Ovechkin preparing to play in KHL

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Ovechkin preparing to play in KHL

By Chuck Gormley
CSNbaltimore.com

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin confirmed on Friday that if there is an NHL lockout he will play in the Kontinental Hockey League.

"We'll see what's going to happen," Ovechkin said following an informal practice with teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington. "No one wants to be in a lockout but if there is I'm going to play in the KHL. It's not a surprise. I will go."

The NHL's current Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire on Sept. 15 and all indications are that the league's owners will lock out the players at 11:59 p.m. if an agreement is not in place.

Representatives from the NHL and NHLPA returned to the bargaining table on Friday in New York.

Ovechkin said he will not be among the 200-plus players expected to be in New York on Tuesday for a players' meeting. He has spent the past week skating with teammates and has reported to informal workouts at 232 pounds, about 9 pounds heavier than he ended last year's playoffs.

Pre-camp notes: Add defenseman John Erskine to the collection of Capitals skating daily at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in preparation for the 2012-13 season.

On Friday Erskine joined a group that included forwards Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Marcus Johansson, Matt Hendricks, Stan Galiev and Mattias Sjogren, defensemen Mike Green, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

Because of the limited number of participants, the players have followed full-ice scrimmages with 3-on-3 scrimmages the width of the rink. On Friday the players actually put themselves though a hard skate after the hour-long workout.

Barring a lockout, the Capitals are scheduled to begin rookie camp on Sept. 16, followed by training camp for veterans on Sept. 21.

Erskine, 32, spent most of last season watching games from the press box and is expected to be used as a depth defenseman again this season. Under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter, he suited up for just 28 games, recording no goals, two assists and 51 penalty minutes.

Erskine is entering the final year of a two-year contract that pays him 1.5 million a season. He may start the season seventh on the clubs defensive depth chart, behind Karl Alzner, Carlson, Green, Roman Hamrlik, Orlov and Schultz, and quite possibly Jack Hillen and Cam Schilling.

An avid NASCAR fan, Erskine and Hendricks will be heading to Richmond this weekend for a chance to see a race.

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DeSean Jackson wants to play with a great QB, and says Kirk Cousins fits that

DeSean Jackson wants to play with a great QB, and says Kirk Cousins fits that

Like a point guard and a shooter or a pitcher and a catcher, a quarterback and a wide receiver rely on each other. Free-agent-to-be DeSean Jackson understands that, and it's clear that the skill level of the signal caller will factor in to his decision when it's time to sign his next contract this March.

"I would love to play with a great quarterback," he told Adam Schefter in a podcast interview with the reporter. "I think Kirk Cousins is a great quarterback, he's done some great things these past couple of years as far as statistics. If it is another team out there that I'd have to go to or however it goes, we definitely know the business of the NFL. I would love to play with a great quarterback."

As is the case with any other passer and pass catcher, Cousins and Jackson miss on throws, or Cousins will look elsewhere on a certain play and Jackson will throw his hands up, exasperated that he wasn't the QB's target on that down. In the past three seasons, though, and especially the last two, the pair has connected on plenty of deep balls to add an electric element to what used to be a slogging Redskins offense.

But Cousins isn't the only NFC East quarterback the 30-year-old receiver respects.

"Carson Wentz, he came in and had a heck of a year," Jackson said of the Eagles promising young prospect. "He killed it. He showed he can do it, and he has all the intangibles of being a big-time quarterback in this league."

MORE REDSKINS: CRAVENS WILL HELP, BUT 'SKINS MUST DO MORE AT SAFETY

That statement, of course, acted as a perfect transition to Schefter wondering how the ex-Eagle felt about possibly returning to Philadelphia.

"It definitely is a great story and ending, I guess you could say," Jackson said about the idea. "You just kind of think about all that, you started somewhere and maybe you want to finish it. There's a lot of speculation of a lot of thoughts. It all sounds good, but you never really know until the final decision is made."

Going off of those quotes, two conclusions can be made. The first: If the Burgundy and Gold don't re-sign or franchise tag Cousins, Jackson's interest in staying in D.C. would likely take a huge hit. With respect to the other options on the roster, Cousins is the only reputable quarterback on the Redskins, which Jackson said matters to him.

The second, meanwhile, would've been hard to fathom a few years ago: A reunion with the Eagles isn't a stretch at all. Wentz is an up-and-comer under center, and Jackson respects head coach Doug Pederson. 

Later in the interview, Jackson said he can thrive for another four or five years in the league. Whether he can accomplish that isn't the only question; what uniform he'll be wearing as he looks to play into his mid-30s is still up in the air as well.

MORE REDSKINS: UNDER THE RADAR ISSUES THE TEAM MUST MONITOR

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With call-up, Caps 'reward' prospect Travis Boyd for hard work, improvement

With call-up, Caps 'reward' prospect Travis Boyd for hard work, improvement

Although it took a little longer than he had hoped, Capitals prospect Travis Boyd was thrilled to finally get his first NHL call-up on Tuesday.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Boyd said after practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “It’s a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

So what did Boyd, a sixth-round pick in 2011, think of the pace?

“It was intense, up tempo, really fast,” he said. “Drill-to-drill, no time off. I just kinda stayed in the back and made sure I didn’t screw anything up too bad.”

Boyd was recalled for a couple of reasons: No. 1, the Caps needed an extra forward to take to Philly just in case there’s an injury or illness at the morning skate and, No. 2, to reward him for playing well in Hershey this season.

The 23-year-old ranks second on the Bears in points with 43 (11 goals, 32 assists) in 53 games.

“We’ve had no injuries at [center] and it leaves them a little bit short [at that position],” Trotz said, explaining why Boyd was not recalled sooner. “He’s just a young man who struggled to get things rolling in the right way as a young player [and now is a] young, maturing player who’s finally getting it. He’s really having a good year.”

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Trotz said Boyd has a high compete level and NHL-caliber hockey sense. The coach also said Boyd has worked hard to boost his consistency on the ice and preparation off it, improving in areas such as strength, conditioning and nutrition.

“It’s really come together for him and we wanted to reward him for it,” Trotz said. “He’s made the changes and got his game rolling to where we’re considering him as a player who could replace people in our organization. That’s good on him.”

Boyd acknowledged that it was tough to see some of his Hershey teammates called up ahead of him in recent months. In fact, Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, Liam O’Brien and Paul Carey have all gotten at least one game in Washington.

“It gets a little frustrating seeing other guys go up, especially when you think you’re playing well, I guess,” Boyd said. “But at the same time, they haven’t had any injuries up here. And they are the best team in the league; it’s not like they needed to change things up.”

In an attempt to make him feel comfortable, Boyd was assigned a locker stall near a couple of guys he already knows—Zach Sanford and Nate Schmidt. Boyd and Sanford, of course, were teammates in Hershey this season. Meanwhile, Boyd played with Schmidt at the University of Minnesota, where the two were also roommates on the road.

“He’s a chatterbox,” Boyd joked about rooming with Schmidt. “He’s also a snorer.”

“It’s nice knowing someone a little bit more than saying hi to them once or twice in training camp,” he continued. “That’s a couple of guys that I’m a little more comfortable with, which is nice.”

In all likelihood, Boyd will be just an observer on his first stint in the NHL. But the Caps are hopeful that he’ll continue to grow his game and eventually challenge for a spot in Washington.

“Everybody has their own path,” Trotz said. “Not everybody is on the same timeline as Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. The rest of us mortals have different paths…It might just be a quick peek [this time]. But we’re sending him a message.”

And that message is keep grinding.

MORE CAPITALS: Caps recall Boyd prior to Wednesday's trip to Philly