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Joe B. and Locker: D.C.'s lovable hockey couple

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Joe B. and Locker: D.C.'s lovable hockey couple

They are a match made in hockey heaven.

Joe Beninati, the dapper and loquacious 50-year-old perfectionist from Long Island, and Craig Laughlin, the fun-loving, back-slapping, 58-year-old former hockey player from Toronto.

On Friday night, during CSN’s broadcast of the Capitals’ game against the visiting Nashville Predators, Laughlin will be honored for his 25 seasons as CSN’s Capitals analyst. And from the drop of the puck until the final horn, Beninati will be by his side enjoying every moment.  

The two began working full-time together at the start of the 1996-97 season.

“I had heard about the personality,” Beninati said. “I had heard about the fun-loving laughter. I had heard about the voice.”

What Beninati did not know was that for the next 19 seasons he would become Laughlin’s human punchline while also seeing the two become the closest of friends.  

“We hit it off right away,” Beninati recalls. “He loves to laugh, we know that. So do I. He loves to use me as a punch line and I’m OK with that. I’ve been playing off that for almost 19 seasons on the air together. Everything I came to love about him he still is.”

During the course of a nine-month hockey season Beninati says rarely a day goes by without Laughlin saying something that drops his jaw.

“So many of the things that catch me off guard are the ones when we’re on a plane or in a hotel or at a restaurant or at the rink, but not on the air,” Beninati said. “He’s always laughing halfway through it but some of them are real gut punches and thankfully, I’ve been able to withstand them. He’s probably aged me 38 years in the 19 we’ve been together.”

Like the time during the third period of a game between the Capitals and Calgary Flames that Laughlin decided to inform Beninati that Flames forward Daymond Langkow had requested his name be pronounced LANG-KO and not LANG-COW, as it had throughout his playing career.

“He knows I’m a stickler for pronunciation,” Beninati recalled. “But he didn’t tell me until the third period. So I’m calling the guy LANG-COW, LANG-COW, LANG-COW, and then he jumps in and says (mimicking Laughlin’s nasally voice), ‘Oh, by the way, uh, he wants it said, LANG-KO!’ Hello! You couldn’t tell me that before the game?”

When they aren’t poking fun at one another, Beninati says Laughlin has found an uncanny ability to convey his hockey knowledge in small, concise bites.

“I think people in this area, whether it’s Landover or D.C., have learned the game from Craig and that voice has said a lot of good and accurate and very instructive things,” he said. “Some of the best things Locker does on the air is teach.”

Many of those hockey lessons have come not just from playing the game – Laughlin played in 549 NHL games with the Canadiens, Capitals, Kings and Maple Leafs from 1981-89 – but from the countless stories Laughlin has heard and shared in his four decades around the NHL.

“He can befriend anybody,” Beninati said. “He can be in a room of 50 and he can find the right people to rub elbows with and to have a laugh with and to share stories about our team and learn stories about the other team.

“His prep work is terrific and he can dig deeper into games to tell stories. That comes from shaking hands and laughing and getting on the good side of people who are coaches, players, executives, people in the media. He’s really good at that. People warm up to him. His personality is such that you gravitate towards that. If you want a good laugh and a chance to learn, go to Locker.”

Beninati said Laughlin’s good-natured personality has helped lighten his own “Game 7 mentality” and “hard-core broadcasting role” and has helped make their on-air delivery entertaining for more than a generation of Capitals fans.    

“The two of us are linked,” Beninati said. “You recognize one and you assume he’s there with the other. He calls us a comedy act and that’s part of it. But it’s a small part of it. He’s far more than just comic relief. He’s one of my best friends off the ice. I love going to work, I love sitting in a booth with him. That will never change. I’d like to think that kind of relationship carries over to the airwaves and I sure hope we’re together for a long, long time.”

[RELATED: Joe Beninati takes a look back at 25 years of Craig Laughlin]

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3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

3 things to watch in Caps vs. Panthers

The Capitals play their last home game of October on Friday as they host the Florida Panthers (7 p.m., NBC Sports Washington). Here’s what you need to watch.

Dmitrij Jaskin is back in

Todd Reirden has made one adjustment to the lineup for Friday’s game, putting Dmitrij Jaskin back in on the fourth line in place of Nathan Walker. Jaskin has yet to record a point since joining the Capitals, but that has a lot to do with where he was coming from.

“This team is based on being creative and it's probably something that I missed in the last few years,” Jaskin said following Friday’s morning skate.

In St. Louis, Jaskin was coached by Mike Yeo and, before him, Ken Hitchcock. Both coaches preach a hard-nosed offensive style based more on effort and being defensively responsible than skill. Coming to a team like Washington then, a team that encourages skill and creativity on offense, is a pretty dramatic change.

Jaskin has played a very safe style since coming into the lineup. It’s good to be defensively responsible, but not if it completely chokes the life out of the offense. Jaskin is hardly generating any offense at all thus far since coming to Washington.

After a few more practices, can it finally spark some skill and creativity from Jaskin?

Can the Caps get the bottom six back on track?

The Caps have gotten only two goals in six games from their bottom six and both came in the team’s blowout opening win against Boston. The third and fourth lines generated some chances on Wednesday, but afterward, Reirden stressed that the team needed to see more production from its depth forwards.

“We've got to continue to get scoring depth wise if we want to have success in this league,” he said. “That's where everything's headed is you can't rely on your top guys to come through for you every night and we'll continue to focus on finding the right chemistry with that third and fourth line to be able to give us some added offense there as well.”

Florida could provide a good opportunity for those players to get some points on the board.

Starting goalie Roberto Luongo is out with an injury and James Reimer will get the start on Friday. In three games, Reimer has a GAA of 3.62 and save percentage of .885.

As a team, the Panthers currently rank 24th in goals against per game with 3.50.

Two teams in need of a win

Florida is still searching for its first win of the season with a 0-2-2 record. It is still early, but this is a Panthers team with playoff aspirations and you don’t want to dig yourself in too deep a hole to start or it becomes very difficult to dig out.

The Caps, meanwhile, will be playing in their final home game of October. They leave Saturday for Vancouver to kick-off a three-game Western Canada trip. They then will face the Canadiens in Montreal on Nov. 1 before finally returning home.

Washington’s next home game will not come until Nov. 3. That makes Friday’s game a big one for the Caps as they try to secure two points before hitting the road.

“It's definitely a big game,” Reirden said. “We want to build on some of the things we were able to accomplish last game. It's difficult anytime you go out west with time changes and different stuff. We know that [Florida is] going to be a desperate team that hasn't had the start that they want and they're talented so it's an important game for us to go on the road on a winning note.”

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The Ovechkin's posts family photo with newborn son Sergei

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The Ovechkin's posts family photo with newborn son Sergei

Capitals star Alex Ovechkin had arguably the best summer of anyone.

In June, the Capitals won their first ever Stanley Cup, and in August, Ovechkin and his wife Nastya Ovechkina welcomed their first kid.

Although Ovechkin's son Sergei is only a couple months old, the public has not seen much of him. Both Nastya and Alex posted pictures on Instagram of Sergei's foot when he was born, but neither had posted anything of him since.

In honor of Sergei's two month birthday, Nastya posted a picture of the three of them, with Alex holding Sergei in his hands. 

While it is hard to see much of Sergei, this is one of the first pictures of the couple with their newborn present. 

What a happy family! 

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