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Wolski 'very hungry' to rebound in D.C.

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Wolski 'very hungry' to rebound in D.C.

The journey Wojtek Wolski pronounced VOY-tek VOL-skee took to get to the NHL is almost as fascinating as the rocky path that led him to signing a one-year, 600,000 contract with the Capitals on Wednesday.

Born in Poland, Wolski left his native country with his parents and older brother when he was 3 years old and settled in Toronto when he was 5. He began playing ice hockey shortly thereafter, stuffing his older brothers oversized skates with crumpled newspapers to allow his feet to fit into them.

There was magic in those skates and as Wolskis body grew, maxing out at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, so did his legend.

Although he was ranked fifth in a 2004 draft class that included current Capitals Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Jeff Schultz, Wolski dropped to 21st overall, where the Colorado Avalanche took him.

Wolski spent the next two seasons tearing up the OHL and set a club record in his final season with the Brampton Battalion with 47 goals and 128 points in just 57 games.

His NHL career started off with a bang when he netted a goal and two assists in his first game with the Avs, and he emerged as a top six forward in his first four years in the NHL, averaging 19 goals and 51 points.

Since then Wolski, 26, has been a major disappointment, averaging just eight goals and 24 points in his past two seasons with the Coyotes, Rangers and Panthers. In fact, some describe Wolski as little more than a shootout specialist.

Its probably the biggest reason Wolski received little interest in the first 10 days of free agency and why his one-year cost to the Capitals is just 100,00 over the NHL minimum. Two years ago, Wolski signed a two-year contract with the Coyotes worth 7.6 million.

I had one bad year and this year was tough with the sports hernia surgery I had, Wolski said in a conference call. This upcoming year is a great time for me to bounce back and show Im still a great player and I still have a lot of life left in me.

Im simply at a point in my career where I want to accomplish something. Ive got to make it work and I think Im ready and able and its going to be a great year.

Because of his inconsistencies and questionable work habits, Wolski already has drawn comparisons to Alex Semin, the player he will be asked to replace in the Capitals lineup. Wolski said hes been told by the Capitals that they see him as a top six forward who can challenge for a role on one of the teams top two lines.

I think I can help on the offensive side, he said. I struggled the last two years but Im definitely highly motivated and very excited and very hungry at this point in time.

Wolski said hes also excited at the opportunity to play for new coach Adam Oates, saying Devils rookie Adam Henrique told him he learned a lot from Oates when he was an assistant in New Jersey. Wolski will also be reuniting with Caps forward Matt Hendricks, whom he roomed with when the two were teammates in Colorado.

What are your thoughts on the Wolski signing? Was he a good pickup at 600,000? Or is he too much of a risk? Join the conversation below.

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: A trip to the Stanley Cup Final is on the line

The Eastern Conference Final is going the distance!

After losing three straight to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Capitals won Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Tampa Bay. Can the Caps beat the Lightning one more time and advance to the Stanley Cup Final?

JJ Regan, Tarik El-Bashir and special guest cameraman Mike D break it all down.

 

PLEASE NOTE: Due to schedule and time constraints, this podcast was recorded by phone and the audio quality is not up to our usual standards.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

Caps push Lightning around in Game 6 with physical game plan

As the NHL continues to focus more on speed and skill, the Capitals took a very old-school approach to Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. From the moment the puck dropped until the clock hit zero, it was clear Washington came into Monday with a very physical game plan.

"It made a big difference," T.J. Oshie said. "I think in these games, everyone’s bringing energy and you kind of want to control that and direct it towards some positive play, some momentum building for your team, and tonight I think we handled that and did that pretty well."

"We just wanted to throw everything we had at them," Stephenson said. "It was a do or die game and we don't want our season to end."

It worked.

The scoresheet officially credited the Caps with 39 hits for the game. The Lightning had only 19. The physical play seemed to wear down Tampa Bay as the game went on.

After an even first period, Washington took a 1-0 lead in the second. Then, very fittingly, a physical fourth line extended that lead to 2-0 in the third to finish the Lightning off.

"All of a sudden now we turn a puck over, you’re back in your end, they’re feeling it, they’re being physical, crowd’s behind them and we’re spending way too much time in our D zone," Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. "That’s what hurt us."

What made it so effective was the fact that the entire team bought into it. Alex Ovechkin was certainly the most noticeable player as he threw himself around like a wrecking ball against everyone wearing a white jersey. But it was not just his line. Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six hits, Devante Smith-Pelly recorded five of his own while Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom both had four.

The Lightning faced a constant barrage from the Caps from every line and defensive pair. There was no respite.

The hits also gave the fans plenty to cheer for.

The Caps were playing an elimination game at home and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was standing on his head. Even with the score locked at 0-0 through the first period, the crowd was still very much into the game. There was no apprehension, there was no quiet tension. There was just a loud crowd cheering on its team.

"[The fans] were loud right from the start, which I think we fed off of and wanted to give them something back," Brooks Orpik said. "We didn't get a goal early. I think some of the physical play kind of helped carry that. They were great for us."

Now in the third round of the playoffs after six intense games between the Caps and Lightning, the hope is that Game 6's physical play will continue to take its toll on Tampa Bay heading into Game 7.

"We need to do that every game," Nicklas Backstrom said. "That's our forecheck. Hopefully, we can keep it going here in Game 7."

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