Capitals

Wednesday's Sports in Brief

Wednesday's Sports in Brief

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Pablo Sandoval and Barry Zito took star turns in getting the World Series off to a rollicking start.

Sandoval hit three home runs and joined Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Albert Pujols as the only boppers to do it in the Series, and the San Francisco Giants jolted Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 8-3 on Wednesday night in Game 1.

Left off the 2010 World Series roster by the champion Giants, Zito shut out the Tigers until Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera's RBI single in the sixth. The Giants won for the 14th straight time with Zito starting.

NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees manager Joe Girardi says he expects Alex Rodriguez to be his everyday third baseman next season despite benching the slugger several times during the postseason.

As for the rest of New York's lineup for 2013, Girardi is less certain.

Ace CC Sabathia is going to have his left elbow examined by Dr. James Andrews. Several key players are headed for free agency and Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are two aging stars dealing with major injuries.

PRO HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - The New York Islanders finally have a new home and it's in Brooklyn, the borough that is suddenly a hot bed of pro sports 54 years after baseball's Dodgers headed west.

``It's a new place and it's only 35 minutes away by train,'' team owner Charles Wang said at a news conference Wednesday. ``Come and join us and see hockey.''

After seven months of negotiations, and offers to move the team out of New York, Wang announced that the Islanders will relocate about 25 miles west once their lease expires at Nassau Coliseum after the 2014-15 season.

Since the day the Islanders entered the NHL in 1972, the Coliseum in Uniondale has been the place for them. It's where they grabbed the hockey spotlight, outshined the big, bad Rangers, and won the Stanley Cup four straight times from 1980-83.

But on Wednesday, the future became all about Brooklyn.

NEW YORK (AP) - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says it looks as if a full-82 game schedule ``is not going to be a reality,'' as the lockout nears its seventh week.

Speaking at a news conference announcing the New York Islanders' move from Nassau Coliseum to Brooklyn's Barclays Center in 2015, Bettman seemed resigned to looking at a shortened season with the NHL and the players' association still at odds after months of negotiations.

Bettman stated, in making the NHL's most recent offer, that a deal needed to be in place by Thursday for the season to begin Nov. 2 and allow for each team to play a full 82-game slate. With no negotiations scheduled, reaching a deal in one day appears very unlikely.

PRO FOOTBALL

The players' union and the four players suspended in the Saints' bounties case filed motions to have former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue removed from hearing their appeals.

They asked in U.S. District Court in New Orleans that Tagliabue recuse himself because of a conflict of interest, and also asked for a neutral arbitrator to be appointed by the court.

The NFL said it would oppose Tagliabue stepping aside.

NEW YORK (AP) - NFL great Lawrence Taylor, reliving a night to forget, admitted that he paid for sex with a ``very, very pretty'' prostitute in 2010 but denied accusations that he ignored obvious signs she was a teen runaway in distress.

Taylor, 53, told a Manhattan jury at a civil trial that he had a history of hiring women for ``company'' when on the road but didn't expect them to automatically have sex with him.

``I still like the chase,'' Taylor testified. But he added, ``I like to stack the odds in my favor. ... I don't like to work too hard.''

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Browns starting linebacker Scott Fujita will be placed on injured reserve with a neck injury, ending his stormy season - and perhaps his football career.

Fujita, one four players suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal, was inactive the past two games. He last started on Oct. 7 in a game against the New York Giants.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Mario Williams is not expected to miss any games after the Buffalo Bills high-priced defensive end had what the team called ``a procedure'' to relieve discomfort in his injured left wrist.

Coach Chan Gailey provided the update, saying he expects Williams to return to practice next week once the Bills return from their bye weekend off. Gailey, was otherwise, very short on specifics in sharing any other details regarding the status of the NFL's highest-paid defensive player.

NEW YORK (AP) - There will be more pink visible on the field during the Dolphins-Jets game this weekend.

The NFL announced that officials will be using pink penalty flags for Sunday's game after an 11-year-old wrote Commissioner Roger Goodell with the suggestion.

In support of breast cancer awareness, pink has been highly visible this month, from coaches' caps to players' wristbands and cleats, and even officials' whistles. Dante Cano, a fifth-grader from Marlboro, N.J., then offered the idea of pink penalty flags. The NFL agreed and invited Cano and his family to MetLife Stadium; they will present the penalty flags to the officials before the game.

CYCLING

NEW YORK (AP) - Lance Armstrong's results erased from the record books will likely include his 868th-place finish at the 2006 New York City Marathon.

Marathon organizer New York Road Runners said in a statement Wednesday it expected to wipe out his times once any potential appeals play out, since the race follows USADA rulings.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

LOS ANGELES (AP) - UCLA freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad injured his right shoulder during practice.

A team spokesman said Muhammad was scheduled to undergo an MRI in the evening, and would be reevaluated on Thursday.

PRO BASKETBALL

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are sitting out of the Los Angeles Lakers' preseason game against the Clippers, who are giving Chris Paul a rest on Wednesday night.

Bryant has a strained and bruised right foot, while Paul was hit accidentally by a teammate in practice.

Coach Mike Brown says he wanted to rest Howard, who was recovering from general soreness after his Lakers debut on Sunday.

Brown says Bryant won't play in San Diego against the Kings on Thursday night, when the Lakers conclude their preseason schedule. Bryant missed an exhibition game earlier this month to rest a sore right shoulder.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, helped off the field and taken to a hospital during Saturday's game, says he is fine and will be ready to go against Penn State.

OBITUARY

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (AP) - Jeff Blatnick, who overcame cancer to win a gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1984 Summer Olympics and went on to a career as a sports commentator and motivational speaker, died Wednesday in New York state at age 55.

Officials at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, N.Y., said he died there of heart failure.

Blatnick was a high school state champion in suburban Albany in the mid-1970s and was a two-time Division II National champion and three-time Division II All-American at Springfield College in Massachusetts.

SOCCER

PARIS (AP) - Powerhouse clubs Real Madrid, AC Milan, Manchester City and Arsenal lost Champions League games, while Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 2-0 victory at Dinamo Zagreb.

Nine-time European champion Real Madrid lost 2-1 at Borussia Dortmund; seven-time champion Milan's woeful season continued with a 1-0 loss at Malaga; City blew a 1-0 lead on the way to a 3-1 loss at Ajax; and Arsenal was humbled in a 2-0 home loss to German club Schalke.

TENNIS

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) - Roger Federer edged Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-5 to advance to the quarterfinals of his hometown Swiss Indoors tournament.

VALENCIA, Spain (AP) - John Isner of the United States lost to David Goffin 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4 in the second round at the Valencia Open.

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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Just how deep is Washington's blue line?

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Capitals Mailbag Part 2: Just how deep is Washington's blue line?

It’s time for a new Capitals Mailbag! You can read Wednesday’s Part 1 here.

Check out Part 2 below.

Have a Caps question you want answered in the next mailbag? Send it on Twitter using #CapsMailNBC or by email to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com.

Please note, some questions have been edited for clarity.

Douglas F. writes: Now that we traded away Matt Niskanen will Nick Jensen be paired with Dmitry Orlov? I personally would like to see how Jonas Siegenthaler would do beside him. My ideal defensive pairings: John Carlson/Michal Kempny, Jonas Siegenthaler/Dmitry Orlov, Nick Jensen (or Radko Gudas)/ Christian Djoos. Would that make sense?

What you have to consider is the shooting side of each player. Michal Kempny, Dmitry Orlov, Jonas Siegenthaler and Christian Djoos are left-shot defensemen while John Carlson, Nick Jensen and Radko Gudas are all right-shot defensemen. I don’t see the team putting two leftys together in the top four. Right-shot defensemen are harder to find and the Caps have three of them. That is a luxury not every team gets and I do not see Washington going into the season with a plan to willingly giving up that advantage.

Brian MacLellan telegraphed his feelings on Jensen when he traded for him and re-signed him for four years before he ever put on a Caps jersey. They see him as a top-four and that is where they are going to use him.

Granted, if Jensen struggles then pretty much all options are on the table so perhaps we could see this possibility later in the season.

I also get your point on Siegenthaler. I liked him a lot last season. I was surprised it took four games to get him into the playoffs and I was not surprised to see him move up to the top pairing after that. For now, however, putting him on the third pair with Gudas makes the most sense to me not just because of his inexperience but because of the guys ahead of him.

Paul O. writes: With the glut of young defensemen in the prospect pool, along with good ones moving fast in Alex Alexeyev and Martin Fehervary, has the team soured on Connor Hobbs and Lucas Johansen ever making the jump to the big club?

I am not sure “soured” would be the right word for it as I think this has more to do with how impressed the team has been with Alexeyev and Fehervary than any negative feelings towards Hobbs and Williams.

Hobbs was a fifth-round draft pick who has shown that he may have had more potential than initially thought and could reach the NHL, but he was always going to be a third-pairing type of player so it is no surprise to see highly touted prospects like Alexeyev and Fehervary push for the NHL before Hobbs makes it there. His defense has improved tremendously, but the offensive skill that made him a standout in the WHL has not translated to the AHL as of yet. Johansen was hampered greatly by an upper-body injury last season and looks very jumpy with the puck on his stick which is not good news for a player in whom puck-moving was supposed to be a major part of his game.

The bigger concern of the two would be Johansen as he is a first-round pick. That means the team saw him as being a significant NHL contributor and I do not think they would have anticipated him getting passed on the depth chart before reaching the NHL. Hobbs, however, was always going to be a long-shot as a fifth-rounder.

To me, the greater takeaway is not that the team has soured on anyone, but that they are so high on both Alexeyev and Fehervary. Hopefully the other two will continue to develop and eventually catch up, but the silver-lining is you have at least two defensemen the team seems pretty confident can compete for an NHL spot in the near future.

Luka K. writes: Hershey has eight defensemen who all deserve and need to play (Erik Burgdoerfer, Connor Hobbs, Lucas Johansen, Colby Williams, Alex Alexeyev, Martin Fehervary, Tobias Geisser, Tyler Lewington and probably Bobby Nardella)? Who is deemed surplus, an ECHL ticket or possible trade for forward prospect?

In addition to the nine you mentioned, Hershey also has Tommy Hughes and Kristofers Bindulis. That gives the Bears 11 defensemen which should make for a crowded blue line even for the AHL where teams carry more players. Of those nine, Burgdoerfer and Hughes are the only two not under contract with the Caps and are playing on AHL contracts with Hershey.

I would assume Bindulis is headed to the ECHL. He played in only four games for the Bears last season and 12 the season before with 34 games in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays. He certainly looks like the odd-man out. Hughes played last season in Europe, but was with Hershey in 2017-18 and spent the majority of that season in the ECHL. I could easily see him head there this year as well, though I expect Hershey wanted him and Burgdoerfer as veterans to help the younger guys.

Speaking of the younger guys, if they are struggling with the transition and are not getting much playing time, they may get a tour in South Carolina, but the Caps will want to see their top prospects in action and I imagine most of those players will stick around in Hershey.

The only one I could potentially see eventually being on the trade block is Johansen. As a first-round pick, he still could have some trade value. When you start getting passed on the team’s depth chart, it does not take long before your trade value surpasses your on-ice value.

Brian D. writes: Can you please explain the Connor McMichael signing? He’s not going to crack the Caps roster this year and he’s too young to play in the AHL so it’s almost guaranteed he’s going back to juniors this year. So why pay a salary to a player (and burn years off his entry level contract) to play in juniors the next two years? Why not wait till he’s ready to play professional hockey to start paying him and using his entry level contract years?

Barring a miraculous performance in training camp, no, Connor McMichael is not going to make the NHL roster this year. You are also correct in that he is still with his junior team so, by rule, he cannot play in the AHL. He can either play in the NHL or the OHL this season, there are no other options. The good news, however, is that McMichael is not going to burn a year off his contract.

Because most players require more development before they reach the NHL, entry-level contracts slide so as not to punish a team for its patience. So long as McMichael does not play 10 NHL games next season, he will not burn the first year of his contract and will not earn a salary. The only money he will be paid is his signing bonus. There are rules as to when an unsigned draft pick becomes a free agent and when some players get close to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, they elect to wait it out and head into free agency. Signing these players to NHL contracts early in their careers when they are excited about getting drafted is much easier than waiting until they start to think the grass may be greener on the other side.

So why not just immediately sign every draft pick to a contract and let them continuously slide until you need them thus avoiding losing them to free agency? Because teams are limited to only 50 contracts and teams could quickly run out of room to sign or trade for more players they may desperately need. The Caps ran into this issue last season. With 50 players already under contract, the team could not sign highly touted prospect Chase Priskie who has declared he will wait until Aug. 15 when he will become a free agent. If the team could have signed Priskie at the end of his college season last year and brought him right away to the AHL or NHL it could potentially have enticed him to sign. Instead the Caps now stand to lose him for nothing.

So I hear you, Brian, but there is no reason to fear. Now the Caps have McMichael signed and do not have to worry about him holding out for free agency several years from now, but they also are not losing any contract years.

Phillip M. writes: With the Seattle Expansion Draft approaching and the Caps having signed most of their key players through the next 2 years I have a question. NHL teams can protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen and a goalie, or any 8 skaters plus 1 goalie. I understand first and second year NHL players, and unsigned draft choices are exempt. So I assume that means signed non-NHL playing draft choices can be selected. Are Alex Alexeyev, Connor McMichael, Brett Leason and Ilya Samsonov available to be selected by Seattle? Who do you expect the team will most likely protect?

What qualifies as first and second-year players to the NHL is players who have finished at least two seasons of professional North American play. I explained above how a player burns the first year of his entry-level contract. With the expansion draft two years away, that means any prospects who remain with their junior teams at least through this season will not qualify not have to worry about the expansion draft including McMichael.

Ilya Samsonov already burned the first year of his contract last season and with Alexeyev and Leason expected to play in Hershey this season, all three will likely qualify for the expansion draft..

It is really hard to project between now and 2021, but if you insist:

Seven forwards: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Tom Wilson, Jakub Vrana, Lars Eller, Brett Leason

Three defensemen: John Carlson, Jonas Siegenthaler, Alex Alexeyev

Goalie: Ilya Samsonov

Don’t hold me to this, a lot can happen in two years.

John F. writes: Will an enterprising team owner (with deep pockets) ever consider building an outdoor arena designed specifically for hockey? Sticking an outdoor game in a baseball or football stadium seems like a bad way to watch a hockey game.

I can’t see this ever happening. Maintaining a playable ice surface is incredibly hard to do inside in an arena. When you put it outside, you are greatly complicating things. The league does a great job with its outdoor games, but this is just for one game. Building an entire stadium for the limited number of Winter Classics and Stadium Series games it would host would not be feasible. If you are suggesting a team could have all its home games outdoors, this would be a nightmare in terms of maintaining the ice surface for the full season especially when the weather gets warm. Heaven forbid you try to have a playoff game there.

Thanks for all your questions! If you have a question you want read and answered in the next mailbag, send it to CapitalsMailbag@gmail.com or use #CapsMailNBC on Twitter.

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Nationals Roundup: Nats' bullpen spoils Erick Fedde's economical outing

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Nationals Roundup: Nats' bullpen spoils Erick Fedde's economical outing

The Battle of the Beltway Series finale didn't go as planned for the Nationals in Baltimore Wednesday night. Washington settles for a series split and falls to 50-44 following its 9-2 loss to the Orioles. 

Consider these news and notes as Davey Martinez's club heads south for a pivotal four-game weekend series in Atlanta. 

Player Notes:

Can you say economical? Erick Fedde cruised through six innings inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards on just 66 pitches (40 strikes). The 26-year-old surrendered just one run on five hits while striking out two. 

Very quietly, Adam Eaton is hitting .330 over his last 29 games and has reached base safely in 73 of 89 games in 2019. His third-inning sacrifice fly brought in Victor Robles, and a fifth-inning double -- his 12th of the season -- brought in Trea Turner. 

To put it quite simply, the Nationals' bullpen imploded Wednesday night following Fedde's exit. Wander Suero recorded just one out while allowing three runs, three hits and walking one Oriole. Just nine of his 19 pitches were thrown for strikes. Javy Guerra and Matt Grace then went on to allow a combined three runs on six hits, and Baltimore never looked back.  

Injuries: 

SP Max Scherzer: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Jonny Venters: Back, Expected to be out until at least Jul 18

SP Jeremy Hellickson: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 20

RP Justin Miller: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 16

RP Koda Glover: Elbow, Expected to be out until at least Aug 7

RP Austen Williams: Shoulder, Expected to be out until at least Jul 17

Coming Up:

Thursday 7/18: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park

Friday 7/19: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

Saturday 7/20: Nationals at Braves, 7:20 p.m., SunTrust Park 

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