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Evgeny Kuznetsov donates uniforms to sled hockey program

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Evgeny Kuznetsov donates uniforms to sled hockey program

Over the weekend, Evgeny Kuznetsov took part in an interview with Sport-Express' Aleksei Shevchenko. Part of the interview included his prediction that Alex Ovechkin would get back to his 50-goal scoring level of play.

In the rest of the interview though, we learned a lot more about Kuznetsov's charitable work, and why he prefers not to make it all about publicity.

Kuznetsov talked about a recent donation he and some former teammates from KHL Traktor had made to a sled hockey team in Chelyabinsk, but he also explained why he didn't want all the attention that could come with it.

Last week you donated new uniforms to a sled-hockey team [in Chelyabinsk]. I know you and your friends spent a lot [on those uniforms], and that you generally help people out quite often. But I, for one, find out about that randomly.

Evgeny Kuznetsov: I don’t really want to advertise about that sort of thing. Yeah, you found out about something. But if I start talking about that without hiding anything, then some people aren’t going to like it. And at the end of the story it’s going to work out that I didn’t do this thing correctly, that I offended that person, I helped these guys, but not those.

[But] if you help out, then the government will pay attention to the problem, [as will] other hockey players and the wealthy.

Evgeny Kuznetsov: I understand, but it’s still not really ethical to talk [about this]. You understand, the situation right now is such that if you talk about something, but some people come along who get jealous or who might take advantage. I’m not arguing that I can’t help a lot of people. But I know the value of money perfectly well. I earned my money honestly, and have had to sacrifice a lot. But I’ve got a family, as does my wife. I can’t give it all away. Yes, I do this or that, but I still don’t want to talk about it.

Is it true you support an orphanage?

Evgeny Kuznetsov: It’s true, but I don’t want to comment on it any further.

People put the story about the Chelyabinsk sled-hockey players who didn’t have uniforms up on social media. Lots of hockey players have my number, but you texted me within a few minutes.

Evgeny Kuznetsov: I’ll say it again: I don’t have the means to help everyone. But there you had some people who needed a helping hand. These guys were playing with old equipment, and they love hockey. My [former] teammates also pitched in, I wasn’t alone. But what are we going to say about that?”

Even though Kuznetsov left Russia in 2014, he still continues to be active in his hometown. 

He also talked about his desire to start a children's hockey school there one day.

Fine. You once said that when your career is over you’d like to return to Chelyabinsk to support hockey somehow.

Evgeny Kuznetsov: That I can talk about. I want to found a children’s hockey school there. I’ll start with the very young. I’ll open some sort of center, a place where the kids can come and develop their technical skills. I hope I can convince my father to work with the kids. Everything I know about hockey I got from him. My father is shy about it, but he taught me everything I know. And of course my coaches added things later on, but all the fundamentals were laid in by him.

Are you specifically going to work on stick-handling there?

Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yes. I’m going to hire some guys. But they’re not going to just be some random people who once played and have wrapped up their careers. They’re going to be guys with specialized skills, who have something they can pass along to the kids. I’m going to pay them well, so they can give themselves over to the work. And of course I’m going to give a lot of time to the kids. Show them how to do things, talk about [my experience], and work on their technical skills. We’re going to learn how to shoot the puck correctly, and other things that you need to learn from a very young age.

The regional government should invest in that as well.

Evgeny Kuznetsov: Honestly, I’m not going to ask for anyone’s help. So getting back to the center, a little later I want to expand the school into a training complex like I’ve seen in North America and Finland. Three rinks, a cafe upstairs where the parents can watch practices, so they’re not standing by the ice.

I saw something like that in Toronto

Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yes. There’s a hotel nearby, where traveling players can stay. We’re going to have a pick-up team, and we’ll pay particular attention to players with special needs. So we’ll need the government’s assistance for the construction, but I hope by that time I’ll have good friends in high places.

And you want to live in Chelyabinsk?

Evgeny Kuznetsov: Yes, I dream of having a big house on the river bank, where all my relatives can gather.

This is the type of news we'd all like to hear more of in the future. 

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Thumbs up, thumbs down: Nathan Walker impresses in preseason opener

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Thumbs up, thumbs down: Nathan Walker impresses in preseason opener

The Capitals struck first Monday, but were shutdown the rest of the game in a 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. Here are the players who stood out for Washington.

Thumbs up

Nathan Walker:
The young Aussie made the most of his opportunity on Monday with the Capitals’ lone goal on the night. Walker streaked up the ice along the boards, passed it to Lars Eller then crossed to the front of the net. He was in good position for the rebound and showed quick hands to get the puck and shoot it past goalie Keith Kinkaid for the shorthanded goal. It was a pure effort play and showed the exact type of spark the team is looking for in a fourth line winger. There were various times throughout the game when a Devil would try to muscle Walker out of the play and he would respond with a few shoves and slashes of his own. He did not back down from any challenge.

Braden Holtby: If you were worried Holtby’s rough postseason would follow him to the fall, that does not appear to be the case. The Caps netminder looked smooth as he turned aside 18 of 19 shots. The only goal came on a long distance slap shot through a screen. Granted, it’s a preseason game against a quasi NHL roster, but a solid performance for Holtby nonetheless.

Alex Chiasson: A player on a PTO cannot afford to have a quiet night. The team has every reason to want to play their prospects or other players already signed to a contract. Chiasson had a solid game, was in good position throughout the night and used his body well. His lone penalty of the night was a goal-saving slash on Kyle Palmieri so you can’t really hold it against him. He played like a dependable veteran player who the team could rely on as a bottom-six forward.

RELATED: WHY NESS' SKATING ABILITY GIVES HIM A LEG UP

Thumbs down

The refs: I understand that the NHL wants to emphasize slashing penalties and faceoff violations, but this game was absurd. I cannot remember if I have ever seen a penalty called for a faceoff violation ever. There were three in this game alone. Add in another six slashing penalties and you’ve got yourself a long night. In total, there were 20 penalties called. No one is expecting that to carry over into the regular season, but this felt unnecessary and made all the more frustrating by the multiple times in which play was whistled prematurely when the wrong team had possession of the puck.

Lars Eller: Eller assisted on the Capitals’ lone goal of the game, but he also had an unnecessary boarding penalty in the first period that brought the ire of the Devils players. He took two penalties for the game and, while the refs were certainly trigger happy with the whistles, considering the penalty issues he had at the beginning of last season this is not a pattern the team will want to see again.

Chandler Stephenson: Stephenson has 13 games of NHL experience under his belt meaning he should have a leg up over some of the younger players competing for a roster spot. And yet, Stephenson was essentially a non-factor on the night. He took two penalties in the first period and finished without a single shot attempt.

Christian Djoos: Djoos is in a battle to make the roster and he had essentially no impact on this game. He established himself as a playmaker in Hershey, but finished with a very pedestrian night in which he managed only one shot on goal despite over five minutes of power play time. He will need to do better than that to make the roster.

MORE CAPITALS: NATIONALS SLUGGER DANIEL MURPHY VISITS CAPS PRACTICE

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Aaron Ness’ skating could give him a leg up in Caps' D competition

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USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Ness’ skating could give him a leg up in Caps' D competition

It’s been a while since defenseman Aaron Ness felt he had a legitimate shot at earning an NHL roster spot.

“It’s exciting,” said Ness, who’ll be in the lineup Monday night as the Capitals open their seven-game preseason slate in New Jersey. “Anytime there’s a couple of spots open, it always amps it up a bit.”

Ness signed with the Caps as a free agent in July 2015 knowing Washington had a roster stocked with veteran D-men and that he’d likely spend the majority of his time with their minor league affiliate in Hershey. And that’s exactly how it’s played out. Two seasons ago, he saw 62 games in Hershey and eight in Washington. Last season, he played 51 games for the Bears and two for the Caps.

This year, however, things are much different.

RELATED: SIZE IS OVERRATED WHEN IT COMES TO CHRISTIAN DJOOS

The Caps have five defensemen on one-way NHL contracts, which leaves two spots up for grabs if you include the spare.

As such, the competition over the next couple of weeks figures to be fierce, with Ness duking it out with prospects Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, Lucas Johansen, Connor Hobbs, Jonas Siegenthaler and journeyman Jyrki Jokipakka, who is on a professional tryout.

“You obviously have to prove yourself; that’s what camp is for,” Ness said. “For me, it’s showing what I can do and showing what I bring to the table.”

Ness’ experience gives him a slight edge over the youngsters; he’s played 39 NHL games since 2012, including 20-game call-up with the Islanders in 2013-14. But it’s his mobility and top-notch skating ability that could end up putting him on the Caps’ opening night roster.

“He’s been really solid down in Hershey and when he’s come up he’s played really well for us,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “The game has gone to skating, so no question, he is a guy that we have some trust in.”

Ness, who is listed at 5-10, 184-pounds, added: “That’s my game there--skating is huge for me. I’m not the biggest guy in the world.”

Asked to describe his game, he said, “I try to make a good first pass out of the D-zone, defend well and then jump up and create as much offense as possible.”  

At 27, this also represents Ness' best opportunity of earning an NHL job—and hanging onto it—since he was selected by the Islanders in the second round of the 2008 draft.

“This is the first time where there’s actually been spots available when I’ve been to a camp,” Ness said. “It’s for sure one of the best opportunities I’ve had so far. It’s an exciting time.”

Trotz says he sees a player who needed some additional seasoning in the minors but now appears “ready” to challenge for a full-time role in the majors.

“Different players take different opportunities at different times,” Trotz said. “He’s ready. If he continues to play well, he’ll definitely be in the mix.”

MORE CAPITALS: DANIEL MURPHY WAS A SPECIAL GUEST AT CAPS' PRACTICE