On the eve of the Olympic break, the Washington Capitals gathered for one last morning skate before going their separate ways for the next 19 days. While some are heading to Sochi and others to the beach, the New Jersey Devils stand in the way of the Caps and their two-and-a-half week hiatus from the NHL.
Coach Adam Oates discussed the difficulty of maintaining poise and focus for the five Capitals on the next flight to Sochi pregame.
“It is going to be hard. We’ll talk about it again tonight. I think once we get into the warm-up…and the crowd obviously will help. Guys will get into it and get into the game,” Oates said. “We have to have a good start. We have lately, and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
The Devils and the Caps are tied in the Metropolitan division and the two points would put Washington within one point of playoff position going into the break.
After a powerful third period in their win against the hot Winnipeg Jets Thursday night, the Caps are looking to capitalize on their momentum.
Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom had some thoughts on the night’s festivities at their morning skate
“I think we’ve got to be disciplined and follow our game plan. I know it sounds boring, but you’ve got to keep it simple,” he said. “I think it is going to be a tight game. It is probably going to be a low scoring game like the last time we played them.”
Oates welcomed the challenge of the divisional foe.
“They’re a stingy team. They’re hard, they’re physical. Sometimes it is a good thing. You come into the game and you know it is going to be a tough game. They’re hard to play against.”
Aside from thoughts about the match-up with the Devils, the Caps had Olympic hockey on their minds.
Brooks Laich and Troy Brouwer both chose team Canada to take the gold, a popular pick in the locker-room despite the fact that none of the five Caps going to the Olympics will be part of that particular squad.
“Canada all the way…I really don’t care after that. Canada is going to lay a beat down,” Laich joked.
When asked for his prediction on the MVP of the tournament, Brouwer went with a surprising pick.
“It could be Stamkos,” he said of the injured Canadian superstar forward who will not be making the trip to Sochi.
Laich went with a more realistic choice.
“Marty St. Louis…He was not on the original team and I think he might have the best tournament.”
Jay Beagle and Tom Wilson both went with their native Canada as well, without reservations against the potential conflict that could cause with their teammates Sochi-bound.
“I do realize that and we’ve gotten into not big fights, but little fights about it. I’ve got to go with my home country, though. I think they would do the same,” Beagle said.
All jokes aside, the Capitals need to pick up an important two points against their divisional competition before hitting the Olympic-sized ice or the sand.