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Backstrom, Ovechkin shoot at Zimmerman after Capitals practice

Nationals first baseman puts on pads, faces shots from Washington players

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. - Ryan Zimmerman is pretty good with the glove, on a baseball diamond and a hockey rink.

The Washington Nationals first baseman put on the pads and faced shots from center Nicklas Backstrom, left wing Alex Ovechkin and their Washington Capitals teammates at MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Wednesday.

Tweet from @Capitals: A little bit of a bigger glove for Zim today 😬

Zimmerman had been challenged by Backstrom to get in goal at a Capitals practice and lived to talk about it afterward.

"It was fun once I got over being scared to death," Zimmerman said. "Just a cool opportunity. Me and Nicky talked about it years ago and finally made it happen, and I couldn't back down from his challenge."

After joining the Capitals on the ice at the end of their practice, Zimmerman began by facing one-timers from Ovechkin from his "office" at the top of the left circle. Ovechkin shot maybe at half speed and Zimmerman was able to eventually catch one with his glove.

Tweet from @Capitals: One-timers with Zim and Ovi!

"I don't think he will make the team," Ovechkin joked. "But it's great to see him out there and try to do what he can and I think he had fun and now he realizes how hard it is to be a goalie."

Zimmerman later faced breakaway chances and slap shots from Backstrom, Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, Evgeny Kuznetsov and several other players. He was able to catch a few of them.

Tweet from @Capitals: Shootout practice on Zim!

"That's all I did," Zimmerman said. "I really had nothing else. I had a couple decent ones, but just to say you've been in net against the best in the world (was fun)."

The Capitals, who won the Stanley Cup in 2018, and the Nationals, who won the World Series in 2019, took turns supporting each other during their respective championship runs. Zimmerman, who has played 15 seasons for the Nationals, has developed a friendship with Backstrom, Ovechkin and some of the other Capitals players over their time playing in the same city.

The idea of Zimmerman strapping on the pads came up during a dinner with Backstrom.

 Video: Capitals welcome Ryan Zimmerman as guest goalie

"He said to me a couple years ago that this is a piece of cake being a hockey player,'" Backstrom said. "Then I said, 'You should come out there and try it out.' Then he goes, 'I should put the goalie equipment on.'"

Zimmerman has some skating experience, but said he'd never played goal before. The 35-year-old borrowed a glove from rookie goalie Ilya Samsonov and most of the rest of the equipment from assistant/video coach Brett Leonhardt.

Tweet from @Capitals: Ryan Zimmerman. World Series Champion. Future...goalie?

Now that Zimmerman has fulfilled his end of the challenge, he'd like Backstrom to try hitting against Nationals pitchers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

"That would be the equivalent of how terrified I was to be out there," Zimmerman said. "That's the most nervous I've ever been for any sporting event."

Backstrom sounded eager to pick up a bat.

"Honestly I would love to do it," Backstrom said. "I would just love to try it. But I need some equipment, though, just in case."

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