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This is the week in which we all give thanks for family, friends, good health and great food. Or, if you’re an NHL franchise, for residing in a Stanley Cup playoffs seed at the quarter mark of the season, because that usually means you’ll still be in one when the postseason begins.

Teams in playoff positions on Thanksgiving have made the playoffs 77% of the time during 82-game seasons in the salary-cap era (since 2005-06), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In other words, a lot of opinions formed about teams and players by the 20-game mark could end up justified by season’s end. Still, they could just end up being overreactions to the sample size that are proven to be aberrations and miscalculations.

Here are 10 theories about the NHL season thus far that we’re putting to the test: Are they reasonable judgments or total overreactions?

The Devils finished last season with a .384 points percentage, 28th in the NHL. They lost their first two games and fans were chanting for head coach Lindy Ruff to be fired.

Now they’re giving him and the team standing ovations, like the one the Devils received after winning their 13th straight game to tie a franchise record. New Jersey is top three in offense but more importantly is second in goals-against average thanks to increased defensive responsibility in front of vastly improved goaltending.

The verdict: Probably not an overreaction. Let’s start with the obvious caveat: The Devils’ success is reliant on the continued good health of captain Nico Hischier, star center Jack Hughes, ace puck-moving defenseman Dougie Hamilton and goalie Vitek Vanecek, who is rocking a .918 save percentage. If they’re playing, then the Devils are in fact very hard to defeat.

The Devils have learned how to balance their outstanding offense off the rush with defensive responsibility. They’ve shown an uncanny ability to shake off adversity to rally for wins or put the hammer down on opponents. The traditional and fancy stats all point to a very talented team that’s suddenly figured it all out. Most importantly, they don’t want to go back to their sad-sack ways.

As Hischier said: “I don’t want it to end. It’s definitely just fun. Like we say, just keep riding away the wave.”

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Servis pleads guilty in scheme to drug horses

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Servis pleads guilty in scheme to drug horses

NEW YORK — Trainer Jason Servis, whose horse Maximum Security was the 3-year-old champion in 2019, pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges involving a widespread scheme to drug horses.

The 65-year-old New Jersey-based trainer faces four years in prison when he is sentenced next May in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He was the last defendant facing charges in the scheme, and now 23 of the 31 individuals charged have pleaded guilty.

Servis pleaded guilty in connection with his role in the distribution of adulterated and misbranded drugs intended for use on horses in his stable.

“Servis’ conduct represents corruption at the highest levels of the racehorse industry,” Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “As a licensed racehorse trainer, Servis was bound to protect the horses under his care and to comply with racing rules designed to ensure the safety and well-being of horses and protect the integrity of the sport.”

Servis’ attorney, Rita Glavin, said via email, “Because the case is pending, I don’t have a comment.”

Servis was charged in 2020 after a wide-ranging investigation into doping in the horse racing industry. Racing authorities suspended his trainer’s license.

Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified for interference during the running of the race. The colt finished first in the $10 million Saudi Cup shortly before Servis’ arrest in March 2020. Saudi officials later withheld the winner’s share of the purse, citing Servis’ arrest and indictment.

“I don’t take any solace in other peoples misery, actually quite the opposite I feel some empathy for them,” Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion tweeted, adding that those who were beaten by Servis’ horses “have little to show for it other than losing money, owners and horses due to his success.”

Animal Wellness Action executive director Marty Irby praised the legal efforts to bring Servis and others to justice.

“Jason Servis’ actions and abuse of our iconic American equines has been the worst disgrace American horse racing has ever seen,” Irby said in a statement. “We applaud The Jockey Club, president Jim Gagliano, chairman Stuart Janney and everyone at the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney’s office who worked diligently for years to bring down this kingpin of organized crime and abuse.”

Another New Jersey-based trainer, Jorge Navarro, is serving a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty a year ago. Eleven of the defendants were trainers and seven were veterinarians.

Servis is the brother of trainer John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones to victories in the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before the colt lost his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont.

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796 goals and counting: The Alex Ovechkin chase to 800 tracker

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796 goals and counting: The Alex Ovechkin chase to 800 tracker

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is currently chasing down career NHL goal No. 800. After starting the 2022-23 season at 780, he has scored 16 goals thus far.

Ovi is third on the all-time NHL goals list, behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801). The next highest active player on the list is Sidney Crosby, at No. 35 with 532 goals. With his 787th goal, Ovechkin set the record for most goals scored with the same franchise. With goal No. 793, he passed Gretzky for the most goals scored on the road for a career (403).

Follow along here as Ovi scores his way up the record books, including a schedule of upcoming games and highlight videos of goals No. 787 and beyond.

Subscribe to ESPN+ | Stream the NHL on ESPN
Upcoming schedule | Goal videos


The NHL’s top 10 in career goals

1. Wayne Gretzky (894)
2. Gordie Howe (801)
3. Alex Ovechkin (796)
4. Jaromir Jagr (766)
5. Brett Hull (741)
6. Marcel Dionne (731)
7. Phil Esposito (717)
8. Mike Gartner (708)
9. Mark Messier (694)
10. Steve Yzerman (692)


Highlights

Goal No. 796

At 19:56 of the third period against the Seattle Kraken, Ovechkin fired a shot into an empty net to put him four goals away from 800. The empty-net goal was assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson.

Goals No. 794 and 795

With the Capitals up 2-1 against the Philadelphia Flyers, Ovechkin was on the ice to close out the game — and scored two empty-net goals! The first was assisted by Anthony Mantha and John Carlson, while the second was assisted by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Conor Sheary.

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1:06

Alex Ovechkin tallies twice on an empty net and now has 795 career goals.

Goals No. 792 and 793

Ovechkin scored two goals in the first period of the Capitals’ matchup against the Vancouver Canucks — the first unassisted and the second with help from Dylan Strome and Anthony Mantha. Ovechkin has now passed Wayne Gretzky for most goals all time on the road.

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0:39

Alex Ovechkin slaps in his second goal of the game to put the Capitals up 2-0 against the Canucks.

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0:40

Alex Ovechkin jumps on the loose puck and notches his 792nd career goal vs. the Canucks.

Goal No. 791

A victory over the Calgary Flames was already well in hand, but Ovechkin’s goal at 12:24 of the third period — assisted by Conor Sheary and Sonny Milano — put him nine away from 800.

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0:52

Alex Ovechkin tallies goal for Capitals on the power play

Goal No. 790

At 1:04 of overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers, Ovechkin notched a game-winning goal assisted by Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson.

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0:45

Alex Ovechkin wins it for the Capitals with this clutch slap shot in overtime vs. the Flyers.

Goal No. 789

A goal at 15:12 of the second period against the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 17 moved Ovechkin one step closer to 800. Dylan Strome was credited with the one assist on the tally.

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0:42

Alex Ovechkin nets goal vs. Blues

Goal No. 788

Ovechkin scored at 14:36 of the second period in a 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 7, a power-play goal assisted by Erik Gustafsson and Evgeny Kuznetsov:

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0:32

Alex Ovechkin scores on the power play for Capitals

Goal No. 787

With his goal at 8:55 of the second period — a power-play tally assisted by Trevor van Riemsdyk and Anthony Mantha — Ovechkin broke Gordie Howe’s record for most goals scored by a player with a single franchise:

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0:53

Alex Ovechkin scores his 787th career goal to break Gordie Howe’s record of most goals with one team.


Upcoming schedule

Note: All games not on ESPN, TNT or NHL Network are available via NHL Power Play, which is included in an ESPN+ subscription (local blackout restrictions apply).

Dec. 11: at Winnipeg Jets
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 13: at Chicago Blackhawks
9 ET | ESPN

Dec. 15: vs. Dallas Stars
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 17: vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 19: vs. Detroit Red Wings
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 22: at Ottawa Senators
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 23: vs. Winnipeg Jets
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 27: at New York Rangers
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 29: vs. Ottawa Senators
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Dec. 31: vs. Montreal Canadiens
4 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 3: vs. Buffalo Sabres
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 5: at Columbus Blue Jackets
7 ET | ESPN

Jan. 6: vs. Nashville Predators
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 8: vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
5 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 11: at Philadelphia Flyers
7:30 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 14: vs. Philadelphia Flyers
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 16: at New York Islanders
7:30 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 17: vs. Minnesota Wild
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 19: at Arizona Coyotes
9 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 21: at Vegas Golden Knights
10 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 24: at Colorado Avalanche
9 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 26: vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 29: at Toronto Maple Leafs
5 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

Jan. 31: at Columbus Blue Jackets
7 ET | NHL Power Play on ESPN+

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Trainer Servis pleads guilty to drugging his horses

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Trainer Servis pleads guilty to drugging his horses

NEW YORK — Trainer Jason Servis, whose horse Maximum Security was the 3-year-old champion in 2019, pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges involving a widespread scheme to drug horses.

The 65-year-old New Jersey-based trainer faces four years in prison when he is sentenced next May in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He was the last defendant facing charges in the scheme, and now 23 of the 31 individuals charged have pleaded guilty.

Servis pleaded guilty in connection with his role in the distribution of adulterated and misbranded drugs intended for use on horses in his stable.

“Servis’ conduct represents corruption at the highest levels of the racehorse industry,” Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “As a licensed racehorse trainer, Servis was bound to protect the horses under his care and to comply with racing rules designed to ensure the safety and well-being of horses and protect the integrity of the sport.”

Servis’ attorney, Rita Glavin, did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Servis was charged in 2020 after a wide-ranging investigation into doping in the horse racing industry. Racing authorities suspended his trainer’s license.

Maximum Security finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified for interference during the running of the race. The colt finished first in the $10 million Saudi Cup shortly before Servis’ arrest in March 2020. Saudi officials later withheld the winner’s share of the purse, citing Servis’ arrest and indictment.

“I don’t take any solace in other peoples misery, actually quite the opposite I feel some empathy for them,” Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion tweeted, “but the reality is that those of us who were beaten by Jason Service’s (sic) horses have little to show for it other than losing money, owners and horses due to his success.”

Another New Jersey-based trainer, Jorge Navarro, is serving a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty a year ago. Eleven of the defendants were trainers and seven were veterinarians.

Servis is the brother of trainer John Servis, who trained Smarty Jones to victories in the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before the colt lost his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont.

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