Capitals' Tom Poti asks for 'a chance'

Posted on: Thursday 1/10/2013 9:45pm

Tom Poti of the Washington Capitals sits in the locker room during practice for the 2011 NHL Bridgestone Winter Classic at Heinz Field on Dec. 31, 2010. (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Ben Raby,

WASHINGTON - Much has changed in the two years since Tom Poti last played for the Washington Capitals, but the veteran's passion for the game has never wavered.

Poti last played for the Capitals on Jan.12, 2011, when a nagging groin injury and broken pelvis forced him from the Capital's lineup.

The defenseman has since missed 143 games, but on Thursday at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Poti took part in an informal skate with 19 of his teammates as he attempts an improbable NHL comeback.

"I never wanted to give up," Poti told reporters Thursday. "Hockey is my passion and I still love it. I said to myself that I'm going to do everything possible to try to get back and try to get back on the ice and try to play and that's what I did the last two years."

Poti must still pass a physical before he can participate in next week's training camp, but the 35-year-old is confident that he has fully recovered.

"All I'm asking for is a chance," he says. "I don't want anything special, no handouts, no nothing. I just want to go out and play. And if they think I can play and think I can help the team then I'm willing to do whatever it takes."

While Poti was limited to just 21 games in 2010-11, he admits that he may have worsened his condition in trying to return to the lineup later that same season.

"I thought we had the team to do it all that year, so I kind of kept skating, kept myself in shape just in case we made a long run or something and they needed me," Poti says.

"I did more damage to myself by trying to come back that year than I should have. And my stubbornness kind of kept me from maybe playing last year. But you don't have many chances at the Stanley Cup, so it was kind of something I wanted to do and I don't have any regrets from doing it. But that definitely did set me back."

Poti failed his physical ahead of training camp in 2011, and remained at his home in Boston for the entire 2011-12 campaign. His rehab included everything from complete rest (four months without strenuous activity), to physical therapy and even acupuncture.

"It's good news and it's good for him that he's put all the work in," says General Manager George McPhee, who rewarded Poti two seasons ago with a two-year $5.75 million deal.

"I don't know if he's going to be able to play. If he can, that'd be great. I think it's a bit of a long shot, but if he can play, that'd be terrific. We wouldn't have any [salary] cap issues or anything like that, so that would be fine if he could do it."

"George has said all along that ‘if you could come back and play it would be great for us, it would be great for you' and they've never really closed the book on me and I appreciate that a lot," Poti added.

"It definitely helped to know that I had their backing and that they said that if you could get ready and play we'll make room for you. It was huge. I never closed the book on myself either. I could have stayed at home and collected a paycheck and been happy but hockey is what I love to do, it's in my blood and I want to play for as long as I can."

Elsewhere in the health ward

In addition to Tom Poti, Capitals forward Joel Ward is also coming back from offseason surgery. Ward underwent sports hernia surgery in July, but told reporters Thursday that he feels good and is anxious for the season to begin. "You can't worry too much," says Ward on playing in what should be an intense, lockout-shortened season fresh off surgery.

"I think you'll be a step behind if you worry too much. It's going to be very interesting to see how it goes the first couple of days. I think my adrenaline will be going and will take over for a fair bit and I'm just looking forward to getting back and playing. The only thing I never had really (since the surgery) was body contact and that's what I'm kind of looking forward to trying to get involved in, but everything else is good."

Ward had six goals and 18 points in 72 games last season and tied with Karl Alzner for the team lead with a plus-12 rating. He then netted the overtime game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Boston Bruins.

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(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Blog: The Caps are back, minus one

Posted on: Wednesday 1/9/2013 4:15pm

''I think he's doing well. It was not a dirty [hit],'' Ovechkin said of the play that caused the injury.(Courtesy Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Ben Raby,

ARLINGTON, Va. - Fifteen members of the Washington Capitals took part in an informal skate Wednesday morning at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, but the team's No. 1 center was noticeably absent.

Instead, Nicklas Backstrom was in Michigan to meet with a medical specialist regarding an injury he suffered Dec. 26. Backstrom spent part of the NHL lockout with Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League, but has not played since the injury occurred.

There is still no official word as to what specifically is ailing the 25-year-old Swede. General Manager George McPhee said Tuesday he could not comment on Backstrom's health with the new collective bargaining agreement not yet ratified.

Initial reports suggested that Backstrom suffered a neck injury, although there is growing concern that the he may be suffering from his second concussion in less than a year.

"I think this team revolves around Nicky Backstrom," teammate Troy Brouwer said.

"I think the way he controls the play, controls the puck… When he's out there thinking clearly and making sure he makes smart plays, there aren't many players better than him."

Backstrom missed 40 games with a concussion last season after taking an elbow to the head in a Jan. 3 game against the Calgary Flames. The Caps went 18-16-6 without their No.1 center, who eventually returned to the lineup March 31 against the Montreal Canadiens.

"He has to make sure that he's fully healthy and make sure that he's ready to go because we don't want him to come back early just because it's the start of the season and miss more time," Brouwer said.

"We're anxious to get him back and we're anxious to make sure that he's playing with us, but at the same time, we want a fully healthy Nicky Backstrom because he's a phenomenal player when he is."

Backstrom was the only Capital to average more than a point-per-game last season (44 points in 42 games) and the versatile center has become a key cog in recent years on both of Washington's special teams units.

The Capitals' power play went 15-for-102 (14.7 percent) during Backstrom's 40-game absence last season compared to 26-for-143 (18.2) when he was in the lineup.

Of the 26 power play goals the Capitals scored with Backstrom in the lineup last season, he had a point on 73 percent of them (three goals and 16 assists). Backstrom's value can clearly be quantified, but his teammates also rave about the intangibles he brings which may be harder to measure.

"Nicky is one of our go-to guys in the locker room, go-to guys on the ice," said Matt Hendricks.

"He's a leader on our team and we're going to miss him. Without a doubt- we're going to miss the way he plays and the way he produces."

Backstrom was also enjoying a solid stint in the KHL this year where his 10 goals and 25 points in 19 games both ranked second on the team behind only Alex Ovechkin.

"I think he's doing well. It was not a dirty [hit]," Ovechkin said of the play that caused the injury. "But sometimes it's not hard hit, you just feel a little dizzy. We'll see how it goes."

"I think it's just a situation, you know, it's a contact game, it's a physical game. Even in KHL it's very good level out there. Again, it happens. So nothing you can do ... He just fell and hit into the boards."

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(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Mike Green signs for $18.25 million

Posted on: Tuesday 7/17/2012 8:22am

Ben Raby ,

WASHINGTON - Defenseman Mike Green has no doubts that he can again produce the offensive numbers that made him one of the NHL's most gifted blueliners from 2008 to 2010.

The Washington Capitals also are banking on the two-time Norris Trophy finalist returning to his old form.

Green and the Caps agreed Monday on a three-year, $18.25 million deal that will keep the restricted free agent in Washington through the 2014-2015 season.

"I think they know what I'm capable of," Green said in a conference call Monday.

"I think, as happy as I am, that they're happy and they know that I'm committed to the hockey team and doing the right things to be the best that I can. It's win-win for everybody."

Green led all NHL defensemen in scoring in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons, but injuries have limited the Calgary native to just 81 games combined in the two years since. The 26-year-old has battled head, shoulder and groin injuries and underwent sports hernia surgery last season.

"It was unfortunate the last couple years that I've suffered from injuries," he said.

"But I believe that I'm over them now. I think I got them all out of my system."

Along with the injuries, Green saw his offensive numbers fall drastically. After averaging 1.04 points-per-game from 2008-10, Green averaged just 0.38 PPG the past two years.

But the only active defensemen with multiple 70-point seasons didn't hesitate when asked if he could still produce 70 points in a season.

"A hundred percent and it'll be next year," he said. "There's no question about it. I feel like I'm just getting into my prime."

Earlier in the day, Capitals general manager George McPhee expressed similar optimism in a team-issued release.

"Mike is one of the best young defensemen in the National Hockey League and is just entering his prime. He will continue to be a key part of our team moving forward," McPhee said.

Under new head coach Adam Oates, and with former Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman having signed in Calgary, it's very possible that Green will in fact have ample opportunity to regain his scoring touch.

"I'm excited that Adam is here, actually really excited. From what I've heard and how he likes to coach fits my style of play and also a lot of the other guys. Hopefully there's a balance between [former coaches] Bruce Boudreau and Dale [Hunter]. I think Adam's the guy."

Green, who made $5 million last season, will make $6 million in each of the next two seasons and $6.25 million in the third and final year of his new deal.

Green also acknowledged that he originally sought a two-year deal - which would have offered him a shot at unrestricted free agency at age 28 - but that the Capitals offered him an extra year.

"I want to make sure that I'm healthy and in [a] good state to play in Washington. It's a very energetic team and whatnot. And I wanted to see if they wanted me there still and they did, which was very nice and very comforting."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Capitals sign top pick Forsberg to 3-year deal

Posted on: Friday 7/13/2012 1:16pm

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Washington Capitals have signed first-round draft pick Filip Forsberg to a three-year contract.

The team announced the deal Friday.

The 17-year-old Forsberg, the 11th overall pick in last month's draft, will earn $832,500 if he plays in the NHL and $70,000 in the AHL.

Forsberg was Sweden's youngest player in the 2012 World Junior Championship. Team Sweden won its first gold medal since 1981 and Forsberg had one assist in six games.

In 43 games with Leksand of Sweden's Senior League last season, Forsberg had eight goals and nine assists.

Forsberg is training with the Capitals in their development camp, and the team says he's expected to play for Leksand again this season.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Blog: Caps' Semin has uncertain future

Posted on: Tuesday 7/10/2012 10:32am

Ben Raby,

WASHINGTON - Former Washington Capitals forward Alexander Semin remains without a contract for next season and it is not yet known if the Russian sniper will return to the NHL or sign with a team in Russia's KHL.

The 28-year-old became an unrestricted free agent July 1 and is seeking a long- term deal after finishing second on the Caps last season with 21 goals and 54 points in 77 games.

The Carolina Hurricanes are one of the few NHL teams to have publicly expressed interest in Semin's services. Despite the interest, Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford reiterated today on Toronto's Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 that he is not interested in signing Semin to a long-term deal.

"They're aware that we're interested and they're aware that it's a short-term [offer] because we want to get to know him," Rutherford said in the radio interview.

"We all know his ability, but you'd also like to know exactly what you're getting if you're making a big investment...I was willing to go ten years with Jordan Staal but here's another very talented player that right now I'm only willing to go one year with...But in Semin's case, they're aware that we're interested in him but of course at this time they aren't interested in a short-term deal."

Semin's 197 career goals rank fifth all-time in Capitals history but his plays away from the puck and his work ethic have been questioned throughout his career.

"If it's just about money for him then he can go to Russia and make a lot more money than he's going to make here on this contract," Rutherford said.

"This is a guy that's got options, but if he wants to play in the National Hockey League and have a chance to win a Stanley Cup someday then he's obviously going to have to stay here. And I think with we're at and our process of rebuilding our team, adding a guy like Semin would give us a better chance to do that."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Blog: Galiev a top Caps prospect

Posted on: Monday 7/9/2012 9:36pm

Ben Raby,

ARLINGTON, Va. - Of the 46 prospects at the Washington Capitals' development camp this week, only a handful will be invited to the team's main training camp in September. Within that smaller group, there may only be one or two players with any shot at making the Caps' opening night roster.

It's not a stretch to count Stanislav Galiev among that elite group of prospects. "That's my dream and I'll work hard for it," Galiev said of making the Capitals out of camp.

Galiev is participating in his third development camp since 2010 and after spending the past three years playing junior hockey in Canada, the 20-year-old is now gearing up for his first season as a pro.

Given that lack of professional experience though, Galiev could begin the year with the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears. That would be similar to the path taken a year ago by prospects Dmitry Orlov and Cody Eakin who went on to play 90 NHL games between them by season's end.

"In talking to his junior coach," said Bears head coach Mark French, "everybody raves about two things: That he's a very good kid- very coachable- and very North Americanized. But he's got an unbelievable skill set. He sees the ice very well and he's got a very good shot that's going to allow him to score."

The Capitals selected Galiev in the third round (86th overall) in the 2010 entry draft and then watched the Moscow native develop into an elite scorer with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Saint John Sea Dogs.

Galiev averaged a point-per-game in his last two regular-seasons with St. John (84 points in 84 games) and proved to be an elite playoff performer with 61 points in 36 playoff games the past two years.

"It's been a great few years for me in St. John. I learned a lot from [head coach] Gerard [Gallant], it was a great team and it just helped me."

Galiev led the QMJHL in playoff scoring last season with 16 goals and 34 points in 17 games, playing primarily with a pair of first round draft picks in Charlie Coyle and Zack Phillips (both Minnesota Wild prospects). The Sea Dogs went 16-1 in the postseason and were crowned league champions for the second straight year. The playoff success was particularly special for Galiev after undergoing wrist surgery during the regular-season and missing 48 games. The right winger said Monday that he's "fresh" and that the injury is behind him.

As for what lies ahead, the 6 feet 1 inch 188-pound Galiev admits that he still needs to fill out and get stronger. There is also the matter of improving his game without the puck.

"I think it's [a matter of] well-rounding his game," French said, "and understanding what his strengths are. We certainly don't want to take away those strengths, but maybe refine other areas of his game."

Those strengths lie in Galiev's offensive game and French is already looking forward to putting them to use among his top six forwards in Hershey.

"I think ultimately that's probably where he needs to play to best use his skills. I think we're probably looking at him in that role, putting him with some veteran guys that can complement some of his skill level. He'll have to earn that time. I think we want to send the message that we won't give him anything, but I think knowing what his skill level is, that's where he's best-suited."

Follow WTOP on Twitter. (Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Prospects hope to shine at Caps development camp

Posted on: Monday 7/9/2012 10:14am

First-round draft pick Filip Forsberg will be among the prospects at the camp. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Ben Raby,

ARLINGTON, Va. - Forty-six NHL hopefuls are gathering this week at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex for the Caps' annual development camp.

The majority of the attendees are still years away from playing professionally, but the week-long camp serves as a small taste of life in the NHL.

Of the 46 prospects, 27 spent last season playing college hockey, seven played junior hockey in Canada, five played junior hockey in the U.S., five played in Europe and two played professionally in the U.S.

Two players from last year's development camp, Dmitry Orlov and Cody Eakin, combined to play 90 games with the Capitals last season.

Noteworthy players to watch at this year's camp include 2012 first-round draft picks Filip Forsberg (11th overall) and Tom Wilson (16th overall).

Defenseman Patrick Wey is attending his fourth Caps development camp and the 2009 fourth-round pick is coming off an NCAA national championship last year with Boston College.

Forward Stanislav Galiev and defenseman Cameron Schilling are the most likely to see time with the Caps next season.

Galiev was a third-round pick (86th overall) in 2010 and suited up for the Caps last preseason, before returning to his junior team in Quebec.

Schilling, 23, was signed as a free agent last March following his senior season at Miami (Ohio) University. He went on to play seven games for the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears.

The development camp is open to the public throughout the week. See the schedule below.

Capitals Summer Development Camp On Ice Schedule

  • Monday, July 9 - Group A on ice at 9 a.m.; Group B on ice at 10:45 a.m.; Scrimmage 3 p.m.

  • Tuesday, July 10 - Group A on ice at 9 a.m.; Group B on ice at 10:45 a.m.; Scrimmage 2:45 p.m.

  • Wednesday, July 11 - Group A on ice at 8:50 a.m.; Group B on ice at 10:50 a.m.

  • Thursday, July 12 - Group B on ice at 9:15 a.m.; Group A on ice at 10:45 a.m.; Scrimmage 3 p.m.

  • Friday, July 13 - Scrimmage at 9:45 a.m.

  • Saturday, July 14 - Scrimmage at 10 a.m.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Caps re-sign centers Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle

Posted on: Thursday 7/5/2012 6:23pm

ARLINGTON, Va. - The Washington Capitals re-signed restricted free-agent centers Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle on Thursday.

Perreault received a two-year contract worth $2.1 million. Beagle got a three- year deal worth $2.7 million.

The 24-year-old Perreault set career highs with 16 goals and 14 assists last season. He also had his first career NHL hat trick and made his Capitals playoff debut.

Perreault was a sixth-round draft pick by Washington in 2006. He has 27 goals and 26 assists in 120 career NHL games.

The 26-year-old Beagle had four goals in 41 games last season. He also won 57.7 percent of his faceoffs, ranking second on the team.

Beagle was signed by Washington as an undrafted free agent in 2008. He has seven goals and three assists in 82 career NHL games.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Caps aquire Jack Hillen in 1-yr., $650k contract

Posted on: Tuesday 7/3/2012 3:30pm

Ben Raby,

WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals added depth to their blueline late Monday night, signing free agent defenseman Jack Hillen to a one-year $650,000 one-way contract.

Hillen had two goals and six points in 55 games with the Nashville Predators last season and will likely compete with the likes of Jeff Schultz and John Erskine for a shot at being the team's No.6 defenseman.

With Hillen onboard, general manager George McPhee now has five defensemen signed to NHL contracts (not including Tom Poti who remains on Long Term Injured Reserve or LTIR), with restricted free agents Mike Green and John Carlson expected to re- sign in the coming weeks.

Dmitry Orlov remains on his entry level contract, but McPhee expects the 20-year- old to have an expanded role with the Caps next season. Add it all up and the Caps may have eight NHL defensemen next season fighting for six spots.

"I'm just really excited to be with Washington and help add some defensive depth to their blueline," Hillen said in a conference call Tuesday.

"I think I'm a good puck moving defenseman who makes a good first pass and I'm a little more physical than a lot people give me credit for so that fits in well with Washington's style of play."

The 26-year-old is entering his fifth full professional season following a four year stint at Colorado College of the WCHA. During his senior season in 2008, Hillen was named the WCHA's Defensive Player of the Year and a WCHA First Team All Star.

Hillen was teammates for two years in Colorado with fellow free agent signee Joey Crabb. Crabb and the Capitals agreed on a one-way deal Sunday night.

"Joey and I got along real well at [Colorado College], we had a great experience there, he's two years older than me and I'm really happy for Joey that he got a nice contract. He's just a great guy and I'm sure that he's going to help the team a lot this year."

Following his NCAA career, Hillen signed with the New York Islanders where he remained through 2011. While on Long Island, Hillen developed into a dependable NHL defenseman notching career-highs of four goals and 22 points in 64 games in 2010-11. Hillen also finished second on the Islanders that season with 157 blocked shots.

Hillen then signed with Nashville last summer, where he'd eventually get his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 5-foot-10 inch, 190-pound blueliner dressed in two of Nashville's first-round games in April and is anxious for the opportunity to play more meaningful games come spring.

"Being with Nashville last year was such a change of pace for me from being with the Islanders," Hillen said.

"Nashville has had great success, especially recently, and seeing what it was like being around that winning organization really helped open my eyes to a lot of things. I'm excited to be joining Washington, another successful organization and I think what I learned from last year is what successful teams do. I hope that I can come in and help contribute to Washington who's had great success as well recently."

Hillen, who also represented the United States at the 2010 World Championships, spoke highly of his former teammates in Nashville Shea Weber and Ryan Suter. "I learned so much just from watching, especially from Ryan Suter because I think that he plays a similar style of game to me where he's not an overly big guy but he's always in the right position," Hillen said of the NHL's most coveted free agent defenseman.

"I learned a lot about body positioning and about what style I can play from watching Ryan Suter because he does everything well. He's always in the right position, he always comes out with the puck and his game is what I try to tailor mine after. I think watching him for a year really helped me develop more as a defenseman."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

From Alaska to D.C.: Caps sign Joey Crabb

Posted on: Monday 7/2/2012 2:45pm

Joey Crabb #46 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates in the warm-up prior to a game against the Minnesota Wild on January 19, 2012 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (AP)

Ben Raby, @benraby31

WASHINGTON - The path from Anchorage, Alaska to Washington, D.C. can make for a long journey with many stops along way, just ask former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. The newest member of the Washington Capitals, Alaska native Joey Crabb, would also concur.

Crabb left home when he was 16-years-old and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to join to the U.S. National Team Development Program. Since then, Crabb has played junior hockey in Green Bay, college hockey in Colorado and minor pro hockey in Chicago and Toronto. Crabb has also played 144 NHL games for the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

But finally on Sunday, 13 years after he first left Alaska to pursue a hockey career, Crabb was rewarded with his first one-way NHL contract. Crabb, 29, signed a one-year $950,000 deal with the Capitals on the first day of free agency.

"You always have to have a strong work ethic and keep working hard," Crabb said in a conference call Monday.

"I was always confident in my game and confident that I could play in the NHL. Obviously I would have liked to get there a little earlier… but I think it made me a stronger person and it helps mentally."

Crabb's hard work paid off last season in Toronto where he had NHL career-highs across the board with 11 goals and 26 points in 66 games. He also developed into one of the Maple Leafs' top penalty killers and defensive checkers with his plus-1 rating ranking second on the team among players with at least 22 games.

"I'm more of an energy guy with a little bit of two-way game," Crabb said.

"I can take the body and create energy and get in on the forecheck. I have some offensive skills a little bit too that I'd like to chip in with here and there. I really pride myself on penalty killing and I think there are a few guys like that on Washington already so I think it will be a good fit."

In simpler terms, Crabb is your typical grinder, a classic bottom-six forward who typically earns the respect of his teammates in short order. He will likely fit in nicely playing alongside the likes of Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks.

"Obviously there's a tremendous level of talent [with the Caps]," said Crabb who has yet to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"They're excited to win and they expect to win every year and that's what I'm most excited about. Coming in and playing with elite players will be fun, I've heard great things about [head coach] Adam Oates and it will be fun playing for him."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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