October 20, 2014

CAPS: Happy Birthday, Tom Poti

HAPPY 36th BIRTHDAY TOM POTI!

The Washington Capitals Defenseman was born on 03/22/1977 in Worcester, MA, United States.

Happy 36th Birthday to #3!

Tom Poti wearing “A” during Caps 35th Anniversary night on Mar. 6, 2010 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Tom Poti sporting a black eye in warmups before Oct. 17, 2009 game against Predators (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

CAPS: Washington Capitals Players and Better Halves Visit Children’s National Medical Center

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom (19) and defenseman Jeff Schultz (55) work on arts and crafts with patients at Children’s National Medical Center during a Feb. 15 visit. Capitals players have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season since 1984. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom (19) and defenseman Jeff Schultz (55) work on arts and crafts with patients at Children’s National Medical Center during a Feb. 15 visit. Capitals players have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season since 1984. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti works on an arts and crafts project with a child at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. during a Feb. 15 visit. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Washington Capitals defenseman Tom Poti works on an arts and crafts project with a child at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. during a Feb. 15 visit. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Following an afternoon of arts and crafts, Washington Capitals players and their better halves take a group photograph with patients at Children’s National Medical Center. Back row (l-r): Jessica and Tom Poti, Michal Neuvirth and Monika Hybnerova, Ashley and Jay Beagle, Tomas Kundratek and Alannah Dzerdz, Nicklas Backstrom and Liza Berg, Mackenzie Schultz. Front row (l-r): Donna Oates, Jeff Schultz. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

Following an afternoon of arts and crafts, Washington Capitals players and their better halves take a group photograph with patients at Children’s National Medical Center. Back row (l-r): Jessica and Tom Poti, Michal Neuvirth and Monika Hybnerova, Ashley and Jay Beagle, Tomas Kundratek and Alannah Dzerdz, Nicklas Backstrom and Liza Berg, Mackenzie Schultz. Front row (l-r): Donna Oates, Jeff Schultz. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Capitals)

 

ARLINGTON, Va. – During the past two years, 10-year-old Ellie Schleyer has been visiting Children’s National Medical Center for an undiagnosed brain disorder.

In between bloodwork and tests on Feb. 15, she discovered several Washington Capitals players and their better halves at the hospital for an afternoon of arts and crafts.

In the hospital’s atrium Ellie joined several other children along with Nicklas Backstrom and Liza Berg, Jay and Ashley Beagle, Tomas Kundratek and Alannah Dzerdz, Michal Neuvirth and Monika Hybnerova, Donna Oates, wife of head coach Adam Oates, Tom and Jessica Poti and Jeff and Mackenzie Schultz.

“To see the kids get so excited when the guys come is just priceless,” said Mackenzie Schultz. “A lot of kids are here fighting through things that we can’t even imagine at such a young age. Just to put a smile on their face and make one day a little better is so important.”

Ellie’s father, David Schleyer, said the visit had a positive effect on Ellie, who made each player she worked with a piece of art.

“For her, it’s an opportunity to express something other than sadness,” he said. “To see the players giving her time and admiring her artwork says a lot about their character.”

The Capitals have made a tradition of visiting Children’s National Medical Center each season since 1984.

“It’s definitely hard for the children to be in the hospital, so we’re happy to be with them and play games and make them happy,” said Kundratek. “It’s pretty awesome to be here and spend some time with them.”

Located in Washington, D.C., Children’s National Medical Center is the only exclusive provider of pediatric care in the metropolitan Washington area and is the only freestanding children’s hospital between Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Norfolk and Atlanta. Serving the nation’s children for more than 140 years, Children’s National is a proven leader in the development and application of innovative new treatments for childhood illness and injury.

Washington Capitals Practice Update & Audio for Feb. 8: McPhee, Oates & More

The dead-last Washington Capitals held practice Friday after a blow out loss in Pittsburgh Thursday night. Capitals General Manager George McPhee met with the media today to discuss the Caps struggles and said “I like the people here”.

“With respect to the way we’re playing [with regards to] systems, I like the way we’re playing,”  McPhee said.  “I think if you’re watching, our team has really adjusted to the system pretty quickly — we wanted it right away, but it’s quicker than we were hoping for. The issue with our club right now, in my mind, is all these penalties that we’re taking. It’s too much.”

But he says penalties are only half the problems.

McPhee added,  “We’re giving up too many goals and it seems to be related to a lot of these penalties that we’re taking. It’s too hard on the team and it’s too hard on the goaltenders.”

McPhee also talked about on what he can do to fix this.

“If there’s something I can do to make the club better, I will…I’m not going to do anything stupid.”

McPhee added, “We’re going to make good decisions. We’re not going to do anything short-term. We’re not going to blow anything up.”

The Caps forward lines today were: Johansson-Backstrom-Brouwer, Wolski-Ribeiro-Ovi, Fehr-Perreault-Ward, Chimera-Crabb-Beagle-Hendricks.  All eight defenseman practiced.  John Erskine and Mathieu Perreault are likely back in the line-up tomorrow.  Braden Holtby will be in goal tomorrow.

Brooks Laich practiced today and McPhee said “He’s improving and hopefully we’ll see him soon.”

McPhee said that he heard last week that Dmitry Orlov is probably a month away.  McPhee said Jack Hillen is likely another six-to-eight weeks away.

Listen here to what George McPhee, Adam Oates, Troy Brouwer, John Erskine, Tom Poti, Braden Holtby, Michal Neuvirth & Joel Ward had to say today.

George McPhee Press Conference Part 1

02-08-13 George McPhee Presser 1

George McPhee Press Conference Part 2

02-08-13 George McPhee Presser 2

Adam Oates Practice Audio

02-08-13 Adam Oates Practice RAW

Troy Brouwer Practice Audio

02-08-13 Troy Brouwer Practice RAW

John Erskine Practice Audio

02-08-13 John Erskine Practice RAW

Tom Poti Practice Audio

02-08-13 Tom Poti Practice RAW

Braden Holtby Practice Audio

02-08-13 Braden Holtby Practice RAW

Michal Neuvirth Practice Audio

02-08-13 Michal Neuvirth Practice RAW

Joel Ward Practice Audio

02-08-13 Joel Ward Practice RAW

Washington Capitals Game 10 Postgame Audio: Oates, Hendricks, Neuvirth & More

WASHINGTON-The Washington Capitals played hard but lost again, this time to the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 at Verizon Center and are now dead last in the NHL.

“You run out of cliches to say to the guys, obviously,”  Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates said.  “We’ll talk tomorrow and we’ll figure out a plan on how to approach it because we’ve got to rebound for Thursday again. But we obviously did a lot of good things tonight: we held ‘em to 20 shots, a few chances. Our special teams were better tonight, which is good. There’s always positives.”

Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner isn’t happy with how they’re playing. [Read more...]

Washington Capitals Practice Update & Audio for Feb. 2: Oates, Hendricks, Alzner and more

The Washington Capitals held an optional practice Saturday morning following their 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Friday night. Matt Hendricks spoke about the fight he had with Zac Rinaldo after John Erskine’s wandering elbow landed on the beak of Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

Hendricks and Rinaldo were assessed game misconducts on top of their respective five minutes for fighting for dropping the mitts before the puck was dropped on the ensuing faceoff.

“Oh yeah, there was some tomfoolery in that one, without a doubt. We had all the expectations that the puck was dropped,” Hendricks said Saturday. “The ref has his back to us, the linesman, so to us it looked like he dropped the puck. His arms clearly moved, both centermen engaged in the circle and I guess he didn’t drop it.”

“It wasn’t really the best time for me to fight for our team,” Hendricks said. “I thought we had the momentum going. But something like that, I felt maybe it was a good time just to nip it in the bud right away and get it over with so we could get back to playing hockey, because I knew they would start running around and maybe cheap-shot some of our guys.”

Erskine did not meet with the media pending his disciplinary hearing Saturday, but Hendricks stuck up for his teammate. “From the bench it looked like a clean hit, like accidental contact. It looked like they were both fighting for the puck, fighting for position. They just kinda ran into each other.”

Head coach Adam Oates maintained the company line when he addressed the media following practice. “I think it’s tough because you’ve got two guys going for the puck simultaneously and they’re big boys and it looked like simultaneous contact to me.”

For Oates and Hendricks’ complete comments, plus Karl Alzner, Jason Chimera and Tom Poti, please see the links below (Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein).

02-02-13 Adam Oates Practice RAW

02-02-13 Jason Chimera Practice RAW

02-02-13 Matt Hendricks Practice RAW

02-02-13 Karl Alzner Practice RAW

02-02-13 Tom Poti Practice RAW

Washington Capitals Practice Update & Audio for Jan. 18: Oates, Poti, Brouwer & More!

ARLINGTON, VA–The Capitals held their final full practice today as they prepare for the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow.

Capitals Head Coach Adam Oates said that all 23 players who practiced today will be on the trip to Tampa.  He also said they haven’t decided what to do with the one guy who didn’t practice today, Brooks Laich.  Laich could be suspended for getting hurt while playing overseas or be put on injured reserve.  They have until 5:00 pm today to decide what to do with him.

Oates did confirm that Braden Holtby will start tomorrow.

Tom Poti hasn’t been told if he’ll play tomorrow, but Oates said he could and he is traveling to Tampa.

Caps had their same forward lines today and their third defensive pairing is between Tom Poti, Jack Hillen, Jeff Schultz & John Erskine.  Two of them will be healthy scratches tomorrow.  It looks like the final forward spot to play tomorrow is between Eric Fehr & Joey Crabb, one of those guys will be a healthy scratch.

Listen here to what Adam Oates, Tom Poti, Troy Brouwer, Karl Alzner & Jason Chimera had to say today following practice.

Adam Oates Practice Audio

01-18-13 Adam Oates Practice RAW

Tom Poti Practice Audio

01-18-13 Tom Poti Practice RAW

Troy Brouwer Practice Audio

01-18-13 Troy Brouwer Practice RAW

Karl Alzner Practice Audio

01-18-13 Karl Alzner Practice RAW

Jason Chimera Practice Audio

01-18-13 Jason Chimera Practice RAW

Washington Capitals Practice Update & Audio for Jan. 17: Ovechkin, Green, Ribeiro, Hamrlik, Poti

The Washington Capitals held a mini-fanfest at Verizon Center Thursday night, complete with an open practice. While the highlight of the evening might have been Troy Brouwer “dancing” Gangnam Style during the player Q&A with DC101’s Elliot Segal, the team’s opener is less than two days away in Tampa Bay against the Southest Division foe Lightning, so every chance at practice is another opportunity to soak in Adam Oates’ systems.

“I’ve got to compliment the guys because we’ve thrown a lot at them, myself and the other coaches,” Oates said. “We’ve talked to them a lot and they’ve handled it great, because it’s been a lot. It’s a lot in a short span of time, and I think they’ve done a great job with it.”

A minor bit of news that came out Thursday was that Tom Poti, who hasn’t played in an NHL game since Jan. 12, 2011, could very well be in Saturday night’s opening lineup. Poti was back with the Caps after a conditioning assignment with AHL Hershey and apparently passed with flying colors, including scoring a power play goal. “It was awesome,” Poti said Thursday. “It was fun to be playing hockey again. I was having a blast out there and I thank them for letting me come down there and working my game a little bit.”

Here’s raw audio from Thursday, including Adam Oates, Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Mike Ribeiro, Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti.

01-17-13 Adam Oates Practice RAW

01-17-13 Braden Holtby Practice RAW

01-17-13 Alex Ovechkin Practice RAW

01-17-13 Mike Green Practice RAW

01-17-13 Mike Ribeiro Practice RAW

01-17-13 Roman Hamrlik Practice RAW

01-17-13 Tom Poti Practice RAW

Washington Capitals 2012-13 Positional Preview: The Defensemen

Karl Alzner -Practice April 27(Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Karl Alzner at practice, April 27, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

With the season opener right around the corner, District Sports Page takes a look at the construction of the roster to start the season. Today, the defensemen.

Karl Alzner
Though not the most experienced, highly paid, or offensively skilled defenseman on the Washington Capitals roster, Karl Alzner has emerged as the face of the team’s defensive corps thanks to his consistent play and willingness to face the media in any circumstance. The same composure Alzner demonstrates in front of a camera is evident with his play. Per statistics site Behind the Net, Alzner faced the strongest competition of any Caps player in 2011-12, yet still led the team in plus-minus with a plus-12.

New Capitals assistant coach Calle Johansson sees a younger version of himself while watching Alzner on the ice, and the talented young defenseman should benefit under Johansson’s tutelage. Many years down the road Alzner may also challenge Johansson for the Capitals’ franchise record for games played. The Swede played 983 of his 1,109 career NHL games for the Caps, while Alzner has played 215 games in part of four seasons, including all 82 games each of the past two years.

John Carlson
Riffing on the hockey tradition to not shave during the playoffs, Carlson showed up to training camp looking like he hadn’t cut his hair since the Caps’ playoff loss in May. Surfer hair notwithstanding, Carlson is coming off a career high in goals despite serving with Alzner on Washington’s shutdown defense pairing. The young defenseman may benefit the most from new head coach Adam Oates’s offensive scheme, possessing scoring ability, the speed to get back in the transition game, and the stay-at-home defensive partner to allow him to take chances.

The real test for Carlson will be if he can maintain his defensive form and conditioning. Unlike some of his teammates, Carlson stayed in the D.C. area rather than play professionally overseas or in a North American minor league. Instead, he kept active by skating informally with a small group that included teammates Mike Green, Jason Chimera, and Jay Beagle and former teammate and Maryland native Jeff Halpern. In doing so Carlson has saved several months of wear-and-tear on his body, but a lack of conditioning could lead to injury or poor play if he isn’t able to reach suitable form in short order.

John Erskine
Erskine is of the class of players who stood to suffer the most from the NHL lockout: a non-skill, marginal roster player good enough to stick around the NHL but not good enough to take one of the limited roster spots available to non-Europeans in an overseas league. Instead the Kington, Ontario native returned to his hometown to skate and workout on his own, and showed up to training camp looking much thinner and quicker than he has in years. That seems unusual for a defender for whom the most fitting adjective has traditionally been “hulking,” but perhaps Erskine took a look at film from new assistant head coach Calle Johansson’s career and realized he needed to alter his style to stay in Washington’s longterm plans.

In 2011-12 Erskine skated in only 28 games, spending much of the season as a healthy scratch while Dale Hunter relied on rookie Dmitry Orlov and the same roster game-in and game-out. With the addition of Jack Hillen and return of Tom Poti, Erskine will be part of a crowded field vying for one of the bottom pairing spots on the Capitals’ roster. He remains Washington’s de facto enforcer, a status without much cachet under Oates but which nonetheless helps his chances at securing one of the seven roster spots on defense to start the season.

Mike Green
2011-12 was a lost season for the former 31-goal scorer, who only played 32 games due to a recurring groin injury. He’s now completely healthy, but that’s a recent development as of about a month ago. Across the league groin injuries as a major concern for this condensed season, and Green is as susceptible as anyone else. Regardless of whether he’s paired with Roman Hamrlik, Dmitry Orlov, Jeff Schultz, or another teammate, Green will be the defenseman responsible for moving the puck when he’s on the ice, leaving him open to contact.

A complete season would be a triumph for Green, but a return to his scoring form would also be appreciated by the Washington organization. Shortly before the end of the lockout Green underwent laser eye surgery, which if nothing else may give him a psychological boost if he thinks he’s seeing the puck better. Green has traditionally played the right point on the Caps’ power play, which was Oates’ specialty while an assistant coach for New Jersey and Tampa Bay, and any increase in Washington’s power play effectiveness from last season’s 18th will reflect on Green’s personal statistics as well.

Roman Hamrlik
A former first overall draft pick and the most veteran member of the Washington Capitals, Hamrlik is a usually soft-spoken player who drew jeers during the lockout as one of the few voices players to explicitly criticize the NHLPA’s stance on negotiations. As one of six current players — Teemu Selanne, Ray Whitney, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Brodeur, and the soon-to-retire Chris Pronger are the others — to experience three lockouts, Hamrlik’s position is understandable, even if his means of expressing it was ill-considered.

Despite his active NHL best 1,379 career games played, Hamrlik remains capable of playing top-four minutes and was a steady partner to Mike Green last season. He’s seen it all, which makes him a valuable presence in a young defensive corps, and his late-career transition from powerplay quarterback to defensive-minded stopper is the blueprint for teammate Poti to do the same. The ascendancy of Orlov or return of a healthy Poti will spell a decrease in time for Hamrlik, and how he handles the move may be his real legacy with the Caps.

Jack Hillen
At the age of 26, Hillen is already on his third NHL franchise having played parts of four seasons for the New York Islanders before skating in 55 games for the Nashville Predators last season. Prior to signing a one-year deal with Washington in July, Hillen was best known to Capitals fans as the player whose jaw was broken by an Alex Ovechkin slapshot in January 2010. He’s all recovered now, and will challenge for a depth position on the Caps after skating on the third pairing for a dominant Predators defensive corps.

Hillen is a puck-moving defenseman, and his smooth skating drew raves from locker room neighbor Alzner after the team’s first training camp practice. That style of play will endear him with both Oates and Johansson, who are known to appreciate smooth skaters. He’s also acclimated well with his new teammates, sharing jokes with locker room neighbor Alzner after the team’s first session.

Dmitry Orlov
A potential breakout year for Orlov was derailed first by the lockout and then by a groin injury suffered in December, ironically during the Hershey Bears’ AHL Showcase game at the Verizon Center. Before his injury, Orlov was largely underperforming in Hershey with only one goal and eight assists in 18 games. His lengthy stint with the NHL squad last season removed any doubt that he belonged in the big leagues, so his production for the Bears may be more a case of personal disappointment than regression.

His rookie season with the Capitals last year saw Orlov post three goals and 16 assists in 60 games, averaging a respectable 16:52 time on ice. One of the smaller defensemen on Washington’s roster, Orlov’s abilities fit better in Adam Oates’ system than that of Dale Hunter, who nonetheless relied heavily on the services of the Russian defender over those of John Erskine and Jeff Schultz much of the season.

Tom Poti
For the first time since 2009, the Boston-born Poti is healthy at the start of the season. A groin injury and then fractured pelvis kept Poti to only 22 games played in the 2010-11 season, and he was on long-term injured reserve for all of last season, during which general manager George McPhee said he thought Poti’s career was over. Instead, the defenseman declared himself 100 percent healthy shortly before the end of the lockout, and since then has proven a man of his word. After passing his physical Poti was sent to the Hershey Bears for a conditioning assignment, upon which he scored a power play goal in his first game Saturday night.

It’s unclear what Poti can bring to the Capitals roster at this point, if only because no one has any clue how his skill set has changed in the past two years. He was already beginning to transition from puck-moving offensive threat to physical stay-at-home defender when he was injured, and it’s hard to imagine him resuming the puck-moving role with Green, Carlson, and Hillen or Orlov on the roster. Although he’s 35, staying out of professional hockey for two years has saved that much wear and tear on his body and allowed him to heal up from all those little aches and bruises that accumulate over the course of the years.

Cameron Schilling
Of the ten defensemen invited to training camp, Schilling was the longest shot when it comes to making the roster, and indeed has already been sent back to Hershey. The undrafted player from Indiana was signed as a free agent last spring immediately after the conclusion of his senior year at Miami University and appeared in 11 games for the Hershey Bears. His stint included four games in the Bears’ five-game first round series loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, in which Schilling netted two goals. In 33 games this season in Hershey Schilling has three goals and four assists and is fifth on the team with a plus-6 rating.

Compared to the rest of the players in the Capitals organization, Schilling has a leg up in one regard: he’s the only player with significant experience under Adam Oates as head coach, when Oates took over bench duties in Hershey for a stretch in late 2012. Although George McPhee insisted that every player in camp has a chance to make the Capitals’ roster, Schilling’s presence was largely to get the youngster acclimated to the NHL experience. Washington only has four defensemen with NHL experience under contract for the 2013-14 season, and the camp invite was a notice to Schilling that he’s expected to be ready should the need arise later this season and to contend for a spot next season and beyond.

Jeff Schultz
The erstwhile top-four defenseman and league plus-minus leader is now relegated to fighting for a spot on the Capitals bottom pair every night. Although Schultz has seemed to be on the outs for the past few seasons, the four-year, $11 million contract he signed after the 2009-10 season has kept him in Washington red and white. He was a favorite of Bruce Boudreau, who coached Schultz while in Hershey, but began to fall out of favor under Dale Hunter’s regime. It remains to be seen how he fits into Calle Johansson’s defensive scheme.

Schultz has demonstrated the ability to stick around for the past few seasons, and the quiet Canadian seems to get along well with his teammates. Although he doesn’t possess overwhelming physical or puck-moving capabilities, he plays strong positional hockey and rarely panics in his own end. There is no guarantee that Schultz will be able to maintain his roster spot this season, particularly with the return of a healthy Poti, but stranger things have happened.

Capitals’ camp ramps up on second day

With the standing-room only crowd and newness of Sunday’s beginning of training camp behind them, the Capitals Monday began to work on installing Adam Oates’ new system and also a bit testing the team’s conditioning.

In front of a decent-sized crowd for a workday Monday morning at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the Caps worked on puck control drills as well as doing some laps that left most players hunched over or resting on their knee after the drill was completed.

One of the few players who didn’t appear to be winded during the drill was Karl Alzner. But the defenseman said afterwards looks can be deceiving.

“I’ve been working out a lot this extended off-season,” he said. “I feel pretty good out there. The thing is, even if I’m tired out there, I don’t like to show it. It’s one of those things my trainer told me. But I’m sure all the guys will be just fine.”

With just six days for training camp and no preseason games, Alzner said he expected it might take some time for players to fully get back into game shape.

“It’ll take at least a few games to get back there,” he said. “[There's] nothing you can do off the ice that’s the same as on the ice. It’s impossible.

“We’re at the point right now where we can’t afford to bang ourselves up. You got to wait, get more ice time.”

As for Oates’ new system, Alzner said it was more like the early days of Bruce Boudreau’s wide-open style than last year’s tight defensive style utilized under first Boudreau and then Dale Hunter.

“It’s really learning the system, being more aggressive, but doing it in a smart way, being in the right spot,” he said when asked to describe it.

“It’s just more closing gaps quicker, not letting other team skate through the neutral zone – at all. It’ll be more like the Capitals of three or four years ago than the Capitals of the last 1 1/2 years. Probably pretty entertaining game to watch.”

Oates himself described his new system as “very similar” to the one his head coach Pete DeBoer used in New Jersey, and emphasized how important it was in the system to keep the blueliners healthy.

“The system is based on keeping the defense from taking as much contact as possible,” he said. “They’re the lifeblood of the team, I really believe that. They obviously help us in our own end, they got to help the forwards score. The way teams backcheck now, the defense is vital to us.”

One other topic emerging in the first days of camp is the team’s goaltending situation, as it is expected after his run in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, Braden Holtby will be the team’s No. 1 starter out of camp.

“I would say I think the guys expect Holts to be in the net based on last year.”

However, he did expect both goaltenders to get a lot of use with the compact schedule.

“48 games, I think both guys are going to play a lot,” Oates said, adding “when a guy’s playing well, he should play.”

Oates also added it was a good problem for a team to have.

“I got two young kids, they’re very good goalies,” Oates said. “I was just in New Jersey with Marty Brodeur where [who the No. 1 is] wasn’t a question, so we all know it. Circumstances are different.”

Neuvirth was asked about the goaltending situation in Washington and his expectations.

“It’s hard to say, he played last year in the playoffs and he deserves to start this season and if he will, I’ll cheer for him,” Neuvirth said.

He did say he’d try to make his mark whenever he got a chance to start.

“Play good, bring myself, whenever I get a chance, I want to play good,” he said.

“Even you’ve got 48 games, that’s still a lot of games, ups and downs, anything can happen.”

Roster-wise, with Brooks Laich not taking part in the main group and Tom Poti rehabbing in Hershey, the team has 24 players in camp with 23 allowed once the opening-night roster is set. Should Laich and Poti not be ready to start the year, the team could opt to return Tom Wilson to Plymouth of the OHL or Cameron Schilling to Hershey to get to the 23-man limit, or both should one of the two be ready for the regular season.

Sunday night, Poti scored a goal pinching in from the point in his first game in the AHL, and hopes he will get a chance to play in his hometown of Worcester, Mass. on Wednesday for Hershey.

“Then after that,” Poti told the Patriot-News’ Tim Leone, “we’ll kind of make a decision and see what’s going to happen.”

As Lockout Ends, Fans Welcome Caps Back to the Ice

At approximately 10:30 pm on Saturday night, the NHLPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding that brought an end to four-month-long the NHL lockout.

At exactly 10:30 am on Sunday morning, a standing room-only crowd welcomed the Washington Capitals with rousing applause as the team, led by netminder Braden Holtby, stepped on the ice for an abbreviated training camp starting less than a week before the start of the shortened regular season.

Capitals fans watch Sunday morning's practice session from the upper level of Kettler Capitals Iceplex.(photo by Abram Fox)

Capitals fans stand to watch Sunday’ practice session.
(photo by Abram Fox)

Other than an on-ice warmup introduction by public address announcer Wes Johnson, Sunday morning’s session was no different than a normal team practice. Because of injuries and the organization’s desire to only bring players with legitimate shots at making the opening day roster to camp, there were just 26 players on the training camp roster and only 24 on the ice Sunday, with Brooks Laich (lower body injury) and Tom Poti (conditioning assignment) both in street clothes.

For fans, the hour-long practice was the first opportunity to see free agent signees Joey Crabb, Jack Hillen, Cameron Schilling, and Wojtek Wolski, 2012 draftee Tom Wilson, and trade acquisition Mike Ribeiro in Capitals uniforms. While those players had technically been members of the Capitals organization for months, former winger Eric Fehr was a surprise attendee. News broke of Fehr’s return late Saturday night, and the 27-year-old winger didn’t technically sign his one-year, $600,000 contract until after the on-ice session ended.

“I’m really excited to be back, [Washington] feels like a second home to me,” said Fehr, who skated in Finland’s SM-Liiga during the lockout.

During the on-ice session Fehr was one of four players wearing the white jerseys of the third line, along with Mathieu Perreault, Matt Hendricks, and Crabb, who signed a one-year, $950,000 contract on the first day of free agency this past offseason. Crabb spent the last two seasons in Toronto, a hotbed of hockey fandom, and was impressed by Sunday’s turnout by Caps fans.

“I didn’t know much about Washington before I came here and the fans seem great…[Kettler Capitals Iceplex] is not the smallest practice rink, so to have a packed house on your first day, it’s great.”

Although Crabb didn’t say it outright, several players gave the impression that they weren’t sure how they and the organization would be received by fans after the lengthy lockout. Schilling, who has played 32 games for the Hershey Bears this season and expects to return there at the end of camp, said he was “surprised” by the size of the crowd, adding that he thought “the packed house…was awesome.”

One of the fans who returned was Suzanne Kang, who made the trip to Kettler on a foggy morning for the first chance to see the Caps in action since last May. Although some of her friends were ambivalent about following the NHL after the lockout, Kang “didn’t consider not coming back for one second.”

“It looked like everyone was happy to officially have Caps hockey back,” said Kang, who added that she “saw a lot of hugging, a lot of smiles, and fans were cheering pretty loudly when the guys hit the ice.”

Training camp continues through Friday, with the team hosting a special open practice on Thursday night in the Verizon Center as part of a Fan Appreciation Week. Washington opens their regular season schedule Saturday night in Tampa, with the home opener on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.

%d bloggers like this: