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It's been a long time coming for Brett Connolly, the Caps' nominee for the Masterton

It's been a long time coming for Brett Connolly, the Caps' nominee for the Masterton

Capitals winger Brett Connolly has been nominated for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, the Washington chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association announced on Friday.

The Masterton Trophy recognizes perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship.

Connolly has scored a career-high 15 goals this season, despite missing 14 games as a healthy scratch earlier in the campaign.

The 24-year-old's breakout season comes nearly seven years after the Lightning selected him sixth overall. It also comes nine months after the Bruins chose not retain his negotiating rights.

The Caps snapped up Connolly after Boston cut him loose, signing him to a one-year, $850,000 contract.

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After a "rough" start to his tenure in Washington, Coach Barry Trotz shuffled his forward combos and Connolly ended up as the left wing on the third line with Lars Eller and Andre Burakovsky.

The trio quickly found some chemistry—and Connolly finally found the groove and comfort level he had always sought.

“It’s been good,” Connolly said after practice on Friday. “It was a little bit of a rough start. But after Christmas, when me Lars and Burky were put together, we kinda went on a little run, the team was playing well and it just kinda bled on for the rest of the year.”

Connolly added: “I’m obviously very happy with the way the year has gone.”

Trotz said he’s been pleasantly surprised by Connolly’s goal production, particularly since he doesn't play a whole lot (10:49 per game).

“He’s given us quality minutes,” Trotz said. “Our scouts identified him as a guy who could contribute offensively. How much, I didn’t know. If you had said Brett Connolly is going to give you 15 goals coming into the season, I’d say, ‘We’ll take it, sure.’”

Connolly will be a restricted free agent at season’s end.

“I would love to be back,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of things that can happen from now until the end of the playoffs. A lot of guys are up on their contracts [and] we all have one goal and that’s to ultimately win at the end of the year. We’ll worry about where we’re going to be next year when we’re all done. Hopefully with the Cup.”

Each of the PHWA’s 30 chapters submits a Masterton nominee.

MORE CAPITALS: Prediction recap: Caps pull out narrow Metro Division win

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NHL to move to Phase 2 of return to play plan by June 8

NHL to move to Phase 2 of return to play plan by June 8

The NHL will transition to Phase 2 of its return to play plan, the reopening of team facilities for training activities, on June 8, the league announced Thursday.

Since the season was paused on March 12, the league has considered itself to be in Phase 1 of the plan, meaning self-isolation. While the NHL and NHLPA have made progress off the ice towards a return to play negotiating things such as the playoff format, throughout all those talks the league still remained in Phase 1. This is the first concrete step the NHL has taken towards an eventual return to the ice.

"Beginning June 8 – subject to each Club’s satisfaction of all of the requirements set out in the Phase 2 Protocol – Clubs will be permitted to reopen their training facilities in their home city to allow players to participate in individualized training activities (off-ice and on-ice)," a statement released by the NHL said. "Players will be participating on a voluntary basis and will be scheduled to small groups (i.e., a maximum of six Players at any one time, plus a limited number of Club staff). The various measures set out in the Phase 2 Protocol are intended to provide players with a safe and controlled environment in which to resume their conditioning."

As the statement notes, participation in Phase 2 activities are voluntary and will be limited to six players at a time. The Capitals have not yet set a date for the team's start of Phase 2.

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Phase 3 of the plan is training camp and, despite Thursday's announcement, we remain far off from that point. According to Pierre LeBrun, the earliest the league would start camps is July 10. Phase 4 is then the resumption of the season.

Presumably, Phase 3 will not start without a date set for when Phase 4. It is hard to believe the NHLPA would agree to an indefinite training camp. Phase 2, however, can begin without any formalized dates for Phases 3 and 4.  So while this is certainly a step towards the return of hockey and a sign that things are improving, all the difficult deciions regarding health and safety protocols as well as a timeline for the eventual 2020 postseason are still yet to be decided.

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Pittsburgh Penguins announce unnamed player tested positive for COVID-19

Pittsburgh Penguins announce unnamed player tested positive for COVID-19

An unnamed player on the Pittsburgh Penguins has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, the team announced on Thursday.

"This player is not in Pittsburgh and has been in isolation at home since first experiencing symptoms," the statement said. "He is recovered and feeling well. Those in close contact with the player leading up to the diagnosis have been notified." 

The organization stated that there would be no further updates on the player or situation at this time. 

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The Penguins are one of the 24 teams that will participate in the NHL's new playoff format once the season resumes. As of now, training camp for teams will not begin until July 10 at the earliest and there is still no clear timetable for when games will begin.

This announcement does bring up the question as to what the league will do if a positive diagnosis happens once play starts up again. Though NHL deputy commissioner Billy Daly has stated that he doesn't believe one positive test will halt the entire postseason, a plan will need to be put in place for how to handle a player contracting coronavirus.

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