Washington Capitals

Mystics dreaming of a win over Atlanta

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Mystics dreaming of a win over Atlanta

The matchup: If familiarity breeds contempt, the Mystics must be sick Atlanta. They surely must be tired of losing to the Dream, something Washington has twice since late August and hopes to avoid now in early September.\The Mystics (5-23) current seven-game skid includes a 12-point loss to the Dream (xxx) on Aug. 24 and an 82-59 thrashing six days later in Atlanta, site of Sundays contest (3 p.m.).
Washington committed 38 turnovers in the setbacks while shooting 38 percent (46 of 121) from the field. Crystal Langhorne, the Mystics leading scorer and rebounder, is averaging 15 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 steals against the Dream, winners of three of four games.Atlantas success against Washington came without the services of leading scorer Angel McCoughtry, who missed time while serving a suspension for violating team rules. The Olympian has since returned and scored 30 points Friday in a loss to WNBA champion Minnesota.Ex-Mystic Lindsay Harding had 16 points and five assists in the previous meeting, leading a Dream attack that scored 24 fastbreak points compared to the Mystics eight.Last time out: Any hopes of spoiling Alana Beards return to the Verizon Center on Friday went away quickly as Washington trailed the Los Angeles Sparks by double digits in a 96-68 loss. The Mystics trailed by 12 points after the first quarter and it only got worse. Monique Currie lad the Mystics with 16 points and Jasmine Thomas added 15. Beard scored 16 points with five assists and two steals for the Sparks, who shot 61 percent from the field.Rotating centers: Ashley Robinson opened the season as the Mystics starting center, but after a slow start for the stylish center and the team, Mystics coach and general manager Trudi Lacey looked elsewhere for interior production. Michelle Snow took over the center role and immediately provided an assertive presence in the paint, pulling down 12 rebounds in back-to-back June games against New York and Indiana.However the 6-foot-5 Snows minutes have been slashed over the past three games, losing the starting gig back to Robinson in the process. She played only 11 minutes against New York and Connecticut, totaling four points and two rebounds, but Snow grabbed seven rebounds in 18 minutes during the blowout loss against Los Angeles.Robinson is averaging 3.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 block and 23 minutes over the last three games, slightly above season numbers of 2.4 points and 2.4 rebounds.

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Ovechkin, Kuznetsov set to start the season on a line together

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov set to start the season on a line together

Alex Ovechkin will start the season on a line centered by Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said Tuesday.

“I’ve had them pretty well together the whole camp,” Trotz said. “You can probably see that.”

Trotz also said he intends to have T.J. Oshie centered by Nicklas Backstrom when the Caps open the regular season in Ottawa on Oct. 5.

RELATED: CAN MADISON BOWEY TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HIS OPPORTUNITY AND SEIZE A ROSTER SPOT?

Trotz said his plan entering the season is to pair a high-end skill veteran wing with a high-end skill veteran center on each of the first two lines, then add a young player on the other wing.

Andre Burakovsky, 22, figures to be one of those young wingers, giving the Caps five of their top six. The sixth spot, however, remains up for grabs, with Jakub Vrana, 21, Brett Connolly, 25, and others set to compete for it.

“We’re going to start with Kuzy and probably Ovi together and probably a Backy-Osh [pairing], and we’ve got to find…who’s going to go with them,” Trotz said.

Trotz added: “Nothing is permanent in this business, as you know. But that’s probably where we want to start.”

In the battle for the final spot in the top six, Vrana will get the first chance to show what he’s got. The 2014 first round pick will skate on the right of Ovechkin and Kuznetsov as the Caps play preseason game No. 2 in Montreal on Wednesday night.   

“The thing with ‘V’ is he’s a young guy who’s got speed,’ Trotz said of Vrana. “He can get to space, and when he does, he can shoot it. There are very few guys that can skate with Kuzy. We drafted him to be a high prospect and we want to put him in that position. It’s in his hands now.”

Trotz said he’ll reveal the rest of the lineup that’s headed to Bell Centre on Wednesday morning. 

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There's a spot on the Caps' blue line waiting for Madison Bowey. Will he seize it?

There's a spot on the Caps' blue line waiting for Madison Bowey. Will he seize it?

As the battle for the two open jobs on the Capitals’ blue line intensifies, one guy you’ll definitely want to keep an eye on is Madison Bowey.

His ankle is 100-percent.

He dropped a dozen pounds over the summer in an effort to get quicker.

He’s also as determined as he’s ever been.

“You have that extra motivation because you know [that] this year there’s a chance it’ll be your year,” said Bowey, who is expected to make his preseason debut Wednesday night in Montreal. “This year is my best opportunity.”

Indeed, it is.

RELATED: WHO IMPRESSED IN THE CAPS' PRESEASON OPENER?

Bowey might have made his NHL debut a year ago, but a gruesome ankle injury caused by an opponent’s skate blade sidelined him from late December him until mid-March. A week after the 2013 second round pick returned to the Bears’ lineup, he took a puck off the face, suffering two small fractures near his orbital bone in the process.

“Wearing a fishbowl a week after you just got back [from being out] three months was tough,” he cracked.

It wasn’t a completely lost season, though.

“It was the [second round] playoffs series against Providence when I really felt like myself again,” he said. “It was tough. I came back [in the regular season] and felt good and then I started kinda feeling it again. But in that Providence series, I really felt like that was my best, that I was getting back to my game. It was our last series and I ended off on a good note and I felt really good about my game heading onto the offseason.”

Bowey also entered the offseason knowing that he had some serious work to do in order to get his ankle back to 100-percent.

“Injuries happen,” he said. “Obviously, it’s what you do after that injury and how you bounce back. This summer was huge for me in that regard. I really got three months of hard training on and off the ice and I think that went a long way for me. I feel great.”

In addition to rehabbing the ankle, Bowey skated regularly with fellow Winnipeg residents Cody Eakin, Eric Fehr, Jonathan Toews and Travis Hamonic, among others.

Bowey also focused on dropping some excess body fat. Although he already considered himself nutrition conscious, he managed to lose a dozen pounds by cutting carbs and giving up ice cream.

As a result, he’s now listed at 6-2, 198.

“I felt 210 [pounds] was too much for my legs to handle,” Bowey said. “I feel a lot better on the ice and more explosive. I feel more mobile for sure. My cardio is way better than it was a year ago. I can skate well, and that’s huge in this league. Right now you can see the teams that are successful, their ‘D’ are mobile, they like to join the rush and contribute offense.”

He added: “There are two spots open and there’s a lot of great guys competing for it. I feel really confident in myself right now going into the preseason. It’s up to me to really just focus on the little things that I do right and not try to do too much and make sure I know when to pick my spots when the time is right. Hopefully I can help contribute to this team this year.”

One doesn’t have to look very hard to find a spot for Bowey in the lineup. As a right shot, he could fit very nicely on the third pairing alongside Brooks Orpik, a 15-year veteran who could also serve as a mentor for the 22-year-old.

Bowey has put himself in position but it’s no slam dunk that he'll make the opening night roster. He doesn’t have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors, the competition is stiff and Coach Barry Trotz is still waiting to see if he's able to put it all together.

“Probably like all of the defensemen, he’s had some really good moments and he’s had some moments of uncertainty or not so good moments,” Trotz said. “Tomorrow he’ll get an opportunity to be in a game and show what he can do. That’s really what separates everything. He practices well. He moves well. He’s got the skillset to do the right things. But can he make the strength and the skill and the skating translate into productive play in an NHL game? That’s the next step for Madison.” 

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