This summer, numerous Capitals upped their offseason training and spoke about their dedication to arriving at camp in top condition. When players arrive Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, they’ll each be put to the test in the form of timed skating drills with plenty of repeated hard stops.
“Everybody knows, they’ve been on high alert with what we’re going to do and when we’re going to do it and what the test is,” strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish said, adding that players found out in July about the conditioning benchmark they are expected to complete. “For the four years that we’ve been doing the off-ice and the summer training, my book reflects the type of protocols that would get you up to doing that test.”
Asked if the timed test is something the Capitals might implement at another time during the year, Nemish said it would depend on how the season unfolds and if there is a need to do one, also taking into account the fatigue caused by the test.
Nemish noted that in addition to simply completing the test and being in good condition moving forward into a new season, research suggests that additional on-ice training prior to training camp can aid in the prevention of groin problems.
“So if you have that in the back of your mind as a player, I’m not just going to wheel around and go half-speed and come into camp and then sort of get myself in shape over a few days,” Nemish said. “You are spending the time doing down and backs, stops and starts, and hard skating. It’s, in my opinion, a more preventative measure for injuries as well.”
Nemish maintains regular contact with the players and their personal trainers during the summer, but particularly when a player is just turning pro, is new to the team or switches trainers, he tries to make sure everyone is on the same page.
In addition to saying that Alex Ovechkin is “without a doubt in the best shape I’ve ever seen him”, Nemish added that over the course of the summer he had a lot of contact with Nicklas Backstrom’s new trainer and is happy with the center’s preparation.
“He looks really good on the ice,” Nemish said of Backstrom. “He’s done some different things in the summertime to help correct some imbalances that he’s developed over the years in terms of his hips and all the rest, so he looks good, he feels good.”