Quick Hits from Day One of Caps Training Camp

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, September 17, 2011 | , | 0 comments »

Yes, some were sucking wind during the first day of camp. (photo by Cheryl Nichols)

We'll have plenty of quotes in a longer post later on, but here are some quick observations from Day 1 of the Washington Capitals  2011 Training Camp.  Everyone (including us) has been talking about the shaving cream pie in the face Alex Ovechkin received from some of his running mates for his birthday, but there was actually hockey content as well.

First, injury updates.  D Tom Poti failed his physical and will be placed on the Long Term Injured List, according to GM George McPhee.  Poti is unable to participate in hockey drills of any kind even after the summer of rehabilitation.  The team will try a different tack with his conditioning, McPhee said, but they have no timetable for Poti's return.  McPhee did say, rather matter-of-factly, that like Brian Pothier two years ago, if and when Poti is healthy enough to return the Caps will welcome him back.

Other players that had injuries at the end of last season, such as Troy Brouwer (shoulder), John Erskine (shoulder) and Dennis Wideman (leg) all took the ice.  Wideman said he was game-ready "when they put me in" and Brouwer announced himself 100 percent fit, but Erskine wore an orange jersey today, indicating no heavy contact.  McPhee described Erskine's full rehab from surgery as a six-month process, but the Caps expect Big John to be able to play before that.  For him, it's a strength issue, not a range of motion issue.

Another big topic of today was the conditioning drill, the first ever for the Capitals at the start of camp.  Everyone asked said it was a good exercise -- and some looked completely worn out after the test.  Coach Bruce Boudreau talked about it as "data points" to use in the future for following seasons as a base line.  Mike Knuble described it as "part ball-busting and part team building," and that probably hit the nail on the head.  By the way, Knuble, participating in Group A with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson and Mike Green, "won" his flight.  It's a testament to the 38-year old's conditioning and core strength.

The only player to not complete the conditioning test was new D Roman Hamrlik.  Out of an abundance of caution, Boudreau instructed Hamrlik to stop the test when the veteran defenseman complained of his groin tightening.  We noticed in the team portion of his groups practice that Hamrlik appeared at times to not be going 100 percent full power.  Boudreau expects Hamrlik to practice Sunday and take the test perhaps next week.

Every player interviewed reiterated that this team will be measured not on regular season performance, but on the success -- or failure -- in the playoffs.  Newly acquired veterans such as Tomas Vokoun and Jeff Halpern spoke about their upcoming opportunity in D.C. as their best chance at a Cup in their careers.  Returning Caps veterans spoke about accountability and a renewed focus on the team construct.  It's telling that so many of the Caps veterans arrived to Kettler early the last couple of weeks, ready to meet this year's challenge.  It'll be interesting to follow this season to see how many are able to retain that enthusiasm as the seemingly endless regular season plods along.

We'll have much more over the next couple of days, including George McPhee and Bruce Boudreau talking about leadership, accountability, and their effort for the sport's top prize.  We'll have an in-depth discussion with goalie Tomas Vokoun, in a very daunting spot as a one-year free agent backstopping a championship-caliber team and the challenge of playing with a countryman -- at the same position -- who looked up to him as a youngster.  And comments from many players, new and returning, about their quest for the ultimate goal.

Oh, one last thing.  Brooks Laich was -- of course -- the first player on the ice this morning at a little past 9:00 am.