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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Another missed practice for Redskins Jamison Crowder

Another missed practice for Redskins Jamison Crowder

Things are trending the wrong way for Jamison Crowder's ability to play Friday night against the Bills. The slot receiver missed Tuesday's practice and was spotted again on Wednesday working off to the side with other injured players Matt Jones and Josh Doctson.

Both Doctson and Jones have been ruled out for the Bills game, and with Crowder again not practicing with the first-team offense, it's hard to see him playing either. That could mean a big night for Ryan Grant, who looked adept in the slot earlier in the preseason. 

On Tuesday, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said Crowder is rehabbing from a knee injury sustained last week against the Jets. The coach was not sure if the second-year wideout would play Friday. Expect an official announcement on Crowder's availability when Gruden addresses the media following practice. 

Crowder proved to be a valuable weapon for the Redskins in his rookie season. Lined up almost exclusively as a slot receiver, he had 59 catches for 604 yards and two touchdowns. Crowder also served as the team's primary punt returner, a role most expect him to keep this season. 

MORE REDSKINS: KIRK COUSINS USED TO GETTING READY 

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Why Ravens' decision to play Joe Flacco against Lions makes sense

Why Ravens' decision to play Joe Flacco against Lions makes sense

OWINGS MILLS – Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will see his first game action since last November on Saturday night, when he starts the Week 3 preseason game against the Lions.

“You need to get back out there, you need to get your mind used to getting ready for a game,” Flacco said Tuesday on Mad Dog Sports Radio with Adam Schein.

Here are three reasons why playing Flacco makes sense:

1. Flacco can benefit from playing before the regular-season opener:

Flacco has shown no indication that he is thinking about his surgically-repaired knee during practices. However, Flacco also knows that no teammates will hit him during practice. Game action will give Flacco a different feel, the test of facing tacklers who will hit him if given the opportunity. Look for the Ravens to call plays that require Flacco to get rid of the ball quickly. The Ravens don’t want Flacco to get hit. But they want him to knock off any potential game rust before the regular season starts.

2.  Flacco can build more chemistry with some of his receivers.

Wide receivers Mike Wallace and Chris Moore, as well as tight end Ben Watson, have never caught a pass from Flacco during a game. This will be a chance for them to get a better feel for each other heading into Week 1.

3. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley and rookie left guard Alex Lewis have been practicing and playing with confidence.

It’s early, but Stanley has looked more like a five-year vet than a rookie. Lewis is a physical blocker who doesn’t look intimidated by anyone, or anything. With guard John Urschel missing another day of practice on Wednesday, Lewis is expected to start next to Stanley on Saturday night. The Ravens feel their two rookies on the left side of the line can protect Flacco’s blindside well enough to the Lions away from him.

MORE RAVENS: Scrambling QB's could give Ravens problems

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Stock Watch: Harper, Zimmerman looking like themselves again

Stock Watch: Harper, Zimmerman looking like themselves again

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 3-4

Team slash: .283/.359/.454

Team ERA: 5.79

Runs per game: 6.6 

 

STOCK UP 

Ryan Zimmerman, 1B: .375 AVG, HR, 1.014 OPS

Zimmerman announced his return from the disabled list with authority last weekend in Atlanta, hammering the first pitch he saw into left field for a solo home run. The blast was just the beginning; he’s 6-for-16 since he’s been back, getting solid contact even when he doesn’t get a hit. We’re talking about a very small sample size, of course, but a resurgent Zimmerman would mean wonders for the bottom of the Nats lineup.

Bryce Harper, RF: .357 AVG, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1.026 OPS

Like Zimmerman, Harper’s going to have to be consistent for a little while longer before fans feel like he’s truly back to his old self. Still, the past week and a half have been a welcome sight for an offense that needs him to look like the reigning NL MVP. He’s posted multi-hit efforts in five out of his last 10 games, notching five extra-base hits over that span. For comparison, that’s the same amount of extra-base hits he had throughout the month of July.

Numbers aside, Harper has simply looked relaxed at the plate lately; he’s no longer chasing pitches out of the strike zone, instead reclaiming his patient approach. Even if he may not be able to completely salvage his season, a strong finish would be a huge boost for the Nats.    

STOCK DOWN 

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1.2 IP, 9 ER, 15-day disabled list

Even if it’s a precautionary measure, there still has to be slight concern that Strasburg is headed to the disabled list with right elbow soreness. The 28-year-old right hander said Monday that his arm recovery between starts had been getting increasingly difficult, but the discomfort never affected him during his performances. Who knows if there was truly a correlation between the elbow issues and his recent 0-3 skid, but the Nats are hoping that time off will do him some good. With the postseason less than six weeks away, will Strasburg be fully rested and ready to go in October? 

Reynaldo Lopez, SP: 1-1, 4.66 ERA, 1.66 WHIP

While Lopez had two good outings recently, both of them were against the lowly Atlanta Braves. Against contenders like the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles? He’s 0-2 with a 10.32 ERA. Granted, he’s still in the infancy of his major-league career, and was only inserted in the rotation because Joe Ross is out with injury. That said, with Strasburg also gone now, it’s up to the back end to create some semblance of stability for the next few weeks.