jerky schedule for the first month of the NHL season, already having logged two back-to-backs and two extended breaks.  But Washington finally gets a semblance of normalcy when they host the New York Rangers (2-4) on Wednesday night in the first of two home games before heading out west to end the month.

The Caps enter the Wednesday Night Hockey tilt with their longtime regional foes having dropped a thrilling weekend showdown against the Toronto Maple Leafs and their high-powered attack. The Rangers have long been a thorn in the side of the Capitals and fans alike. But the team that will hit the ice at Capital One Arena on Oct. 17 will be one that Capitals need to dispatch of with ease.

The team's first foray into defending a championship has been a wild ride with ceremonies, openers, rematches and a lot of time off. After dropping the first three games of the season, New York has won two of its last three,  with both games needing extra time.

Here is everything you need to know about Capitals vs. Rangers which takes place at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

CAPITALS vs. RANGERs HOW TO WATCH

What: Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers, Game 6 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season

Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C.

When: Wednesday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: Capitals vs. Rangers will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. (NBC Sports Washington Channel Finder)

Live Stream: Watch Capitals vs. Rangers on  the NBC Sports Washington live stream page and  the NBC Sports MyTeams App.

Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS TV SCHEDULE

6:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live
6:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live
7:00 PM: Capitals vs. Rangers on NBC Sports Network
9:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live
10:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS PLAYERS TO WATCH

Braden Holtby, G. Capitals: Holtby has started four of the Capitals' first five games. He's allowed just two goals in the Capitals' two wins, but has given up 11 in the two losses. That being said, the Rangers do not have the caliber of fire-power possessed by the Penguins and Maple Leafs. Expect a big game from "The HoltBeast."

Mats Zuccarello, Rangers: The Rangers savvy veteran leads the team in assists (5) and points (50 through the first six games. While he's not the most dangerous threat on offense, he's the table setter and crafty elder statesman. 

CAPITALS vs. RANGERS SERIES HISTORY

Number of all-time Meetings: 273

All-Time Series Record: Capitals lead series 131–117–18–7

Regular Season Record: Capitals lead series 103–90–18–7

Playoff Record: Capitals lead series 28-27

Last Meeting: Capitals beat Rangers 3-2 OT (3/28/2018)

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

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4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

4 things to watch as the Caps host the Rangers

The Caps return to action Wednesday as they host the New York Rangers (7 p.m., NBCSN) in a Metropolitan Division clash.

Here are four things you should be watching for in this game.

The schedule finally gives the Caps a break

The early season schedule for Washington has been bizarre to say the least. Finally, they will be catching a break on Wednesday as the Rangers will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back.

That certainly does not guarantee a victory, but it is something the Caps are very aware of and they hope to take advantage.

“I think speed is a big part of the game and for them to be fatigued off the back-to-back is definitely going to help us whether we move the puck a little quicker than we would in other games just kind of knowing they are coming off that back-to-back,” Nathan Walker said.

“We've got to make them skate, we've got to make their D go back for pucks,” T.J. Oshie said. “I don't feel like they're going to look tired at the start of the game, usually that comes towards the end of the game, second half, and so you've got to work to drain them down a little bit and we've got to take advantage of that opportunity tonight.”

Top-line Stephenson

Stephenson was added to the top line on Saturday with no practice other than the morning skate that day. A few days between games has given him a chance to practice with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and it should pay dividends on Wednesday.

This game also should be a good opportunity for Stephenson who was added to the top for his speed. Playing a tired Rangers team is something he will need to take advantage of.

“It's always tough to play back-to-back and with the travel and stuff like that,” Stephenson said. “For the most part, I think that that's going to be important and just to play a full 60, that's something that we want to get consistent with and we haven't been so far … But for the most part, I think the start will really help us tonight.”

Nathan Walker returns

The Caps made a change to the lineup for Wednesday’s game as Nathan Walker will be in for Dmitrij Jaskin on the fourth line.

When asked why he made the change, Reirden said, “Just a different look. A team that's on a back-to-back, we wanted to really come at them with some speed, tenacity and intensity that we know we always get from Nathan so thought it was a good add into tonight's lineup.

The Caps have got to get more offense from their bottom six and adding the speedy Walker to the bottom six could provide a boost. He has had trouble playing within the system in the past and his play has been more frenzied than controlled at times, but with Tom Wilson still suspended, there’s definitely an opportunity for Walker to earn more playing time depending on how he plays Wednesday.

King Henry remains on his throne

In addition to a tired Rangers team, the Caps are also expected to face a tired goalie.

Henrik Lundqvist started New York’s game on Tuesday and is expected to start again on Wednesday against Washington. That is not confirmed as the Rangers did not have a morning skate because of the back-to-back, but it is believed Lundqvist will play again.

There was a time when Lundqvist was considered the best netminder in the NHL and he is off to a phenomenal start this season with a 1.99 GAA and .939 save percentage in five games thus far.

But how will the 36-year-old goalie handle a back-to-back?

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