Caps Weekend Preview

Posted by Dave Nichols | Saturday, December 06, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals (14-9-3-31, first in Southeast) have a pair of games this weekend against Eastern Conference foes. Tonight at 7:00 p.m. from Air Canada Centre in Toronto the Caps face a Maple Leafs (9-11-6-24, fourth in Northeast) team still searching for its identity. Sunday, the Caps travel to Dixie to face Southeast Division rival Carolina Hurricanes (12-12-2-26, second in Southeast) from RBC Center at 5:00 p.m..

Washington's story over the last couple of weeks is well documented and nothing will change that status over the weekend. The team is still missing seven of its regulars due to injury, and while several are making progress toward returning to the ice, none are really ready.

The Caps got more injury news yesterday, as D Tyler Sloan was limping noticeably after taking a shot off his ankle in Thursday's win against New York. The team recalled D Sean Collins from Hershey and he is expected to make his NHL debut tonight. Collins, 25, went 0-4-4 with 10 PIM in 13 games with Hershey this season.

Collins will be the eleventh defenseman used by Washington this season.

Coach Bruce Boudreau will not use injuries as an excuse, and after calling his players out after a lopsided and boring loss against Florida Tuesday, the team responded with a complete game 5-2 victory over the Islanders. This two-game road trip should test their new-found resolve.

Toronto has been a team in turmoil this season so far. They've already turned their front office upside down and recently brought in long-time GM Brian Burke to attempt to lead them back to prominence. Along with the turnover comes the swirling Mats Sundin rumors.

The 37-year old all-star is without a contract and deciding if he wishes to return to the NHL, leaving the faithful Maple Leaf followers confused and frustrated that their team and 13-year centerman can't work something out.

On the ice has been as much as a struggle as the front office. The team is getting outscored nightly and has been attacked in the Toronto press. Goalies Vesa Toskala (-8-8. 3.24, .883) and Curtis Joseph (0-3-2, 3.95, .851) have been inconsistent and left mostly to fend for themselves.

Up front, the Leafs are paced by Mikhail Grabovski (10-8-18, -2), Matt Stajan (7-14-21, -5) and Nik Antropov (9-10-19, -2).

Players currently missing from coach Ron Wilson's lineup include D Mike Van Ryn (Head-IR); D Jonas Frogren (Arm-IR) and C Jamal Mayers (Hand-Out).

Carolina uses a team attack, as none of their skaters has more than nine goals, but six have at least seven goals to his credit. Tuomo Ruutu leads the way with nine (9-6-15, -1), while Eric Staal (8-7-15, +8) is their only leading scorer with a positive plus/minus rating.

Their number one goalie is Cam Ward. He is 8-7-3, 2.68, .911 in 18 games, however, is out with a groin injury. The backup is Michael Leighton (4-6-0, 3.22, .887).

Carolina's injury sheet lists several key players: D David Tanabe (Concussion-Out); D Tim Gleason (Lower-body-IR); D Frantisek Kaberle (Lower body-Questionable); D Dennis Seidenberg (Leg-IR); RW Scott Walker (Lower body-Questionable); G Cam Ward (Groin-Out)

The Washington Capitals (14-9-3-31, first in Southeast) got goals from five different players and goalie Brent Johnson made 27 saves as the Caps rebounded from a poor display Tuesday to defeat a similarly undermanned New York Islanders (10-13-2-22, fifth in Atlantic) team 5-3 before 18,130 fans at Verizon Center.

The Caps were 3-for-5 on the power play, getting goals from Alex Ovechkin (14), Viktor Kozlov (5) and Eric Fehr (3) with the man advantage. Donald Brashear scored his first goal since last March to break a 2-2 tie in the third period, and Nicklas Backstrom put the exclamation point on the win with an empty net goal with 50 seconds remaining.

Ovechkin finished with a goal and two assists.

Coach Bruce Boudreau preached the necessity of receiving "secondary" scoring after losing to Florida Tuesday night, and he got just what he was looking for from Brashear, who knocked in a rebound of a Karl Alzner shot into the back boards, and from Eric Fehr, who lifted a backhanded rebound past Islanders goalie Joey MacDonald.

The Fehr goal was made possible from Brooks Laich, doing the heavy lifting in front of the net on the power play, another long-time point of emphasis from Boudreau.

The game was full of penalties and both teams had their chances, but Washington held New York to 1-for 8 on the power play. The Caps out shot the Islanders 47-29.

Washington faces-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs (9-10-6) Saturday, December 6 at 7:00 p.m. ET from Air Canada Centre.

Photo courtesy of

WAS: Ovechkin (14) from Jurcina and Laich (1-11:31-PP); Kozlov (5) from Helmer and Lepisto (1-13:15-PP); Brashear (1) from Alzner and Jurcina (3-6:50); Fehr (3) from Laich and Ovechkin (3-16:14-PP); Backstrom (7) from Ovechkin (3-19:10-EN)

NYI: Streit (6) from Weight and Guerin (1-19:24-PP); Hunter (11) from Sutton (2-13:38)

1. V. Kozlov - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)
2. K. Alzner - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)
3. D. Brashear - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 0)

The Islanders were the last Eastern Conference team coach Bruce Boudreau had not earned a victory against.

Ovechkin has 14 goals and 20 assists in 24 games.

Milan Jurcina had a multi-point night, assisting on the Ovechkin and Brashear goals.

Game 26 Preview: Caps Host New York Islanders

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, December 04, 2008 | 1 comments »

The Washington Capitals (13-9-3-29, first in Southeast) host the New York Islanders (10-12-2-22, fifth in Atlantic) for the first of four contests this season at 7:00 pm from Washington's Verizon Center.

The Capitals find themselves in the midst of their first extended slump of the season, losers of five of their last seven games--all in regulation time. Last time out, Tuesday against Florida, Washington suffered its first home regulation loss of the season, breaking a 16 game streak dating back to last year's playoff run.

Injuries and lost man-games seem to have caught up to the Capitals, and there does not appear to be any relief on the horizon. All of DC's walking wounded will miss the tilt with the Islanders, and the team doesn't expect any to return for the weekend either.

In fact, the Caps made another call-up from AHL's Hershey squad, center Keith Aucoin. Aucoin, 30, was the AHL's leading scorer with nine goals and 27 assists in 24 games, and he will center Tomas Fleischmann and Viktor Kozlov on the second line tonight.

Washington currently has five players skating that started the year in Hershey, including four of their six defensemen.

Fleischmann has been hot of late and his ten goals are good for third on the team.

Brent Johnson (5-4-3, 2.81, .909) will start for the Caps between the pipes.

The Islanders have split their last four games, most recently defeating Ottawa 4-2 Saturday night. Trent Hunter is the top goal scorer with ten (10-9-19, -3), and Doug Weight (5-17-22, -2) and Bill Guerin (9-7-16, -6) provide support. Defenseman Andy Sutton (+5) is the only regular to have a positive plus/minus rating.

Joey MacDonald will start in goal for New York. He has played fairly well replacing injured No. 1 goalie Rick DiPietro this season. MacDonald is 10-9-2 with a 2.89 GAA and .907 Sv%.

WAS: PP-10th (21.0%, 22/105); PK-25th (78.0%, 27/123)
NYI: PP-16th (17.9%, 20/112); PK-12th (82.5%, 20/114)

WAS: D John Erskine (Concussion-Questionable); C Sergei Fedorov (Ankle-Out); D Tom Poti (Groin-Out); RW Chris Clark (Forearm-Out); D Mike Green (Shoulder-IR); D Jeff Schultz (Finger-IR); LW Alexander Semin (Back-IR); D Brian Pothier (Concussion-Out)

NYI: D Bruno Gervais (Leg-IR); G Rick DiPietro (Knee-IR); D Radek Martinek Shoulder-Out); RW Kyle Okposo (Arm-IR); C Mike Sillinger (Hip-Probable); C Mike Comrie (Hip-IR); C Frans Nielsen (Head, leg-IR)

Game 25 Review: Panthers Down Listless Caps 5-3

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, December 03, 2008 | , , , , | 0 comments »

After several weeks of playing short-handed due to multiple injuries, it finally caught up to the Washington Capitals in a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers last night, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, missing two of their three top scorers themselves.

Washington was lethargic from the opening face-off, but managed to jump on the board first. After Donald Brashear did a great job drawing a tripping penalty with tough work down low, Nicklas Backstrom made the Panthers play for the transgression with his sixth goal of the season, a shot that redirected off Florida D Jay Bouwmeester.

Unfortunately, the Caps stopped skating after that goal, maybe surmising that one goal would be enough to stop the offensively challenged Panthers. That, obviously, was not the case.

Redirected pucks would be a recurring theme for the evening.

The second period was all Florida, and they got plenty of help from the depleted and inexperienced Washington blue liners. Ville Peltonen walked in alone and lifted a soft shot past goalie Jose Theodore to tie the game at 6:19, his fourth of the season. The next two goals were as strange as they were inexcusable.

With Alex Ovechkin off for goaltender interference, David Steckel attempted a cross ice pass in his own end, but instead of going behind the goal, he attempted it through the crease. The puck hit rookie Karl Alzner's skate and slid undetected between Theodore's pads for the go-ahead tally. The play was uncontested by Florida, so Steckel had no one to blame but himself.

Bouwmeester was the last Panther to touch the puck, getting undeserved credit for the "own goal."

Florida's second goal was a redirect as well, as D Bryan McCabe's power play shot from the point was deflected twice, off both Boyd Gordon and Shaone Morrisonn. The extra-man situation arose when Eric Fehr lazily lofted a clearing attempt off the ice for a delay of the game penalty.

Steckel and Fehr's poor plays were indicative of the Caps' performance last night. Despite the rash of injuries, until now the Caps have been able to hide the inconsistent and ragged play one would expect from a team playing without six to eight of their regular players. But there were enough turnovers, bad passes and miscommunication last night to make up for a week's worth of good play, and Coach Bruce Boudreau was not happy with the effort after the game.

The Caps added late third period goals from Viktor Kozlov (4) and Tomas Fleischmann (10) to draw within one, but an empty netter from Greg Campbell with one minute remaining sealed their fate.

Photos (c) C. Nichols 2008

WAS: Backstrom (6) from Fleischmann and Lepisto (1-15:57-PP); Kozlov (4) from Backstrom and Morrisonn (3-16:11); Fleischmann (10) from Ovechkin and Kozlov (3-17:02-PP)

FLA: Peltonen (4) from Radek and Dvorak (2-6:19); Bouwmeester (3) unassisted (2-7:28-PP); McCabe (4) from McLean and Frolik (2-12:09-PP); Dvorak (3) from Campbell and Peltonen (3-4:45); Campbell (5) from Skrastins (3-19:00)

1. V. Peltonen - FLA (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
2. R. Dvorak - FLA (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
3. N. Backstrom - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)

The loss was Washington's first regulation loss at home of the season and first in their past 16 home games dating back to last season.

D Sami Lepisto has a point in three of his four games played this season.

With a goal and assist, Fleischmann pulled into a tie with Mike Green as the team's fourth leading scored with 16 points (10 goals, 6 assists).

The Washington Capitals (13-8-3-29, first in Southeast) face the Florida Panthers (9-11-3-21, third in Southeast) in the first of six meetings between the two division rivals this season at 7:00 p.m. from Verizon Center.

The Caps closed out a very good month of November (8-5-2) with back-to-back shut outs--one for and one against--but look to continue their high scoring ways tonight versus the Panthers.

Alex Ovechkin on Monday was named the NHL's #1 Star for November after scoring 25 points in the month, including a 10-game point streak. After a slow start, Ovie is now tied for fifth in the league in scoring with a total of 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists). His +13 has him tied for third behind teammate and NHL #1 Star for October Alexander Semin.

Despite having missed the last eight games with back and shoulder problems, Semin is still tied for seventh in scoring with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists). The team has weathered the storm of injuries in the last couple of weeks but will still be without some of its most important players for tonight's game.

Along with Semin, Sergei Federov, Mike Green, Tom Poti and John Erskine are all expected to miss the Panthers game, and a decision about Boyd Gordon still had not been made. Karl Alzner, who left the game in Columbus Saturday after a hard hit into the side boards, practiced Monday and should suit up, along with fellow recent call-ups Bryan Helmer and Sami Lepisto. They join Tyler Sloan as players who started with AHL Hershey now manning the Washington blue line.

Winger Tomas Fleischmann has been hot of late, scoring six of his nine goals in the last 14 games. He has points in four of his last five games.

Coach Bruce Boudreau plans to start Jose Theodore in net after making 28 saves in a the shut out win versus Montreal on Friday. He was won three of his last four starts overall and owns a 1.77 GAA at home this season.

Tonight's lines, courtesy of Capitals Insider:


Florida enters this contest losers of two of their last three games, including an overtime loss to New Jersey and a shoot out loss to the New York Rangers. The Panthers rebounded, however, against those same Rangers to earn a 4-0 shut out Saturday behind goaltender Craig Anderson Saturday night.

Anderson, normally the backup behind Tomas Vokoun, has been stellar this season, going 4-1-3 (1.87 GAA, .948 Sv%) in his ten starts while Vokoun has struggled. His only regulation loss came to St. Louis back on October 25. Anderson is 0-3 in his career against Washington.

The Panthers are one of the league's lowest scoring teams, averaging just 2.39 goals per game. Their task may be tougher for a while as David Booth, their leading scorer with 12 goals, injured his shoulder in the win over the Rangers and is out for tonight's game. No other Panther has more than six goals.

Washington is 9-0-1 at home this season, averaging 3.6 goals per home game.

WAS: PP-11th (19.8%, 20/101); PK-24th (79.0%, 25/119)
FLA: PP-27th (13.6%, 12/88); PK-11th (83.0%, 17/100)

WAS: D Karl Alzner (Shoulder-PROB); RW Chris Clark (Forearm-OOU); D John Erskine (Concussion-OUT); C Sergei Fedorov (Ankle-QUES); D Mike Green (Shoulder-IR); D Tom Poti (Groin-QUES); D Jeff Schultz (Finger-IR ); LW Alexander Semin (Back-IR): D Brian Pothier (Concussion-OUT)

FLA: RW Nathan Horton (Leg-IR); LW Cory Stillman (Concussion-IR); LW Richard Zednik (Arm-IR); D Bryan Allen (Knee-IR); LW David Booth (Shoulder-OUT); D Cory Murphy (Shoulder-IR)

Monday's Off-Day Notebook

Posted by Dave Nichols | Monday, December 01, 2008 | , , , | 0 comments »

  • Alex Ovechkin was named the NHL's #1 Star for the month of November. Last year's MVP had 11 goals and 14 assists in 15 games, including a ten-game scoring streak that ended in the 3-0 shut out loss to Columbus Saturday night. Teammate Alexander Semin was October's #1 Star.

  • Coach Bruce Boudreau stated after Monday's practice that Jose Theodore will start Tuesday against Florida.

  • Rookie D Karl Alzner participated in Monday's practice and is probable for Florida.

  • Semin, D Mike Green and C Sergei Federov were all limited in practice and skated, but none are expected to play Tuesday. C Boyd Gordon and Ds Tom Poti and John Erskine did not practice and will not play.

  • The team indicated they will make one recall today for the game tomorrow. If Gordon can't play, they might make two additions.

  • Florida is coming off a 4-0 whitewash of the New York Rangers yesterday.

  • Hershey (AHL) extended its winning streak to nine games with wins over Norfolk (3-2) and Philadelphia (9-0). The Bears are one short of the franchine record of 10, set in 2001-02.

Game 24 Review: Another One Bites the Dust?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Sunday, November 30, 2008 | , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals went into Columbus looking to build off Friday night's shut out victory over Montreal. What they found was a hockey team more desperate than they were, as Rick Nash scored twice -- once short handed -- and rookie goalie Steve Mason pitched a 26 save shut out of his own dealing Washington a 3-0 loss.

To make matters worse, Washington (13-8-3, first in Southeast) may have lost the services of rookie defenseman Karl Alzner for a while, himself a recent injury replacement. He was slammed into the side boards by Derick Brassard in the second period chasing after a loose puck and came up from the hit hanging his left arm at his side and did not play in the third period.

Washington was out shot 15-8 in the first period and were out-played and out-hustled from the very beginning. Goalie Brent Johnson survived the first period allowing just one goal, a slap shot from Raffi Torres, his first goal of the season. It's the only goal Mason would need.

Mason, 20, now owns a 5-2-0-1 record this season, making it difficult for coach Ken Hitchcock to return the player to the minors when their regular goalies get healthy.

The shut out sees Alex Ovechkin's 10-game points streak come to an end. He had scored 11 goals and 11 assists in those 10 games.

Columbus (10-13-3-23) captain Rick Nash had no such problems. He snapped a wrist shot past Johnson at 14:44 of the second period, and put the exclamation point on the victory with a short handed back-hander past Johnson mid-way through the third. It was goals 11 and 12 for Nash this season.

The Capitals now have a couple days to get players healthy. They once again played without a host of players, including October's player of the month Alexander Semin, veteran Sergei Federov, and blue line mainstays Mike Green, Tom Poti among others.

Washington hosts the Florida Panthers Tuesday, December 2 at 7:00 p.m. from Verizon Center.

Photo by AP.

WAS: None.
COL: Torres (1) from Modin and Methot (1-8:01); Nash (11) from Umberger and Huselius (2-14:44); Nash (12) unassisted (3-13:37-SH)

1. R. Nash - CLB (Goals: 2, Assists: 0)
2. S. Mason - CLB (Saves: 26, Save Pct: 1.000)
3. J. Hejda - CLB (Goals: 0, Assists: 0)

The Caps are 4-8-2 on the road this season.

Washington's seven-game unbeaten streak against Columbus (6-0-1) was the Capitals' longest against any team.

The Capitals went 8-5-2 for their first winning November since 1999 and with their most wins in the month since getting nine in 1996.