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Pair of Capitals named to Metropolitan team for All-Star game

Pair of Capitals named to Metropolitan team for All-Star game

Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby will be Los Angeles-bound later this month after being tapped Tuesday to represent the Metropolitan Division at the NHL All-Star game.

The game is January 29th at Staples Center, home of the Kings.

Ovechkin has been named to the game a franchise-record eight times, while Holtby, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, joins Olie Kolzig as the only Capitals’ netminders to be chosen twice.

Once again, the All-Star Game format will be a 3-on-3 tournament. Each of the divisional teams will square off in a 20-minute semifinal. The winners will then play for the championship.

Ovechkin has five goals and six assists in the five all-star games in which he’s played. (The Caps’ captain did not play in the 2011-12 game and missed last year’s game with an injury). Holtby, meantime, made eight saves on 10 shots in his first All-Star Game appearance.

RELATED: Prediction recap: Holtby stays hot in win over Montreal

A year ago, fans voted Ovechkin to serve as the Metro Division captain. That honor this year belongs to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who leads the league with 26 goals.

The all-star accolades arrive as Ovechkin and Holtby are hitting their stride for the Caps, who have won six in a row and are 13-2-3 in their last 18 games.

On Monday in Montreal, Ovechkin tied Canadiens’ legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard for 29th on the all-time goals list with No. 544. The 31-year-old also moved to within a point of 1,000 for his career. He’ll get the chance to reach that milestone Wednesday when Washington hosts Pittsburgh on national television. 

Whenever Ovechkin gets there, he’ll become the 84 player in NHL history to reach the plateau and the fourth Russian-born player to do so, joining Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Mogilny and Alexei Kovalev.

Holtby is tied for the league lead in shutouts (5). The 27-year-old also ranks second in goals against average (1.90) and third in save percentage (.931).

In addition, Greg Smith, Washington’s longtime athletic trainer has been selected as the Eastern Conference’s head trainer. Smith is in his 17th season with the Capitals.  

CSN is sending a crew to Los Angeles to cover Ovechkin, Holtby and the rest of the all-star festivities. So keep an eye out for our Caps-specific coverage later this month.

MORE CAPITALS: Ovechkin watch: One more to go

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Continuing a trend, the Caps loaded up on defensemen Saturday

Continuing a trend, the Caps loaded up on defensemen Saturday

CHICAGO—The Capitals tried to move up a couple of times on Day 2 of the NHL Draft, but those deals did not materialize.

Instead, GM Brian MacLellan and his staff used the four picks they began the day with...and continued a trend the organization has established in recent drafts: selecting defensemen.

In fact, three of the players the Caps drafted Saturday at United Center were blue liners—Switzerland’s Tobias Geisser in the fourth round, Sweden’s Sebastian Walfridsson in the fifth and Minnesota high schooler Benton Maass in the sixth. (Winger Kristian Roykas-Marthinsen was the team’s seventh round pick.) Going back to last year's draft, Maass' selection marked five straight defensemen drafted by the Caps.

“It’s not a conscious effort,” MacLellan said of using three of the team’s four picks on defenseman. “The philosophy has been to take the best player available and our amateur staff liked these guys here today.”

Assistant General Manager Ross Mahoney added: “It comes down to taking the best player that was available to us, and there happened to be defensemen that we liked that were still on the board, so we took them.”

Conscious or not, the trend is tough to ignore.

Dating to the 2015 draft, the Capitals have chosen defensemen with nine of their 15 picks during that span. Among them are highly regarded prospects Lucas Johansen (first round in 2016), Jonas Siegenthaler (second round in 2015) and Connor Hobbs (fifth round in 2015). 

Mahoney acknowledged that have a surplus of blue liners in the pipeline can be a good problem to have.

“It is for sure,” he said. “Teams are always looking for defensemen. There’s no problem having extra defensemen in the farm system.”

Mahoney also said that as the game gets faster, finding and developing smart, puck-moving rearguards will become even more critical.

“You want your defensemen to be able to skate and have good sense and be able to make quick decisions because the game is so fast now,” he said. “The forwards get on the defense really quickly, so you want to make sure you get guys that can skate and move the puck well.”

None of the Caps’ draftees were in attendance. It was unclear as of Saturday afternoon if any of them will attend next week’s development camp at Arlington.

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Trotz: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for the Caps

Trotz: Re-signing Oshie was 'the highest priority' for the Caps

CHICAGO—As excited as Barry Trotz was about retaining T.J. Oshie’s goal production, he was just as pleased to keep all the intangibles the 30-year-old brings to Washington's lineup. 

“For us, that was the highest priority,” Trotz said of re-signing Oshie. “Obviously, Osh means a lot to us.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps locked up the high-scoring winger to an eight-year, $46 million contract extension. 

“I think it sends a great message to not only our team [but] our fans,” Trotz said. “You see what Osh did the last two years. He’s a big part of our culture, a big part of our success.”

RELATED: Caps made 'a couple of good' offers but to keep Schmidt

Oshie has put up back-to-back career highs in goals, scoring 26 in 2015-16 and 33 last season. He’s also a lead-by-example type who plays bigger than his 6-foot, 189-pounds.

“He’s a guy that brings energy,” Trotz said. “He’s a guy that consistently brings a high compete level, a high execution level and a relentless attitude. That’s Osh.”

The Caps now have four of their top-6 forwards from last season under contract, with Oshie joining Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson. Restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov, meantime, is expected to re-sign, while Andre Burakovsky figures to round out the top two lines. Burakovsky is also a restricted free agent.

“We knew we were going to lose some guys,” Trotz said. “We still feel we’re going to be a high-scoring team. Obviously Osh had a career year last year. We’re hoping that he can build on that and have other people step in and fill some roles.”

MORE CAPITALS: MacLellan: Caps likely done signing own UFAs