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, Md. (AP) William Nylander fondly recalls
messing around on the ice with Alex Ovechkin as an 11-year-old when his dad,
Michael, played for the Washington Capitals.”I have some good memories,”
Nylander said.Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom remembers those days, too. It
was a decade ago when he, Ovechkin and Washington’s ”Young Guns” looked like a
powerhouse that could win the Stanley Cup multiple times and dominate the NHL
for years to come. The Capitals beat Nylander and the Toronto Maple Leafs last
spring in their ninth playoff appearance in 10 years but have yet to advance
past the second round.As the Maple Leafs and Capitals meet outdoors at the U.S.
Naval Academy on Saturday night, they’re both legitimate contenders but look
like teams going in opposite directions in the near future. Toronto is at the
start of its championship window and Washington appears on the edge of running
out of time.Like the Capitals had Ovechkin, Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike
Green, the Maple Leafs have their own young stars in Auston Matthews, Mitch
Marner and Nylander.There are plenty of similarities.”It was a lot of excitement
around the team when we were at that age. I’m sure they’re feeling the same,”
Backstrom said. Asked if there was less stress in that position, he added:
”Yeah, but actually time flies. They’ve got to enjoy every moment.”The
Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals are headed back to the playoffs and with
Ovechkin, Backstrom and goaltender Braden Holtby still have the potential to
lift the Cup this June. But after the salary cap necessitated roster changes
after two consecutive Presidents’ Trophy-winning seasons, they don’t have quite
the external pressure as a Cup favorite.”You’ve just got to get in Womens
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,” coach Barry Trotz said. ”If you get in
and you’ve got everybody playing at the top of their game at the same time,
you’ve got a chance.”Toronto certainly has a shot without the pressure as
Matthews and Marner are just 20, while Nylander is 21. The Maple Leafs’ young
stars are as excited as Ovechkin and Backstrom were when they were beginning
their NHL journeys but fully understand – perhaps from seeing the Capitals’
regular-season success and playoff losses – that talent doesn’t magically turn
into championships. Veteran general manager Lou Lamoriello augmented his young
core with 38-year-old leader Patrick Marleau and Cup-winning defenseman Ron
Hainsey in the offseason, and acquired center Tomas Plekanec at the trade
deadline.There has also been the natural progression of the three young stars.”I
just think we’re significantly better because our young guys are better,” said
coach Mike Babcock, who won the Cup with Detroit in 2003 and is signed through
the 2022-23 season. ”They’ve been through it more. They’ve seen what it’s like.
They’ve been eliminated from the playoffs. They know right away here you get in
the playoffs and then 10 days later one of you is moving on and one of you goes
home.”Almost immediately after the playoff exit, Maple Leafs players tried to
rationalize it as growing pains. Now looking down on the Capitals in the Eastern
Conference standings, the Maple Leafs can feel the progress with their next
playoff trip a month away.”It just motivates you,” 23-year-old defenseman Morgan
Rielly said. ”Even though we didn’t win the series, I think that we proved to
ourselves that we can play with those high-end teams, and I think that moving
forward we have to believe in ourselves.”Marleau, who rode the roller coaster of
Cup contention in 19 seasons with the San Jose Sharks that included just one
trip to the final in 2016, said the belief is always there no matter the
external expectations.”When you’re in the locker room, when you’re with the
guys, you always believe in them and you always think you have a chance of
winning,” Marleau said. ”You’ve got to put in the work and put yourself in the
right spots to succeed and then when it comes playoff time http://www.officialknightsproshop.com/authentic-adidas-james-neal-jersey ,
crunch time, you know you’ve got to have some luck and some bounces here and
there.”Washington might be a few bounces away from its own dynasty – a save on
Ovechkin early in Game 7 against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, several stops
by Jaroslav Halak in 2010 and an empty net against the Rangers in 2015. That’s
just reality in a sport so full of parity.The same thing could surely happen to
the Maple Leafs. Amid all the potential and excitement surrounding his group,
Babcock knows it.”Don’t get me wrong, we’re still going to have lots of highs
and lots of crushing lows,” he said. ”That’s just part of being on a good team.
But you want to set yourself up for as many opportunities as you can possibly
have, and I think we’re going in the right direction that way.” ST. PAUL, Minn.
(AP) The Minnesota Wild were hit with a major setback in their first-round
playoff matchup with Winnipeg, a broken sternum for left wing Zach Parise
suffered in the last game that will keep him out for at least the remainder of
the series and likely longer if they advance.The Wild revealed the injury about
three hours before Game 4 against the Jets, with a vague announcement on Tuesday
by general manager Chuck Fletcher that declared Parise’s status as ”week to
week.”Parise took a hard hit to the chest area with about four minutes remaining
in Game 3 and the Wild leading 6-2, when he was sandwiched by Jets center Mark
Scheifele and defenseman Ben Chiarot. Parise didn’t appear shaken up, and he
spoke to reporters afterward without any sign of discomfort.Tyler Ennis took
Parise’s place in the lineup, and coach Bruce Boudreau shuffled his top three
lines to adjust to the absence. Asked following the team’s morning skate if
Ennis would play, Boudreau quipped, ”Why would we change the lineup? We won.
That’s my answer to that.”The Wild are already missing standout defenseman Ryan
Suter because of a broken right ankle, leaving the two friends who changed the
course of the franchise by signing identical 13-year Jonathan
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, $98 million contracts in free agency in 2012
on the shelf for the most important time of the season.Parise scored in each of
the first three games of the series. He is the Wild’s all-time playoffs leader
with 14 goals and 31 points, and including his time with New Jersey he’s the
most accomplished postseason skater on the roster with 74 career points in the
playoffs.After recovering from microdiskectomy surgery on his back that kept him
out of the first 39 games, Parise found his stride down the stretch and tallied
12 goals and four assists in the last 19 games of the regular season. The Wild
went 24-10-8 with him in the lineup and 10-2-1 when he scored a goal.”He did
great. Even when he came back, I said that it would be 20 games before he got
his game together,” Boudreau said. ”But if anybody knows Zach, he’s one of the
hardest workers around, and he worked himself into getting ready to play. And
when his back wasn’t hurting, that was tremendous, and then once he started
getting back to normal, he became the player that everybody thought he was.”The
Wild, who’ve become well-accustomed to key players missing this season, were
more concerned about Parise for the moment. Boudreau said he saw the ”sadness on
his face” after learning of the diagnosis on Monday.”Here’s a guy that’s worked
so hard to get back to where he was and so hard to want to play for his hometown
and bring glory,” Boudreau said, ”and he finally gets to that spot and this
happens, you know?”—
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