The Washington Capitals will play 48 games in 99 days starting Saturday at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sitting high above the ice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum will be the Comcast SportsNet broadcast crew of Joe Beninati and Craig Laughlin.
To say Beninati and Laughlin have missed Caps hockey would be an understatement. Beninati spoke recently about the lockout and the upcoming season.
What has it been like for you during the NHL lockout?
I have been doing college football and basketball for both ESPN and the good folks at CSN. All the time we have been hoping that we would finally see some NHL hockey. So [Laughlin] and I will be back together in Tampa Saturday night doing Caps hockey, and I will tell you that it cannot come soon enough.
How do you think Adam Oates will do as the new Caps coach?
Beninati » I really like the fit for the way this team is built. I know Adam from his playing days, and there are very few people in this sport with a better hockey IQ. As a Hall of Fame center, he will have an immediate impact with both Nick Backstrom and the newly acquired Mike Ribeiro. The two centers on the Caps will learn to be both better passers, but they also will become better on defense because that is what put Oates in the Hall of Fame, his pinpoint passing and his defensive awareness.
What is the biggest challenge for Oates?
Beninati » Getting players to play within his new system without the benefit of a proper training camp. That said, he will craft his system to get the best out all the members on the team. We should see a healthy Mike Green do well on the power play due to Oates' system. Lastly, because of the compacted season, he will have to give guys days off and manage the time they have on the ice.
How else can he make the team better?
Beninati » There is no doubt that Alex Oveckin will find Oates to be a perfect coach for him. Having Ovi playing from both the left and right sides will open up a number of scoring options. He will also learn that he as a better defender he can create offense.
Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Follow him on Twitter @wordmandc.