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08/10/2018 a las 11:06:18
Like many young Russian hockey players [url=http://www.officialislanders.com/authentic-adidas-calvin-de-haan-jersey]Calvin de Haan Jersey Kids[/url] , Nikita Kucherov grew up following Alex Ovechkin’s career, hoping to someday become a prolific scorer and maybe even compete against his countryman in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The 24-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning winger has spent five seasons fulfilling the first portion of the dream.

The other part becomes a reality Friday night, when the Lightning open the Eastern Conference finals against Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals.

”When he came in the league, he was the best player, and I mean he’s still the best player,” Kucherov said.

”Everybody would talk about him, and I definitely wanted to be in his spot one day, scoring goals,” the Lightning star added. ”He’s a great example for young kids and someone to look up to.”

Ovechkin is also looking for his first trip to the Stanley Cup Final, a platform Kucherov has already performed on.

The Lightning, who also feature of couple of other young Russians playing key roles in goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, are in the conference final for the third time in four years.

In 2015, they defeated the New York Rangers before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Cup Final.

”It’s great competition to play against the best players and then against your countrymen,” Kucherov said.

”I think it’s great for Russia to see the young guys come into North America and go through the CHL, AHL and then make it to the NHL,” he added. ”It’s great to see and to see how the kids want to be in the best league in the world. They don’t care about the money in the KHL [url=http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/dalton-schultz-jersey]Dalton Schultz Jersey[/url] , they want to be in the best league and play against the best. It’s nice to see.”

The Lightning have been exceptional through the first two rounds of the playoffs, going 6-1 at home while eliminating both the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in five games.

The Capitals beat Columbus in the opening round before ousting the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

”They are similar to us in that they have a pretty deep lineup, a very lethal power play and forwards that can really change the momentum of the game with how good they are,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said.

”We are going to need to rely on our depth as well and stay disciplined. That’s something we’ve talked about going against Boston with how good their power play is and we saw first hand that if we are going to take penalties, teams are going to make us pay,” Stamkos added. ”Washington is very similar in that regard. That will be one of the keys for us.”

Ovechkin expects the Atlantic Division winners to be a stern test, too.

”Right now, in this situation in this time of year, everybody has the best players, the best goalies, and you have to be the best to beat them,” the Capitals star said.

”That has to be in our mind and we have to play as a group, not play individually.”

Some things to know about the Capitals and Lightning, one-time Southeast Division rivals meeting in the playoffs for the first time since 2011:

CAPITALS REINFORCEMENTS: Washington won Game 6 in overtime at Pittsburgh without top center Nicklas Backstrom and wingers Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson.

Backstrom, who took a shot from Justin Schultz off his right hand in Game 5 against the Penguins on Saturday, skated and did some light stickhandling Thursday; Burakovsky (out with upper-body injury) practiced and are each considered day-to-day.

Wilson will be back off a three-game suspension [url=http://www.officialsabres.com/authentic-adidas-benoit-pouliot-jersey]Authentic Benoit Pouliot Jersey[/url] , and with Backstrom and Burakovsky potentially close, the Capitals could have their full lineup soon.

”The first instinct is to try to put the lines back together that you had, but this time of year, you go with the guys who are going,” coach Barry Trotz said. ”The guys that are going well, you use, and the other guys wait for another opportunity. When I get the word, then we’ll put them back together.”

ROAD WARRIORS: The Capitals are 5-1 on the road through two rounds and 9-3 away from home going back to the 2017 playoffs. It helps Trotz to be able to get his top defensive pairing of Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen out against opponents’ stars, but beginning on the road could prove beneficial for Washington.

”With the matchups on the road, you don’t get them all the time so I think guys are a little more aware of who they’re on the ice against, maybe a little more engaged in terms of knowing who’s on the ice,” winger Brett Connolly said.

”So I think we’re just playing on the road. Barry’s just throwing guys over the boards and they ultimately get to decide who they want to play against that line, so guys are feeling confident and comfortable and just playing and feel good about themselves.”

LONG TIME SINCE 2011: Only five players in this series were around when the Lightning and Capitals last met in the playoffs back in 2011: Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman and Washington’s Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson. The Lightning won in a sweep before losing in seven to Boston in the East final.

”Obviously we haven’t played these guys in meaningful games like this for a while,” Stamkos said. ”So we can definitely expect a different series than that was.”



AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed.



end Evan Engram and WR Sterling Shepard. With former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher taking over same role, how will he try to incorporate some 3-4 fronts. Giants don’t have fast linebackers [url=http://www.washingtonredskinsteamonline.com/derrius-guice-jersey]Derrius Guice Jersey[/url] , although they picked up Alec Ogletree from Rams.

AVAILABLE SALARY CAP SPACE (approximately): $14 million.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (16-3)

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LBs Nigel Bradham, Dannell Ellerbe and Najee Goode; RBs Darren Sproles, LeGarrette Blount and Kenjon Barner; TE Trey Burton; CB Patrick Robinson; DT Beau Allen; DE Bryan Braman; S Corey Graham; K Caleb Sturgis; OT Will Beatty.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DB Jaylen Watkins.

NEEDS: Super Bowl champions will be thin at linebacker if Bradham leaves. Burton, Blount, Allen and Robinson are valuable contributors who would need to be replaced. Personnel boss Howie Roseman is quite creative and found way to add WRs Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith along with backup QB Nick Foles – Super Bowl MVP – even though team had little cap space entering free agency last year. Several veterans could be released to save money. Eagles might target running back and receiver along with linebacker, but probably won’t be major players in free agency. Most of their key players are returning and some recent draft picks are expected to fill holes.

AVAILABLE SALARY CAP SPACE (approximately): $9 million over.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (6-10)

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: RB Carlos Hyde; Ss Eric Reid and Antone Exum, DE Aaron Lynch; DLs Chris Jones, Tank Carradine and Leger Douzable; LB Brock Coyle; G Brandon Fusco; CBs Leon Hall, Dontae Johnson, and Asa Jackson; WR Louis Murphy; TE Logan Paulsen; C Tim Barnes.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.

NEEDS: 49ers answered biggest question last month when they signed quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to $137.5 million contract after he led them to five straight wins following midseason trade with New England. Then San Francisco got a head start on free agency by signing former nemesis Richard Sherman to upgrade at cornerback following his release from Seattle. The task this spring will be to get Garoppolo help and improve the pass rush on defense. San Francisco could use big target at either receiver or tight end to help in red zone, as well as improvement on interior of offensive line. Biggest question on offense comes at running back where San Francisco must decide whether to try to re-sign Hyde or look for someone else as lead back.

AVAILABLE SALARY CAP SPACE (approximately): $64 million.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (9-7)

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TEs Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson; Gs Luke Joeckel, Matt Tobin and Oday Aboushi; RB Eddie Lacy; DT Sheldon Richardson; Ss Bradley McDougald and DeShawn Shead; LBs Michael Wilhoite, Terence Garvin and Dewey McDonald; WR Paul Richardson; K Blair Walsh; DE Marcus Smith; CB Byron Maxwell; QB Austin Davis.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: DE Dion Jordan; CB Justin Coleman; RBs Mike Davis and Thomas Rawls.

NEEDS: What Seahawks need in free agency largely depends on what they do with some high-priced players still under contract. Are moves made with Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman? What about Michael Bennett? Expect offensive and defensive lines to be focuses in free agency, along with more options at running back.

AVAILABLE SALARY CAP SPACE (approximately): $12 million.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-11)

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: CBs Brent Grimes and Robert McClain; Ss T.J. Ward and Keith Tandy; C Evan Smith; QB Ryan Fitzpatrick; DTs Clinton McDonald and DT Sealver Siliga; LS Garrison Sanborn; DEs Justin Trattou and Will Clarke; Gs Adam Gettis and Kevin Pamphile; RB Charles Sims.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE Cameron Brate; WR Adam Humphries; DE Ryan Russell; LB Adarius Glanton; CB Jude Adjei-Barimah.

NEEDS: After finishing last in league with 22 sacks, annual pursuit of help for anemic pass rush continues. Offensive line needs bolstering, too [url=http://www.washingtonredskinsteamonline.com/preston-smith-jersey]Preston Smith Jersey[/url] , and running back is priority following release of Doug Martin. With Brent Grimes becoming free agent, cornerback – or two – would be welcome addition to defense that was liability last season.

AVAILABLE SALARY CAP SPACE (approximately): $71.1 million

WASHINGTON REDSKINS (7-9)

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: QB Kirk Cousins; WRs Terrelle Pryor, WR Brian Quick and Ryan Grant; LBs Zach Brown, Will Compton, Junior Galette, Trent Murphy and Chris Carter; CB Bashaud Breeland; G Shawn Lauvao; S DeAngelo Hall; TE Niles Paul; C Tony Bergstrom; DTs Arthur Jones and Phil Taylor.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: T Ty Nsekhe; G Tyler Catalina.

NEEDS: With Cousins gone, new QB Alex Smith needs offensive targets, especially speed at wide receiver to complement third-year WR Josh Doctson and possession guy Jamison Crowder. Allen Robinson would be perfect, if expensive fit, though top priority is still replacing contributions of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, who departed in free agency last spring. Running back must be addressed in free agency or draft. Trading CB Kendall Fuller to Kansas City in deal for Smith, expected departure of Breeland and lack of depth at safety make secondary area of concern. Left guard and linebacker could be crucial spots depending on statuses of Lauvao, Brown and Compton.

AVAILABLE SALARY CAP SPACE (approximately): $31 million.



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