Alex Ovechkin Orioles Ceremonial First Pitch

Photo credit: Ian Oland

On the eve of his 26th birthday (send us your birthday cards!), Alex Ovechkin — adorned with *gasp* Cal Ripken’s retired #8 Orioles jersey — traveled up I-95 Friday to take batting practice and throw out the ceremonial first pitch ahead of Baltimore’s match-up against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Great Hockey Eight, making his first ever appearance at Camden Yards, had only one goal: not to embarrass himself in front of a few thousand Charm-Citiers.

“I’m kinda excited,” Ovechkin told CSN’s Chris Miller before the first pitch. “I saw on YouTube John Wall’s [first pitch] a couple of minutes ago, and I hope it’s not gonna happen with me. I practice a little bit so it’s good. I feel comfortable.”

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Winter is Coming in 22 Days

Alex Ovechkin Sergei Fedorov

Photo credit: Nick Wass

Editor’s note: To get you properly revved up for the season, each member of the RMNB crew will take a longing look back at some of our favorite goals from days gone by. You can call it nostalgia or cheap summer content, but it’s really a reminder: WINTER IS COMING.

I’m the young one, so allow me to use recent history.

It was April of 2009. With the Capitals making the playoffs for the second year in a row, I decided to give this hockey thing a shot. Up until then, baseball had always been my sport.

After enjoying a couple games on TV, I got tickets to Game 2 of Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Rangers. 60 minutes of play later, I was hooked. Really hooked. The Caps were shut out 1-0, but the excitement, the speed, the gritty beauty of game had me. So I got tickets again. This time: Game 7, 7PM April 28.

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It takes a lot of hardwork and sacrifice to make it to the NHL. It also takes a lot of support from the family. Braden Holtby would know. “I left home when I was 15 still,” Holtby explains. “It was a big deal to convince mom to let her baby boy go.” In the above video produced by Gemma Hooley and Chris Nelson of Media Chameleon, the 21-year-old Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native talks about the early parts of his career and what it was like signing his first pro contract. As it turns out, the legal profession is not in the cards for Braden. “They fax it to you, then you have to sign numerous spots, a lot of spots that I have no idea what I signed,” he said. “Hopefully my agent did the right work to make sure I don’t end up on the bad end of it.”

“Hockey Diaries: Change The Game” will debut on NHL Home Ice on XM/Sirius on September 19 from 6-7pm ET.

Video: Evgeny Kuznetsov’s First KHL Goal of the Season

Wednesday, Traktor Chelyabinsk played their second game of the regular season, taking on Barys Astana in front of 4,900 people at Kazakhstan Sports Palace. Evgeny Kuznetsov followed up his clutch performance Monday by scoring his first KHL goal of the 2011-12 season on an unchallenged breakaway in the first period. Video of the goal is above.

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Nail Yakupov: Why Caps Fans Should Root for the Avs to Tank

Nail Yakupov

When George McPhee traded Semyon Varlamov to Colorado in early July, not only did he gain the roster flexibility to sign Vezina-hopeful Tomas Vokoun to a discounted one-year pact, he also netted two valuable assets from the Avalanche: a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and a second-round selection in either 2012 or 2013.

In a year’s time, Colorado could seriously regret this deal. Why? With two injury-prone goalies in Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and an offense that has few proven scorers, the Avalanche could fall into the lottery or possibly even finish dead-last in the West. That would give the Capitals a chance to pick in the top five for the first time in five years (they nabbed Karl Alzner fifth overall in 2007). It also presents McPhee and company with a shot at bringing a new Russian superstar to DC. His name: Nail Yakupov.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov

Photo credit: KP.RU

The KHL officially began their new season Monday at 9am Washington time, after a five day moratorium to honor the 44 men and women who tragically died in the Lokomotiv plane accident. Atlant re-started their game against Salavat Yulaev, which was named the “Lokomotiv Cup,” and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s Traktor Chelyabinsk met their conference rivals from Metallurg Novokuznetsk in their home opener. All in all, there were 7 games on the KHL ledger.

A year after putting up one of the best years ever recorded by a 18-year-old in Russia, Capitals’ prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov hit the ice a bit out of game shape after being sidelined most of the offseason due to shoulder surgery, which he admitted after the game.

The winger was active throughout the match, despite starting on the third-line and having very limited ice time, certainly not something he’s used to. As the game wore on, Kuznetsov, was moved up in the depth chart. He had a few chances on goal but wasn’t able to score or net an assist, though he did provide some beautiful set-ups for his teammates. He also picked up two minutes for elbowing, which Metallurg capitalized on to tie the game at one early in the second.

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9/11/2001: We Remember

Photo credit: Reuters

Ten years ago, I sat in an art room at Frederick High School. I was proudly a teacher’s aid, there to help kids who struggled with art projects and be a resource to my mentor. It was just another day at school, a Tuesday.

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John Erskine and Snooki

John and Kari Erskine pose with Snooki (via @johnerskine04’s Twitter feed).

Saturday night, Richmond International Raceway hosted NASCAR’s 26th race of the year, the final contest before the 2011 Chase field or “playoff” is set. Naturally with such a big race on hand, there needed to be some A-List talent to wave the green flag. So NASCAR trudged out the Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi to be the Honorary Starter of the Wonderful Pistachios 400. Really? You can’t make this stuff up.

However, Snooki, the daughter of a New York City firefighter, decided to pass the duties on to Frank Siller, founder of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a charity committed to “doing good” in memory of Frank’s brother Stephen, a member of the FDNY killed on 9/11.

The Capitals’ John Erskine, both a huge NASCAR and Jersey Shore fan, made the two-hour drive down to Richmond with his beautiful wife Kari to root on five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, whom he met a few months ago in Pocono. After getting a tour of the raceway and the chance to pose with the Wonderful Pistachios trophy, Ersk went on a mission to find the Jersey Shore star. And succeed he did. Above, you can check out the photo.

Incredibly, Snooki now becomes the third Jersey Shore reality-star that a Caps player has either met or been photographed with. Let’s do the recap thing.

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Lawmakers Defeat Warriors 6-3 in Charity Hockey Game

Craig Brownstein of PuckBuddys writes for Russian Machine Never Breaks.

Just before hitting the ice, Joe Bowser of the Warrior team was asked what their strategy was to beat the Congressional squad, “Just show up,” he joked. He later added, “And we promise to pay our taxes on time.”

Mike Quigley

Rep. Quigley of the Congressional Team waits for another shift. (Photo credit: Craig Brownstein)

The big man for the Warriors talked a big game, but at the end of the night, the Lawmakers came out on top, 6-3. Taking an early lead in the first period, the Hill team held off the Warriors, a squad comprised of active duty members, reservists and vets, many of them skating with artificial limbs. “We’ll put our best foot forward,” Bowser said before the game, aware of the obvious pun.

The rain didn’t do much to dampen attendance at Kettler last night and the stands held a raucous crowd, primarily Warriors boosters. But it was the Obama address to the Joint Session of Congress that kept a number of elected officials away. But as per usual in this town, the hard work (and scoring) was done by the staff. Rep. Mike Quigley was the sole elected official to play last night. We thanked him for the time he gave us earlier this week when we previewed the game. Just before taking the ice, and maybe a bit torqued on how we characterized him, Quigley looked at us and said, “Pugnacious?” Mustering every bit of confidence that 15 years at C-SPAN will give a guy, we looked him square in the eye and replied, “What – did we spell it wrong?”

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Video: Alex Ovechkin’s New Mr. Big Commercial

In Ovi’s latest awesomely-bizarre commercial for Mr. Big, we learn that to be a big deal like him, you have to change bad things into good things. You know, like turning a kid’s broken skateboard into a gas-powered grand piano with grandma provocatively posing on top. Personally, I would have asked for a zamboni-tank that has a Greenman targetting system, anti-octopus shielding, and a rapid fire burrito gun. But that’s just me.

S/t to Capitals Overtime.

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