Not the NHL, but hockey returns to D.C.

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

The NHL lockout continues this week, and while there is surging optimism that a deal will get done soon, there remains a hockey void for local fans. So with the Capitals on hiatus at least a little while longer, your best bet for a hockey fix is Thursday's AHL Showcase at Verizon Center.

That's where the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Hershey Bears, take on the Norfolk Admirals in a regular-season game long scheduled for the District. It is actually a Norfolk home game, but the Bears should have the majority of what the Caps say will be a sellout crowd. Tickets were offered for purchase to season-ticket holders, and even if it won't be full capacity, the atmosphere should be a good one.

At the very least, fans will get another glimpse of goalie Braden Holtby, who will be in net for Hershey and, eventually, for the Caps when the NHL and the NHL Players' Association finally put together a new collective bargaining agreement. Holtby, of course, started all 14 Stanley Cup playoff games for Washington last season and will battle Michal Neuvirth for playing time in 2012-13.

In 14 games with Hershey -- a place he didn't expect to be returning to this fall after that dynamite performance last spring in the postseason against Boston and New York -- Holtby is 7-7 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.71 goals-against average. The Bears have muddled through the early part of the season with a 9-11-1 record, and playing in the minors again hasn't been an easy adjustment for Holtby. But the Caps will be happy that their goalie, at least, should arrive at training camp ready to get on with a shortened NHL regular season. For now, the wait continues.

- Brian McNally

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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