It is time to play hockey. The NHL and the NHL Players' Association finally came to an agreement early Sunday morning after an all-night negotiating session in New York. And so 113 days after the lockout began Sept. 15, Capitals players began quick preparations for their season.
And what will greet them when they return to Kettler Iceplex this week? A few new teammates and a short training camp before an expected start date around Jan. 19.
Added to the roster were veteran center Mike Ribeiro, wingers Wojtek Wolski and Joey Crabb and defenseman Jack Hillen. But the majority of the roster -- minus Alexander Semin and Dennis Wideman -- returns intact.
The extra time off was presumably good for forward Joel Ward, who had offseason groin surgery. Forward Jay Beagle likely would have been ready for training camp. But his broken foot should be good to go, too. The big question: the status of star center Nicklas Backstrom, who was checked from behind in a game for Dynamo Moscow and hasn't played since Dec. 26 because of a neck injury.
Provided Backstrom's injury isn't serious, new coach Adam Oates should have all the parts in place as he tries to implement a more balanced approach to the game than the Caps played under Dale Hunter the final five months of last season and in the playoffs.
"In a shorter period of time, there's going to be a lot of stuff thrown at us -- new systems and things like that," forward Matt Hendricks said. "But I guarantee we're going to be ready for it. Guys that I've been talking to are really excited to get back to D.C. and get things started."
- Brian McNally