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Kuznetsov thinks Ovechkin lost some weight this summer

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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) A slimmer, trimmer-looking Alex Ovechkin is back on the ice for summer workouts more than two weeks before the start of training camp.

The Russian superstar skated in an informal practice with Washington Capitals teammates on Tuesday and looked lighter than his playing weight of 239 pounds last season. If that’s indeed the case, Ovechkin took to heart the challenge from general manager Brian MacLellan to train differently and add more speed to his game as he’s about to turn 32.

A team spokesman said Ovechkin would not speak to reporters until the first day of training camp in September. But his teammates certainly notice a change in Ovechkin’s physique.

“You can see he lost some weight,” center Evgeny Kuznetsov said. “Every year you’re trying to be better. You change something in the summer. Ovi’s like other guys, too – he wants to change something, right? It’s always nice to see when your teammates get better. They change. They try something new.”

Ovechkin is already trying something new by getting to the D.C. area in late August, which is earlier than usual for captain and 13-year pro. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov and fellow Russian Dmitry Orlov all flew back together, joining goaltender Philipp Grubauer and others.

The early arrivals are no coincidence after the Capitals lost again in the second round to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

“After we lost to Pittsburgh, a lot of negative things (were said) about our team, about him,” Orlov said. “Everybody said, `The Caps cannot do anything, blah, blah, blah.’ So everybody understands and everybody wants to show we can do everything. … He wants to be where he’s always been, one of the superstars in the league and he wants to work hard and show everybody who he is.”

Ovechkin leads all players with 558 goals since entering the NHL in 2005-06, 176 more than Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. While Crosby led the league with 44 goals, Ovechkin’s 33 goals last year were his fewest in a non-lockout season since 2010-11 as he saw the lowest ice time of his career.

By the end of the Pittsburgh series, coach Barry Trotz had moved him down to the third line, and Ovechkin finished the playoffs with five goals and three assists in 13 games as he battled knee and hamstring injuries.

Trotz said after the Capitals were eliminated that Ovechkin’s “still got game.” MacLellan said Ovechkin had to adjust his game to stay relevant as he gets older.

“He’s going to have to think of ways he can evolve into a player that still has a major impact on the game,” MacLellan said after last season . “The game’s getting faster. He’s going to have to train in a different way – a more speed way instead of a power way.”

Ovechkin appears to have done that, which sends a message to teammates after an offseason of change. The Capitals lost defensemen Karl Alzner and Kevin Shattenkirk and right winger Justin Williams in free agency, and traded away forward Marcus Johansson in a salary-cap crunch.

“It’s always good when you see the guys who are 30 or more years – they know they have to practice hard,” said Kuznetsov, who signed a $62.4 million, eight-year contract that makes him the second-highest-paid player on the team behind Ovechkin. “For me, when you get a couple more kilograms, it’s a couple practices. But for older guys that takes like five, six days. That’s tough. That’s why the older guys have to work more and more and more.”

Jetlag and a lack of sleep aside, Kuznetsov and Orlov think Ovechkin did work more and that it shows.

“He’s going to be good,” Orlov said. “He’s a professional, and he worked hard this summer so he can prepare for the season and I think he’s going to be good.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

NHL suspends Desjardins two preseason games for illegal check to the head

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has issued another two-game preseason suspension, this time to Andrew Desjardins of the New York Rangers.

The incident occurred during the first period of Saturday’s game between the Rangers and New Jersey Devils, as Desjardins delivered a hit to the head of Miles Wood.

Desjardins received a match penalty for an illegal check to the head, and a two-game preseason ban on Monday.

“Desjardins, looking to prevent Wood from cutting to the front of the net, steps in front of Wood and delivers a high hit, which makes the head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable,” stated the Department of Player Safety in a video explanation.

“It is important to note that Wood is eligible to be hit on this play, provided it is done in a legal manner. However, rather than taking an angle of approach that results in a legal, full-bodied check, Desjardins takes an angle of approach that picks Wood’s head, making it the main point of contact.”

The Rangers are in action right now versus the Philadelphia Flyers. They have one game remaining on their preseason schedule after tonight, as they take on the Flyers again tomorrow.

Desjardins was attending Rangers camp on a professional tryout.

 

Devils score early and often, opening up seven-goal lead vs. Senators

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Tough night for the Ottawa Senators and, specifically, goaltender Mike Condon on Monday.

Playing the New Jersey Devils in the Kraft Hockeyville showcase in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Condon allowed seven goals on 17 shots before the midway point of the second period.

Andrew Hammond then entered into the game for Ottawa, with the Senators down 7-0.

Marcus Johansson started the scoring onslaught for New Jersey. Nico Hischier gave the Devils a three-goal lead before the eight-minute mark of the opening period, and John Quenneville scored twice in less than 30 seconds to put New Jersey up by seven in the second period.

Golden Knights embed season ticket members’ names in T-Mobile Arena ice

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The Vegas Golden Knights have chosen an interesting way to honor their season ticket members, as the organization inches closer to starting its inaugural NHL regular season.

The Golden Knights will, for the first time, play on their home ice at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday against the L.A. Kings in preseason action. To commemorate this historic season, the organization will embed the names of its season ticket members into the ice surface at their home arena.

(You can check out the video here. Very cool.)

“That it was feasible, if we wanted to do something special on the ice, that we had the ability to put texture to something on the ice, before the laid the last round of it,” said Todd Pollock, Golden Knights vice-president of ticketing and suites.

“It’s in the thousands, the number of names out there. Many thousands.”

The Golden Knights have played four preseason games so far — all on the road. They open the regular season with two games in two nights on the road, on Oct. 6 versus the Dallas Stars and the following night versus the Arizona Coyotes. They return to Vegas for their home opener against the Coyotes on Oct. 10.

NHL players weigh in on national anthem protests, divisive President Trump comments

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A number of National Hockey League players and coaches on Monday expressed their opinions about the national anthem protests and the divisive comments of President Donald Trump during a rally on Friday and on Twitter this weekend.

At a rally on Friday, Trump urged NFL team owners to fire players that take a knee during the National Anthem. He reiterated those remarks on Twitter the following day.

On Sunday, almost every NFL team took part in a form of protest against racial inequality and injustice during the anthem. Some players took a knee. Other players linked arms with fellow players, coaches and even team owners in a show of solidarity. Some teams, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans did not take the field during the anthem.

On Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, who is 20 years old and from Scottsdale, AZ., said he would not take part in protest during the anthem.

“My great uncle served, I have friends and family who’ve served, there’s men and women who have risked their lives for the United States, people who have died for the United States,” Matthews said, per Sportsnet.

“I don’t know if kneeling, sitting, stretching is something I’d really look into doing because to me it’s like a dishonour to the men and women that fight for that flag, fight for the U.S. I don’t think I’d be one of the people to take part in that.”

Boston Bruins forward David Backes, who is from Minneapolis, MN., said he will continue to stand during the Star Spangled Banner.

“My opinion is that I’m American and I love my country and I love my flag,” said Backes, per CSNNE.com.

“I’ve got great buddies that have been in the military and they’ve sacrificed for my freedom, so I’d never want to do anything to disrespect that. My standpoint is that I’m standing for every national anthem with my hand over my heart and I’m staring at that flag recognizing those sacrifices. If I’ve got beef with a social justice issue or something else-wise, I’m going to find different avenues that are not disrespectful, especially to those that are military men and women that give me the freedom to do what I do.”

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk told the Edmonton Journal that players have the right to protest, while his head coach Bill Peters does not believe that kneeling during the National Anthem is a sign of disrespect.

“I understand both sides. I don’t think anyone is truly trying to disrespect the flag, to be honest with you,” Peters told the Raleigh News & Observer. “I think people have too much pride in what’s going on in their countries, and they just want to make it better and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler is believed to be the first NHL player to publicly speak out against the comments of President Trump, doing so from his verified Twitter account on Saturday. His comments followed scathing criticism of the President from a number of athletes, including NBA stars LeBron James and Stephen Curry, in the wake of what Trump said at the rally. Following Sunday’s schedule of games, a number of NFL players spoke about the protests.

“I’m absolutely for the first amendment,” said Wheeler, when asked if he would support a teammate if they decide to take a knee during the National Anthem.

“I’m a big believer that what makes America a special place is you’re allowed to stand up for what you believe in. With just cause, if someone were electing to do that they would 100 percent have my support. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with why they do it it is their right to feel that way, it is their right to behave that way. If I didn’t agree with it, I would absolutely sit down, have a coffee, talk about it, try to understand why they feel that way and maybe you become a little more sympathetic.”