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Photo: Joel Marklund

Over the weekend, GD.se released a fascinating Swedish-language interview with the Caps’ reluctant star, Nicklas Backstrom. Interviewer Markus Bäckström (no relation) asked Nicky about the recent birth of his daughter Haley and how fatherhood has changed his life.

Backstrom also spoke frankly about how he feels more comfortable out of the spotlight. Friend-of-the-blog Jake Ware translates.

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This makes an excellent creepy wallpaper. Click to enlarge. (Photos by Patrick McDermott)

In 2008, the Washington Capitals launched Courage Caps, a program to benefit military charities through the sale of team-branded hats and shirts. This year the program will fund TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which provides support for families of killed American solders.

This year’s Courage Caps promotion will formally launch on February 4, when the team will put the merchandise on sale online as well at Verizon Center and Kettler. The day before, Jack Hillen will skate with some families the program has helped.

On Wednesday, the Caps sent us some photos of the new gear. Now in its seventh year, Courage Caps is starting to run out of military themes, but I think winter digi-camo look is a good one.

The chosen models, however, is where we’ll have our fun. Everything starts off well with John Carlson, the team’s resident US Olympian. Next in the gallery are Karl Alzner and Nicklas Backstrom, two of Washington’s most docile heartthrobs and noted not-Americans. I would gone with maybe an angry Casey Wellman, a Californian, draped only in an American flag. Or maybe Connor Carrick, feeding a Nathan’s hot dog to a bald eagle. Either way, it’s all for a good cause.

Here are the images of this year’s edition:

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Capitals Searching for Answers After Fifth Straight Loss

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Photo: Scott Levy

For the second game in a row, the Capitals got blown out. The same things were to blame for Friday’s 5-1 defeat to Columbus and Sunday’s 4-1 loss to New York: dumb penalties and turnovers. What’s troubling, though, it’s that the players and the coaching staff recognized this after Friday’s loss. However, the mistakes only got worse against the Rangers. Washington has now lost five straight games.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” head coach Adam Oates told reporters after the game before ticking off the team’s shortfalls. “They didn’t really have to earn it.”

“We’re fighting an uphill battle,” he continued.

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I’m not sure when Washington Capitals players became all about video bombing each other during interviews, but I’m grateful. In fact, we’ve seen so many funny faces during interviews this season, you have to assume the players are keeping a leader board inside the locker room and whoever has the most at the end of the year gets a paid vacation to Vancouver to perfect the art with Ryan Kesler.

We’ve seen Joel Ward video-bomb Karl Alzner and Pierre McGuire, Ovechkin troll Tom Wilson, and Troy Brouwer brouwerbomb half the team.

On Friday, the most polite dude on the team even got in the action.

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Caps Get Chances, But Not Goals, Against Sharks

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Photo credit: Rob Carr

Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates has been searching for five-on-five production all season. While Alex Ovechkin has thrived, other members of top six have been less consistent. After the first period on Tuesday, Oates had a new iteration for the first two lines: Eric Fehr-Nicklas Backstrom-Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich-Mikahil Grabovksi-Alex Ovechkin.

“We haven’t scored a lot of goals the last couple games and he’s looking for a spark,” Laich told me of Oates’s change. “Our line had a couple of good chances.”

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CSN Washington’s Jill “Are Your Shoes Comfortable? Sorenson is at it again. This time she authored a serious interview with Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin about the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics.

Jill asks Ovi about why the Olympic Games mean so darn much to him (warning: he admits to crying as a kid), what his role is as an ambassador (still not entirely clear), and if he’d check Nicklas Backstrom if the opportunity presented itself.

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Monumental’s Rinkside Updates are becoming must-watch videos. Not really for the exclusive insight they are supposed to bring, but rather because of the silly things that happen in the background. Last week, Mikhail Grabovski avoided an important question about re-signing with the Washington Capitals. He did however comment on “a lot of funny guys in the shower right now laughing at me.”

This week, Nicklas Backstrom spoke to Mike Vogel and no one listened to what he was saying because we were too busy watching his new linemate, Troy Brouwer, hamming it up in the background.

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Wild beat Caps 5-3 in Braden Holtby’s Crummy Comeback

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Ovechkin and Cookie get stupid. (Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn)

You could say the Caps have been struggling. Their puck possession has disintegrated over the last couple weeks and they haven’t been able to make up the difference with special teams, shot quality, or lucky goaltending. Heading into Minnesota, where no one wants the puck, you’d think the Caps would start the turnaround. But shot quality is a fickle fairy, and tonight she spread her lucky dust on the sticks of the Wild.

Marcus Johansson cleaned up a rebound to convert a first-period power play. Thirteen seconds later, Mike Green put some messed-up moves on Matt Cooke to make it 2-0 on the very next shot, just 13 seconds later. It was fun.

Nino Niederreiter scored on the Wild’s second shot of the game, early in the second period as no one in particular played defense. With Steve Oleksy and Karl Alzner serving time in the box, the Wild’s Ryan Suter struck twice– both times with Dany Heatley screening Braden Holtby. I’m not even gonna try to explain the tying goal, which Mike Green got credit for, so just read our story on that one. The Wild got the lead back with a bouncing puck finished off by Jason Zucker.

And then Ryan Suter got the hat trick after serving a tripping minor in the third period.

Wild beat Caps 5-3.

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After the Washington Capitals’ morning skate at the Xcel Energy Center, several players had a chance to meet Jack Jablonski, the now 18-year-old Minnesotan who was paralyzed after being hit from behind during a high school hockey game.

Instead of becoming a sob story, Jablonski has become an inspirational figure in hockey. Here’s his story, beautifully told by ESPN 360.

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Adam Oates Looks for Scoring Balance With New Top-Six

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

This season, Alex Ovechkin’s shot has been an unstoppable force of destruction. Ovi has registered 31 goals. His line’s scoring, however, has often been one-sided. Marcus Johansson and Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin’s linemates for much of the season, have scored just six even-strength goals. When Ovi’s hitting the net, it’s not a problem. But if last year’s MVP hits some bad luck, as he did over the four games before last night, the line struggles. Ovechkin has just a single assist during five-on-five play.

“It’s not enough,” Oates said when I asked him about that stat. “It shows how much all three guys are important.”

For Thursday’s game against the Hurricanes, Oates switched up his lines, putting Ovechkin with Eric Fehr and Mikhail Grabovski while placing Johansson and Backstrom with Brouwer.

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