Photos from Today’s Capitals Practice

After wrapping up a successful homestand, the Capitals practiced at the Kettler Center before heading up to Brooklyn for their game against the New York Islanders. Here are some photos from today’s practice.

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T.J. Oshie Skates at Practice Today

The big news out of the Kettler Center today is that T.J. Oshie skated for about 30 minutes by himself today at practice. This was his first time back on the ice since suffering an upper body injury after being hit by Joe Thornton during Monday’s game against the Sharks.

Nonetheless, he remains day-to-day and won’t be traveling up to Brooklyn with the team for the Capitals’ game against the New York Islanders tomorrow night. It’s also unlikely that he’ll play against Avalanche since the team doesn’t have any practices between today and Tuesday night’s game.

Despite the fact that Oshie will be out for at least a couple more games, the Capitals probably won’t be calling anybody up from Hershey for a couple reasons. Firstly, they don’t have salary cap room since the league minimum is more than the $360,000 they have left. Secondly, they wouldn’t put Oshie on the long term injury reserve list because he’s already back to practice and is unlikely to miss at least 10 games.

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Barry Trotz Doesn’t Think Shattenkirk is a Top Line Defenseman

DSC_0425With the New York Rangers in town to face off against the Washington Capitals tonight, there’s been a lot of talk about Kevin Shattenkirk and his role with the Caps down the stretch last season.

When the Capitals traded for Shattenkirk, it was considered one of the biggest deals of the season. His ability to provide some offensive magic despite being a defenseman and help out on the power play were going to make him the final piece Washington needed during a Stanley Cup run. In the end, his performance wasn’t spectacular and the Caps ended up losing in the second round.

With that in mind, Coach Barry Trotz was asked on Thursday about what he thought of Shattenkirk’s time with Washington.

“It worked in areas that we wanted,” Trotz said. “He helped our power play. He made it more dangerous and that.”

Fair enough. What’s received a lot of attention, however, is what Trotz said after that. Contrary to all the buzz about Shattenkirk being a superstar, the Capitals’ coach said he didn’t even think he was a top line defenseman.

“I think everybody thought of him as a 1-2 and he really wasn’t. He was a little lower,” Trotz declared. “I think he had a patch during the one series where it wasn’t really good. I think he regained it and scored a big goal for us in Pitt. I just think the first playoff series wasn’t, that’s what you remember. It sticks out. But I think overall he was fine.”

Since the Rangers were already in town yesterday for tonight’s game and practiced at the Kettler Center, the media was able to get a response from Shattenkirk. Given the situation, he actually handled it well and spoke about how he can use the comments as motivation.

“It doesn’t sit well with you,” Shattenkirk said. “It’s nothing you enjoy hearing, but I think there’s a lot of people who probably think that about me. I like to use that in my favor and try to use that as something to just keep me boosted and prove people wrong.”

As this exchange is getting a fair amount of media coverage, it’s worth remembering that Shattenkirk doesn’t play on the top line for the New York Rangers. So while he has an extremely large four year contract worth $26.6 million and has scored 20 points so far this season, it appears as though Barry Trotz isn’t the only one who doesn’t think Shattenkirk is a 1-2.

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Photos and Video of Today’s Morning Skate

As the Capitals prepare to play the New York Rangers tonight, several players made their way to the Kettler Center for an optional morning skate. None of the big name stars were there besides Braden Holtby, but there was still a strong contingent of fans who gathered to watch. Here are some photos from the practice.

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I also managed to get some video footage of the goalies working on blocking shots despite having an obstructed view.

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Travis Boyd Re-Assigned to Hershey

The Capitals announced this morning that they’ve re-assigned forward Travis Boyd to Hershey. Boyd performed solidly while in DC, making his NHL debut on Monday against the San Jose Sharks and playing again on Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Boyd was only in the lineup due to injuries to Andre Burakovsky and Chandler Stephenson, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that his first stint in the NHL didn’t last too long despite his strong performance. Stephenson was already back in the lineup against the Blackhawks, after all, and Burakovsky has been practicing with the team already.

Although he hasn’t been officially cleared, Burakovsky hasn’t appeared to suffer any setbacks in practice as he’s nearing a return from a fractured thumb. Today’s announcement has therefore led to speculation that he could play with the Capitals on Friday for the first time since October 24.

Burakovsky’s potential return to the team on Friday is a little earlier than was originally expected. After he practiced with the team on Monday, for instance, the Washington Post reported that he was expected to return next week. But the few days he’s coming back early could be from what he’s shown in practice. He had mentioned that most of his issues during practice were from timing and getting used to be back on the ice — not from pain in his thumb. So, it very well could be that he’s simply gotten his timing back quicker than expected.

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Ovechkin and Kuznetsov Want Russians to Participate in Olympics

DSC_0442At practice today, both Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov responded to the news that Russia had been banned from the PyecongChang Olympics by saying they believed Russian athletes should compete in the games under a neutral flag. This comes after there were some reports that Ovechkin believed Russians should boycott the games if they couldn’t represent their country — a sentiment that he now denies expressing.

While he was obviously disappointed in the decision to ban Russians from representing their country, the great eight’s reasoning for still going came down to all the hard work that people had put into preparing from the games. “Some athletes work out for maybe three years and get ready for Olympics,” Ovechkin told reporters. “They work so hard to get ready and do their best in Olympic Games. It is only one lifetime opportunity. It’s hard.”

Kuznetsov used similar reasoning for explaining why he thought athletes should still participate in the games. Athletes “prepare like 3 or 4 years before the Olympics and now it’s a little bit tough situation for them,” he said before discussion how participating in international hockey tournaments is a dream for young Russian athletes who grow up watching them on television.

It’s perhaps that dream of playing in the tournaments that caused Ovechkin to be one of the NHL’s fiercest critics when the league announced it wouldn’t be taking a break in the season to allow players to participate in the games. There was even some discussion about whether or not the captain would briefly leave the Capitals to participate in the tournament. As time went by, however, he eventually gave up on the idea of participating.

Despite these sentiments from Russian players, it still remains to be seen whether or not Russian athletes will field a hockey team under a neutral flag.

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Brenden Dillon Facing Hearing With Player Safety Committee

While the most controversial hit during Washington’s 4-1 victory over San Jose last night was the one Joe Thornton laid on T.J. Oshie, Thornton isn’t the one facing a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety.  That honor lays with San Jose’s Brenden Dillon who will have a hearing for slashing Washington’s Madison Bowey.

The slashing occurred with five seconds left in the game when tensions were already high as a result of the situation surrounding the hit on Oshie. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that Dillon and Bowey had a little scuffle and exchanged a few words before Dillon received a five minute major and a game misconduct.

The slashing was rather severe as Dillon had two hands on his stick when he used it to hit Bowey on his wrist/hand area. It was also rather apparent that the move was retaliation for Bowey pushing him into the boards just seconds earlier.

The league has been cracking down on slashing this season and there’s already been four players who’ve received fines for slashing.  Three of the players were fined $5,000 while one was charged just over $2,300, but that’s not the only possible disciplinary action. Radko Gudas from the Flyers, for instance, was suspended for 10 games earlier this season.

While Dillon is looking at further punishment, the good news is Bowey doesn’t appear to be largely impacted by the slashing.  During an interview with Elliot in the Morning, he said X-Rays after the game showed that his wrist wasn’t broken and that he’s simply “taking it day-by-day.” He then participated in today’s practice at the Kettler Center and didn’t appear to be showing any symptoms.

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Will Hockey Be Impacted By Russia’s Ban from Olympics?

The International Olympic Committee announced today that Russia will be banned from the upcoming winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea as a result of the doping scandal surrounding the country. Individual athletes who have a proven record of being clean, however, will have the opportunity to compete as an “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).”

These clean athletes would essentially be competing for Team Olympics as the Olympic flag and anthem would be used during all ceremonies. It’s also worth noting that if enough clean athletes could be found, an OAR team could compete in the team competitions such as hockey.

This could have a huge impact on the hockey tournament because Russia would have entered the Olympics as the favorites, but it doesn’t just stop there. With the NHL already preventing its players from going to the games, a large portion of Russian players (and those from team Canada and USA) are current players for KHL teams. Canada’s roster, for instance, could have as many as 15 players from the KHL and the USA could have as many as seven.

As it stands now, the KHL has a break scheduled from January 29 to February 26 in order to allow its players to leave for the Olympics. The league, however, has threatened on several occasions to rearrange their schedule and prevent players from playing in the games if Russia wouldn’t be participating.  Now there’s a very real chance that might happen as there’s speculation that Russian athletes won’t compete even under a neutral flag. There’s even a bill in the Russian parliament that would prevent KHL players from leaving.

On top of that, Svetlana Zhurova, a former Olympian and current member of Russia’s parliament, has made it clear she doesn’t think Russians will compete if they can’t do so under the Russian flag. It was reported earlier this month that she said “if the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) decides to ban the playing of Russia’s anthem at the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang or the participation of our athletes in the opening ceremony, our country is unlikely to go to the Olympics.”

If the KHL does prevent its players from traveling to the games in Pyeong Chang, it would mean the world’s top two leagues won’t be sending their players. In other words, the players that most casual fans know won’t be making their way to the Olympics. This could drastically decrease the interest in the hockey tournament.

Of course, all of this comes down to whether or not Russia decides to completely boycott the games. The Kremlin had announced before the decision came down that they hadn’t considered boycotting the games and wouldn’t do so unless the IOC decided to ban the country. It was relatively late in Russia when the announcement came down, so there hasn’t been an updated official response but one will likely come within the next few days.

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Report from Capitals Practice

The big news out of today’s practice for the Washington Capitals is that T.J. Oshie didn’t participate and the team announced that he’s “day to day with an upper body injury.” He’s also doubtful for tomorrow’s game against the Blackhawks. This comes after San Jose’s Joe Thornton slammed Oshie rather aggressively into the boards causing him to leave last night’s game. There was a lot of talk at practice today about whether or not Thornton would be suspended what Caps fans are describing as a dirty hit.

It’s also worth noting that Andre Burakovsky, who’s been out with a thumb injury, participated in today’s practice. So did Chandler Stephenson who missed yesterday’s game with an upper body injury.  According to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post, coach Barry Trotz said he expects Stephenson to play tomorrow night but it would be a stretch for Burakovsky to make it back to game action that quickly.

Here are some photos from today’s practice:

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