An Unexpected Day at Kettler

Yesterday I got a fun assignment: head out to Kettler Capitals Iceplex in the morning to snap some photos of Capitals’ strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish, to help out Tim Leone, Hershey Bears’ beat reporter for the Patriot News. Leone will have a feature on Nemish and the Capitals’ summer conditioning program in this Sunday’s newspaper. It had been a while since I’d been out to Kettler as a blogger — attending college overseas is fairly limiting in that regard.

I confess, I was more than a little nervous knowing that my very amateur photography skills were suddenly being relied on by an established media outlet. But the Caps’ Nate Ewell was very helpful in introducing me to Nemish for the photo-shoot of him, and I think I was able to help out the Hershey paper a bit. We’ll know on Sunday!

I was able to chat a bit with Arturs Irbe, who was working out in the team’s conditioning room. While shooting, I talked to him about my other hockey hobby, new this fall: becoming assistant coach of Northern Virginia Community College’s hockey team, and I asked him for some advice. He said to not force anything and let the players learn. Irbe had the hardest setting on the exercise machine, and spoke to me as if he was sitting down relaxing all the while. Nemish told me Irbe is probably the fittest guy in the whole organization. That’s saying a lot when the Russian Machine is on the team.

Post-scrimmage, Nemish helped Nicklas Backstrom adjust the settings on the spinning machine. Nick looks fitter than ever as he looks to improve upon his first 100-point season.

I saw D.J. King up close for the first time. King Kong is young and fiesty, and looks like he’ll destroy anything that gets in his way.

Mike Knuble joked around after the informal practice with some reporters. He may be 38, but the big question this season for him is, ‘Can I still score 20-plus goals in a season?’ With Backstrom and Ovechkin on the same line, the old man on the team will likely fulfill his quota, I think.

I went to Bruce Boudreau’s newest commercial shoot right after I left Kettler on Thursday, and he told me that Backstrom is just an incredible athlete. Nick told reporters that he’s been working on his skating during the summer in an attempt to get faster.

And Semyon Varlamov took some rubber in the informal skating session Thursday. His opposing goalie was Stretch, because Neuvy hasn’t arrived in town yet; he was facing Marcus Johansson, Mike Knuble and Backstrom, all of whom had some incredible plays individually and in combination. I only saw him allow one goal in the scrimmage to Knuble.

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