All of a sudden the middle has opened up for the Wizards in the Southeast Division as Orlando shipped out all-star center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a four-team trade. This is great news for the Wizards who always struggled defending the 7-foot Howard. Instead of facing Howard and Orlando four times a season, they only have to face him twice now that he's with a western conference team.
Howard has owned the Wizards. Last season, he went for 28 points and 20 rebounds in a Magic win over D.C. in January. Howard followed that up in February with 23 points and 18 rebounds in yet another win against the Wizards. In the 2010-11 season, Orlando never lost to Washington, with Howard leading the way averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds a game. In fact, the last time Orlando with Howard playing lost to the Wizards was in February of 2010 when Brendan Haywood started at center for Washington.
With Howard out of the picture the Magic have to figure out who is going to be the new man in the middle because right now they don't have a true center on the roster, only several power forwards like Justin Harper and Gustavo Ayon. Those are names that don't strike fear into anyone and the Wizards are just fine with that, as centers Nene and power forward Emeka Okafor should have their way with the Magic down in the interior.
The Lakers are once again an NBA title contender but at least the Wizards don't have to see Howard as much as they used to. Things are looking up in D.C.
Here’s how Coach Barry Trotz will have his players line up Friday night vs. the Blues...and a few notes about forward combos and D pairings you'll see at Capital One Arena:
Vrana – Backstrom – Oshie
Burakovsky – Boyd – Smith-Pelly
Stephenson – Eller – Wilson
Bau – Graovac – Peluso
Johansen – Carlson
Djoos – Chorney
Ness – Lewington
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- After scoring a power play goal while skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov on Wednesday, Jakub Vrana is getting an audition on the other top-six line.
- Stephenson is the only player to appear in all three preseason games. Tonight, he’s skating on the wing after playing center in the first two contests. He’s a prospect the Caps are hoping makes the opening night roster but the reason he’s played so much is because fourth-line center Jay Beagle is “trying to manage his body a little bit,” according to Trotz.
- Beagle has not played yet this preseason, but Trotz said he’s been practicing and scrimmaging full-go. “He’s not hurt,” Trotz said. “He’s got some tightness. We’re going to work through the tightness and he’ll be fine. There’s no reason to rush guys.”
- Winger Mathias Bau wasn’t originally slated to see any game action, but the Denmark native impressed Trotz so much in a scrimmage earlier this week that the coach found a spot in the lineup for him. Bau, the tallest player in camp at 6-7, is skating on a line with Graovac (6-5) and Peluso (6-3). “He’s gotten better and better,” Trotz said of Bau, who signed an AHL deal with Hershey this summer. “So he deserves to get in a game. He’s been standing out. Originally I had another guy in there but Bau has sorta overtaken him.”
- Peluso is another player who is emerging as a candidate to earn a spot on the fourth line. This will mark his second straight preseason appearance.
- Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov will make their preseason debut Saturday vs. the Hurricanes, according to Trotz, who has already said they’ll open the regular season as the top pair.
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One of the best parts of football season being back is The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon's NFL Superlatives.
When there is a primetime game on NBC, Fallon takes a look at those two teams' rosters and pokes some fun at particular players.
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This week's matchup? Raiders vs. Redskins. Fallon, per usual, did not disappoint.
OT Ty Nsekhe, DE Matt Loannidis, QB Colt McCoy, OL Tyler Catalina and OT Morgan Moses are handed superlatives for the Redskins.
On the Raiders, QB Derek Carr and OT Donald Penn receive shoutouts.
It's going to be a tough matchup for the Redskins, but for now just enjoy a good laugh.