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Laich, Clark All For New Schedule Format

With the Caps enjoying a day off today, I wanted to share two players' thoughts on the new schedule format the league will use starting next season. In case you missed it, there will be fewer divisional games and every team is going to play every other team at least once each year.

That's great news for fans, some of whom still haven't seen Alex Ovechkin play live, more than a quarter into his third season in the NHL. It's also great news for the players, who have grown tired of facing the same opponents, staying in the same hotels and eating in the same restaurants.

"It's a welcome change," Caps winger Brooks Laich said the other day. "Eight games against your division is a lot. I understand why they tried to do that: to try and create rivalries. But you want to play against other teams. You want to see how teams in the other division play. This is my third year in the league and there are still places I haven't been, Detroit, Chicago, Columbus."

Laich added: "One of the underrated privileges of playing in the NHL is the travel. I like the travel part of it, go places you've never been."

Veteran Chris Clark agreed completely.

"I like it, but it's more for the fans than for us," the captain said. "There are still who haven't seen Alex play [in their home rink] or Sidney Crosby, and they've waited three years to see these superstars play. Fans don't want to see Florida four times if they are season ticket holders. They want to see a Western Conference team in there. It makes things more interesting for them, and for the players, as well."

As for me, I'd rather see less of the Southeast and more of the rest of the league, too. There's a big difference between writing about a player you've only seen on the dish and writing about him after having seen him play live and talked to him in the dressing room.


Update:There will be a practice at 10:30 tomorrow at KCI. The 6 p.m. session (it's just a light skate) at the other location, however, remains closed to the public.

Update:Caps prospects Karl Alzner, Josh Godfrey and Mathieu Perreault have been invited to Canada's National Junior Team selection camp. Read all about it here.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  December 3, 2007; 12:28 PM ET
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Next: Flyers Put On Notice


Anything that enables the Caps to play Florida less is great.

Posted by: dave | December 3, 2007 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Tarik, what player (one we haven't seen in town for a long time if ever) would you want to sit down with for an interview?

Posted by: Jeff | December 3, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I like the new format and would like the other one that's still being considered for later seasons that would have a home-and-home with each out of conference team and add two games. I Like seeing Brind'Amour and St Loius, but not every week.

Posted by: TheCapitalist | December 3, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I agree with all Laich, Clark and you Tarik. I want to see the teams from out West. The NBA does it where an Eastern Conf. team will play a Western Conf. team twice, once in each arena.

I am sick of us playing the Panthers and Atlanta and all the SE teams. We played Florida on the 19th, 28th, and Dec. 1.... come on already...

I want to see other teams and other players come to the Verizon Center, not the same old, same old teams throughout the season.

Little more variety is good. This is a welcome change and it should have came sooner.

Posted by: Tom | December 3, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

It's a shame there was no way to shorten the season, play every Western team at both homes, move the Caps to the Atlantic and see much less of the SE. Oh well, still a big improvement.

Posted by: false_cause | December 3, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"Tarik, what player (one we haven't seen in town for a long time if ever) would you want to sit down with for an interview?"

If I may offer my suggestions on this, I'd say Iginla, Zetterberg, Stastny, and a personal fave of mines, Rick Nash.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 12:48 PM | Report abuse

This is really good news all around. Unfortunately, I work entirely too early and its usually past my bedtime to see most of the west coast games. I don't get a chance to see many of those teams too much. It will be nice to catch Thornton and Luongo in here, not to mention the different types of offense out that way.

Also, its been a while now being in the SE div and the caps just havent built the rivalries down south. The Caps may be one of the franchises that actually benefits from this?

Posted by: cs | December 3, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

i love the change. i wanna see as many teams as possible, and not the same ones each time !

Posted by: Helge | December 3, 2007 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Well they almost got this one right. They should be playing home and homes against every team in the Western Conference. Think they'll ever get it right and fire Bettman before he attempts "expansion." What a joke!

Posted by: Don-Ald | December 3, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Well the almost got this one right. They should be playing home and homes against every team in the Western Conference. Think they'll ever get it right and fire Bettman before he attempts "expansion." What a joke!

Posted by: Don-Ald | December 3, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Anything that vanquishes the abomination of playing the same team (Carolina) five times in 8 days like the Caps did last year (or was it the year before?) during the regular season, is a good thing. The NHL must have had the Marx brothers exhumed to manage that kind of scheduling.

Posted by: Geauxcaps | December 3, 2007 12:54 PM | Report abuse

This is a great development...everyone I know hates the SE division, and I think the endless dreary rotation of TB, Canes, Atlanta, Cats has killed attendance.

Posted by: Ali | December 3, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

As others have said, you should at least play home and home every other team at least once. Except for the Original Six and the classic Patrick Division rivalries, I don't think hockey really gets into rivalries until the playoffs. And for older Caps fans, we'll never consider the other SE foes as "rivals".

Personally, I wanted to visit family in LA and it would've been nice if there was a Caps game to schedule the visit around.

Posted by: tallbear | December 3, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I would have to agree with the person who said Iginla. But I'd like to add Thornton.

As for Iginla, he's not only a great player, but a good interview, too.

Posted by: Tarik | December 3, 2007 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Well, the NHL has listened and now it is time for the fans in the cities around the NHL to step up to the plate and purchase the tickets when teams from the other conference come in.

The Southeast Division is only division to see a drop in ticket sales for a divisional game. Every other division sees sales increase when they play divisional games.

Posted by: Caps Nut | December 3, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

That was me Tarik, I apologize for not putting my name in that second post I made.

So I'm assuming that on March 13th, we will get an article on Iginla, eh Tarik? The Flames come into town to play the Caps on March 12, 2008. I'd love to see if you can make that happen.

Take care.

Posted by: Tom | December 3, 2007 1:09 PM | Report abuse

This is an improvement, but the goal needs to be: every team, in every building, every year. -JW

Posted by: JWJr | December 3, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

JW -- that may happen within a few years. Read the bottom of the story I linked to.

Posted by: Tarik | December 3, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Ali and Caps nut-I agree 100%-Caps home games against the Rangers, Flyers, and Islanders were major events in the 80's and early 90's and were usually sellouts. And when PIT and NJ got good, they became great events as well. No matter how good Atl, TB, and CAR are, it will never be the same. Hopefully we can be back in the Atlantic again soon!

Posted by: dave | December 3, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I wish they'd get us out of the Southeast Division completely. That's been death on attendance for Washington and it's not fair. Put Nashville or someone else in there. They took us away from all of our longtime and natural rivals and put us in that crap division that nobody wants to come see, especially 4 times a season.

Posted by: Sapper | December 3, 2007 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Agree with Laich and Clark. It was never broken in the first place. We need to go back to the way it was before all the expansions... Next year, you'll have to interview #10 Brenden Morrow on the Stars. Now to get rid of the stupid shootouts! Oh how I miss the Patrick Division days.

Posted by: Tracy | December 3, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse


I just noticed on the Caps website that tomorrow at 10:30 the Caps will practice at Kettler. Just wondering if that's going to be for all players or just people injuried?

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse

In addition to the teams playing every other team in the league at least once, there's also a movement by, get this, the NHLPA to INCREASE the number of games to 84. The concept was apparently positively received by owners.

Now, I wonder. Is hockey better served with more games? The largest earning league is the NFL, and they play the fewest games. 66 in the NBA. Then there's baseball with an ungodly number of games.

I wonder whether the sport would be better served with fewer games. Economics would indicate that with fewer games, there's less opportunity to see games which would boost the number of persons attempting to see any one game. Simple supply vs demand.

Posted by: Greg S. | December 3, 2007 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I definately like the new schedule better. I'm a season ticket holder and am getting sooo bored watching the same teams over and over again.

Posted by: K | December 3, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

GregS, I believe the proposal was to go to 84 in exchange for fewer preseason games. I think the extra three games lets you completely do a home and home against an other division, but they would still need the stupid rotation. Not sure whether they would move up the start of the season or not.

Because the NHL is so gate-driven of the major sports, I'm guessing it's actually better for the NHL to play more games. IIRC the new NHLPA leader also said he would recommend getting games back on ESPN at any cost.

Posted by: tallbear | December 3, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Greg S.

They would only increase the season by 2 games - that's not too big of a jump.

Quantity vs Quality is the issue here... Owners could gain more money from more games played. Even if the Caps are not selling out, they are still getting money from the people that are going. There are only 16 games in football because it's a high impact sport - more games, more injuries... look at how many pro football players pass away at an early age. Oddly enough, I would say hockey is more intense than any other sport, but then again, that's because I can't skate very well.

Also, less games equals more money to go to the games - the players have to get paid, right? I think there are the same amount of bball games as hockey games.
~ 162 in baseball

Think about the teams that sellout on a reg basis - nay for shorter seasons for them.

Posted by: 828 | December 3, 2007 2:08 PM | Report abuse

ANYTHING to limit the amount of times we have to play the Southeast division is a huge improvement.

Even though Tampa & Canes have won the Cup - they play boring hockey - oh wait - my bad - that's Bettmans new style of hockey - no hitting, no fighting, and penalties like basketball "oh - 2mins for touching that guy with your stick"

Posted by: Diggity | December 3, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Tarik-Why two skates tomorrow? That is rare, right? I know they have a long break but why not just combine it into one longer practice rather than two at two different locations...?

Posted by: Pat | December 3, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Valid points on all who responded. With fewer games, it could be that owners could pay less per year for players which could affect the ticket price.

I am NOT proposing this as a solution. Just a musing to see the positives and negatives on the issue. I personally think that ending the season halfway through baseball season is a bit much. OK, it isn't half way, but it's a good chunck into it.

Posted by: Greg S. | December 3, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

the 10:30 am practice is a normal practice. the one at 6 will be more like a pre-game skate.

Posted by: Tarik | December 3, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I still think whoever suggested 1/2 price beer night a couple of posts ago was onto something. At the least, the stands/fans would be more lively.

Posted by: Steve R | December 3, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Rivalries are created by circumstances, not repetition. 8 times a year will not create those circumstances, but rather apathy. I shook my head in boredom when I first heard it so you can imagine my pleasure now. Pronger, Iginla, Sakic, Nash, Modano, Datsyuk, Chelios, Blake, Demitra, Gaborik, Bryzgalov, Marleau, Cheechoo, Nabakov, Kariya, the Sedins. Do I need say more? Bettman has the marketing skills below that of a crack dealer. Geez...

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | December 3, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

The new format is an improvement. You can't compare football games/revenue against hockey. The bulk of football revenue is TV driven, that of hockey is from the gate. If two more games per year gets more butts in the seats, the owners almost have to be for it.

Posted by: Fred | December 3, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Ted has done it again, managed to quiet the masses by going 3-2 under new coach.
That was easy.

Anyone else thinks they needed to win 5 straight before people started to believe ?

Other cities were able to garner far better results by firing Coach or GM.
Too bad fans let off the pedal

Posted by: Chief | December 3, 2007 3:36 PM | Report abuse


Very true, but if you miss 2 NFL games, you've missed 1/6th of the total season. Miss 2 NHL games and who cares?

Posted by: Greg S. | December 3, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Hell, they ought to give out beer tickets with the purchase of Capitals tickets. You want to talk about selling the house out all the time. Sure, everyone is coming for the beer, but at this point what else would they be coming for?

As for the schedule, I think the adjustment is great. I would like the option of purchasing tickets to more games then the Thrashers, Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes. Those games get so redundant after a period of time.

Posted by: Mitch | December 3, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Chief- Baby steps, Baby Steps. After NJ on friday, we have a 4 game homestand. Not that helps us this year but if we win 4 of 5, we'll be in business.

Posted by: dave | December 3, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Even if they manage to win 4 of 5, it's my opinion that GM has managed to put ANOTHER Band Aid on a huge wound.

The organization as a whole has been a mess ever since George McPhee has been running it.

Posted by: Chief | December 3, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Umm, the last thing we need is more drunks in the stands. The bathrooms are enough of a disaster already, not to mention the awful behavior of some people who have been drinking alot even before they get inside.

Playing every team home and home each season would be great, but I kinda think we do have some good rivalries going in the SE. Certainly not with the Cats, but games again the 'Canes, 'Thrash and 'Bolts definatley have an edge to them after the fights last year and out playoff history with Tampa.

Posted by: EricS | December 3, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

We ought to be getting serious discounts on the beer for having to watch Atl, Fla, Carolina and Tampa 4 times at home....

Posted by: Free Beer For All | December 3, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Ban the SE division, bring back the Patrick.

Posted by: Lee | December 3, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Beer - I think any Beer promotion (as in more or cheaper) could open Ted up to a lawsuit if someone got hurt at the game, or drunk driver accident, etc. I know, I know, but that's how these things work. "My client wouldn't have been driving drunk if he wasn't able to buy twice the beer...."

Posted by: Dezlboy | December 3, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm not too crazy about the beer idea either. It sends the wrong message, and legally it would be out of the question. Heck, we have been drowning our sorrows enough this season as it is.

Those rivalries emerged out of circumstances and situations, not repetition. I hear ya but regional proximity has nothing to do with a 5-0 spanking and wanting payback. I think showcasing the stars would appeal to all levels of fans. That is what The NHL needs right now more than ever.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | December 3, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Yeah for coming out west more. As a 22 year season ticket holder that retired out here in 1999. I don't get enough road trip oportunities(none this year.) I was fortunate to be able to follow them to Anaheim and Phoenix when Alex scored his amazing goal in Phoenix. I see Caps fans in all the rinks out here, so this is great news for us all!

Posted by: Oldfan | December 3, 2007 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Heck, I was hoping for 15 straight wins. But then again, I believe pigs will fly one day.

In all honesty, the other teams (Car, TB, Atl, ...& FL) are losing too... not as bad, but they are losing. Baby steps is the key... I personally, don't care who the manager is... it's all about players - They need heart and they need to stop making stupid decisions with their body and the puck. Once they got those two down pat, they should be alright.

I have said this before - Pitt was in the same boat we were last year. After the allstar break, they had the best record in the NHL. Anything is possible - If I can't do anything about it, all I can do is hope.

Posted by: 828 | December 3, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Be nice to see Sutherby next year

Posted by: Bobo | December 3, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

We should be in the Patrick Division. Rivalries are created by close proximity; that's why the EPL has such intense rivalries, what with seven teams playing in one city.

I think the real problem with the NHL (and one of the many problems in all other American sports) is that N. America is just too large, geographically, to have real rivalries. Outside of the Patrick Division, the distance is just too great for fans to go to away games.

@Greg S.
Baseball has the highest number of games per season, and it's the second-highest grossing sport in America. Two games won't hurt the NHL.

Posted by: MikeZ | December 3, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure if BB is the answer, but I do think he deserves his shot. Since he's started, the Caps have played 6 games in 9 days. 3-2-1 may not sound like much, but it's 7 points in 6 games. We only got 13 points in 21 games prior.

This break should give him time to put in some of the systems he wants to use, and get the players more comfortable with his style.

I agree with replacing GMGM, but I don't think it's fair to lump BB with him.

Posted by: Capapathetic | December 3, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

MikeZ: right on. I think the fans have just as much to do with building a rivalry as the teams themselves. The games between the Caps and the Pitt/Philly teams back in the late 80's were vicious.

The state of today's NHL is catering to star players and for this purpose I feel it's important for the home-home schedule to happen so that you really do get to shop the talent around. This could garner more local coverage than the home team does currently.

Posted by: keef | December 3, 2007 4:24 PM | Report abuse

About BB: It doesn't matter if he's the best fit right now because he's definitely a better fit. Japers' has some great stats about the team's first games under him and some of the info might lead to saying he is the best fit (provided he keeps it up).

Posted by: keef | December 3, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Explain the Redskins and Cowboys. They are not close and yet they are one of sports biggest rivalries.
I think everyone is right about rivalries - its all about circumstances, proximity, and who is playing on each squad. But, a rivalry is something that - no matter how good another team is compared to that rival - the lesser team always has a chance. It could go either way. However, in hockey, I feel like ALL games could go either way. Caps could beat a red hot Senator team... oh wait, they did.

I imagine Pitt and Caps are going to be quite a rivalry due to the fact each team has half the face of the NHL.

Posted by: 828 | December 3, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse


And the NHL is the lowest. I know, 2 games won't hurt. There are times when I wish I lived in Canada, or northern NJ. Either one, I'd see games every night, possibly two in one. I personally would rather see more games than fewer. I would like to have the games hold more meaning, however. The wags have been talking about the two seasons of hockey since forever (expansion), and it seems that pretty soon we'll be at the point where the Stanley Cup is awarded, there'll be 2 weeks off, and preseason will start.

Posted by: Greg S. | December 3, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Caps and Pitt are a rivalry. 4th overtime loses in the playoffs tend to do that.

Posted by: Capapathetic | December 3, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

@Greg S,

I have to admit that I've never heard of anyone wishing that they lived in Northern NJ.

Being an ex-resident of NJ, I can get away with throwing abuse the Garden State's way.

Posted by: Steve R | December 3, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

All due respect, the EPL is a totally different animal. It involves the most popular sport on the planet in a nation where the original team logos were that of the local Coat of Arms. They have a slight advantage on the "Rivalries" issue. As a business traveler, I witnessed it first hand in 2001 when a referendum was barely defeated involving Man-U jerseys not allowing to be sold in Central London. Can you believe it? I guess we can only hope for that level of rivalry.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | December 3, 2007 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I like BB.

I don't like allowing the person responsible for this mess to remain.

I've been urging for the firing of GM since 01-02, been banned numerous times on Caps boards, yet only to be proven right.

The Caps will NEVER be a respectable team while McPhhe is GM, it's that simple.

Posted by: Chief | December 3, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Going back to the Patrick would be a good thing.

The downside is the a-holes from Philly, Pitt, NYC in our stands if we don't sell more tickets to Caps fans...

Posted by: Steve R | December 3, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse


That can be solved by only selling tix to peole with credit card billing addresses in this area

Posted by: Lee | December 3, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Those a-holes are here now, and always will be...LOL. But your point is correct. WE need to sell more tix, and we need to be the a-holes in Philly, Pitt, and NYC.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | December 3, 2007 5:06 PM | Report abuse


Bernie has a point. With the transplants from other cities having local zip codes, and with tickets always avail to our games, we're stuck with the obnoxious Pitt fan sitting next to us.

Posted by: Steve R | December 3, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

The debate on 2 extra games misses the main point. It would add 2 games so that there could be a home and home with all teams, and still have a few extra division and conference games.

From TSN- "New NHL Players' Association executive director Paul Kelly met with the league's owners on Thursday, and added that the players preferred going to an 84-game schedule with 24 divisional games, 30 against the rest of the conference and 30 against the other conference"

Do we really need 7 preseason games (in a 14 day period, leaving a total of 7 days of training camp)? Taking 2 preseason and adding it to the regular season to be able to have the schedule above seems to make a heck of a lot of sense.

Posted by: 121 K | December 3, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

If you would stop using @ in front of peoples names, more Caps fans would show.

Posted by: kill the @!!! | December 3, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

@kill the @!!!,

I so agree! @ doesn't mean to, it means at. I don't get it.

Posted by: Lee | December 3, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse

To Mr. Killthe@,
No disrespect, but what of it? I have repressed issues from the Lafontaine goal on Bob Mason way back when but I got over it. It's ok, sunsets, fuzzy bunnies...

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | December 3, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse


I was thinking of the Bobby Carpenter miss in the playoffs after you mentioned the Lafontaine goal. I'm having relaspses. Oh, for the days of playoff dissappointemnt....

Posted by: Lee | December 3, 2007 5:38 PM | Report abuse

And speaking of obnoxious Pitt fans, has there been a Malkin fan sighting anywhere? The lad has been very quiet as of late.

Posted by: Steve R | December 3, 2007 5:39 PM | Report abuse

why no invite for bouchard

Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2007 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I feel ya. What about Esa Tiks miss during the, can I say it, Stanley Cup Finals!!! God, what a distance fantasy now.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | December 3, 2007 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Your definition makes it makes sense. I'm speaking at you. :)

Posted by: keef | December 3, 2007 5:53 PM | Report abuse

@828: Well, there are two reasons for that rivalry. One is based on the mascot histories, the other because of something that happened at the start of the Dallas franchise:

1. Cowboys vs. Indians. duh.
2. When the Cowboys first started, the owner bought the rights to the Redskins fight song and threatened to disallow the Redskins use of it.

Posted by: keef | December 3, 2007 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Ok, would all of you/us be happy if we just wrote out TO: ?? I don't think it will help because the @ is pervasive in all blogs I've noticed. Maybe we should as Tarik?

Posted by: BernieWolfefan | December 3, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm not strait on this blog ettiquitte. is it @? is it TO:? is it Dear?

Posted by: Lee | December 3, 2007 6:04 PM | Report abuse

How about just putting the person's freakin' name?

Posted by: Phil | December 3, 2007 6:16 PM | Report abuse

personally, I kinda like the @.

Posted by: Tarik | December 3, 2007 8:53 PM | Report abuse

I don't care if they ever play the west coast teams, but I do want to see more of Philly, NYI, NYR, Boston, MONTREAL, Toronto, Buffalo, and Ottawa. I am so sick of seeing TB, FLA, Carolina! We should be ruling our division, but it seems one of the hardest things is getting the players and the fans into these games. Hockey just doesn't belong in the South!

Some of the players better stop worrying about traveling and seeing new places and start worrying about performing wherever they are!

Posted by: capfan1 | December 4, 2007 1:43 AM | Report abuse

Praise be to actual logical thoughts from the NHL powers that be!

Whether the Capitals are doing well against them or not, I have personally developed a pretty strong malaise when it comes to these division dust-ups that are force-fed to us. I think playing the same team that many times actually lessens the impact of each meeting, and leads to a higher chance of apathy. I think that even if we played any of the classic Capitals unholy triumvirate of hate (PIT, PHI, NYR) eight times in a season, each game would lose some of its luster.

At the end of it all, you simply can't manufacture a rivalry. It has to happen organically, and it can really only get nice and raw when it springs from the playoffs. Familiarity only breeds the kind of contempt that makes you wish you were never going to see someone again.

Looking forward to seeing a few more faces next season, for sure.

Posted by: Goat | December 4, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

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