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Posted at 2:44 PM ET, 01/26/2011

Capitals look to capture two points in Atlanta

By Katie Carrera

Tonight's contest is the final meeting of the regular season between the Capitals and Thrashers. Atlanta has had Washington's number this season as the Capitals are 2-3-0 against the Thrashers and have not won at Philips Arena yet this year.

Heading into this game both teams are anxious to pick up points, to try to remain within striking distance of Southeast Divison leader Tampa Bay and stay in the mix of a tight Eastern Conference playoff race. After they face the Thrashers, the Capitals, who trail the Lightning by four, will have just 30 games to go in the regular season and they're starting to feel the urgency of seeing the playoffs on the horizon.

"We've got to keep pace with Tampa Bay. We've got to get those points," Mike Knuble said. "The urgency starts to go up a little bit because we know when you're coming down the last week of the season and you're scraping for a point you look back and think of the points you should have had or the points that we did get. That's what tonight can be."

The Lightning beat Toronto 2-0 in their final contest before the all star break, which begins Thursday, sit atop the division with 67 points and are just two games into a 12-game home-stand that could allow Tampa Bay to surge even further ahead if the Capitals (63 points) don't make the most of their own opportunities to claim two points.

Atlanta, meanwhile, is hanging on to eighth place in the conference with 55 (just one ahead of Carolina in ninth) and looking to break out of an uneven skid from the past 10 games where the Thrashers have gone 3-4-3.

"This game is important. They've taken it to us over the course of the season and going into the break here we want to make sure we have confidence and momentum," Mike Green said. "You never know when it comes down to the end of the season and if they make a push -- you never know we might end up playing these guys. We have to make sure at no point that they believe they can beat us."

This feeling of necessity to capture points is quite different from where the Capitals were at this stage of the season last year, but they're very conscious of the stakes in each game moving forward.

"It's in our control. That's the most important thing right now," Knuble said. "You check out the standings, you see where everyone else is and we're very much aware of what's happening around us, where as last year we were just cruising along. This year you have to be aware of where you are."

By Katie Carrera  | January 26, 2011; 2:44 PM ET
Categories:  Atlanta Thrashers, Mike Green, Mike Knuble  
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Next: Open thread: Capitals at Thrashers

Comments

Well, so much for seeing #4 and #17 in the lineup together for one last time....I feel cheated and I want my money back!! Welcome back Brads, it's comforting to have two middleweights w/losing records against chumps in the lineup. I'm sure the two will be avoiding Boulton and Thorburn at all costs...BETTER BE PREPARED AND READY TO GO TONITE, #4, AND DON'T EXPECT MUCH SUPPORT FROM YOUR MATES.


Posted by: vermontcaps | January 26, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse

VT...

Ovie can fight.

So can Semin, oh, wait...he's still injured.

Posted by: SoaringCaps | January 26, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Well, so much for seeing #4 and #17 in the lineup together for one last time....
-------------------

the only caps players in recent memory who has really embraced a 4th line agitator/scrapper position have been Brash (for a while) and Darcy Verot.

Lets hope we draft a kid at some point who likes that role. You can find em. You just need to WANT to find em.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 26, 2011 3:32 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton1

How about Hendricks. IMO, he seems to be out of the Matt Cooke mold of player, without the extremely dirty hits.

I'm not saying Hendricks is as good as Cooke, just that they play a similar game.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 26, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Last time I checked, Bradley scored more game winners and contributed more than 5 minutes of TOI per game than BJ King.

Seriously. What it your infatuation with this dude?

If other teams were taking runs at our guys, I can see why would have him on the ice every night. But that isn;t happening.

Do you honestly think he is a difference maker or are you just saying that in jest cuz he's a fourth liner?

Curious is all.

Posted by: jmurray019 | January 26, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I've said for a week now that Hendricks should be on our #1 line with 8 & 19. He is our Cooke, our Downie only better. He hits, he scraps, he wins board battles he can score and oh yeah, he'll stick up for his teammates and fight. He's exactly what we need on the 1st line.

Altho I must say I really have liked Chimmer & MJ on the top line as well. Chimmer has really helped 8 & 19 these past couple of games. His speed creates a lot more space out there which is what 8 & 19 have been lacking all season. Too bad Chimmer has hands like Mike Tyson or he could end up a permanent fixture on the top line.

Posted by: pokerface1208 | January 26, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3
the more I think of it, Weiss might not be such a bad idea afterall. I mean, Horton has emerged in Beantown and maybe Weiss would in DC, too.

@cstant
nobody gets it more than you (though sgm is a most worthy adversary...lots of good stuff by everyone)

@jmurray
stick around long enough, pay attention, and maybe someday you'll get it...and if you don't get it by then, I'd suggest going through the archives

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 26, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

@jmurray

it's because when DJK sits on the bench he holds his stick with the blade resting on the floor so all his goals don't spill out of his stick. Since there are so many goals in there that haven't spilled out we need him on the ice so some of those biscuits get in the basket! :)

Posted by: pokerface1208 | January 26, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Horton started off great in Boston, but it kinda seems like CJ has soured on him a little [well, other than Savard and Bergeron, who doesn't he sour on].

Speaking of Semin fighting, did anyone see replays of that Gleason punch on Kulemin - ouch. Sasha needs to watch it, those Canuck boys know how to throw 'em, so you really better know what you're doing.

Ovie too, for that matter - yeah he's strong like bull and RMNB and all that, but 1) those aren't Chimmy hands, they're his bread and butter, & 2) Downie and those guys grow up fighting on skates, they're good at it for a reason. And I don't care what anyone says, fighting on skates ain't easy. There's a reason Darcy Tucker was such a good fighter; dirty as he was, he had to be.

As a sidenote, I'm hearing first-hand that the USNDTP is - finally - teaching guys how to fight. Better late than never - it's not true you can't get hurt in a hockey fight, you most definitely can.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 26, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Was just looking at the backline stats since BB announced icetime would be based on merit. Johnny's only been in one fight in his 20 games since then (granted, it was the biggest fight of the year...and though we all know he won, it wasn't anything like him taking Boulton), and I've sensed he's been itching to go at times in a couple games recently.

He's got to be feeling the pressure of Poti's imminent return and his subsequent benching. I'm hoping, and expecting, a big game from #4 tonight but I don't want to see him give Boulton a rematch (where's DJK when you need him? Oh yeah, in the pressbox for the remainder of the year!?!) I think Johnny should meet-up with Thorburn early in the game, administer an ass-whooping to set the tone, and give us some memories as he'll soon be nothing but an afterthought. And seeing as how BB gave everyone and their mother a sniff on the pp the other night, everyone except Lumberjack that is, he should give Johnny some pp time down in the lowpost as a token of his gratitude.

Last year, this year, next week....nothing changes around here when it comes to #4. MAKE LIKE YOUR 10TH STATEMENT OF THE YEAR TONIGHT, JOHNNY....GO GET'EM!!

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 26, 2011 4:37 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton1

How about Hendricks. IMO, he seems to be out of the Matt Cooke mold of player, without the extremely dirty hits.

I'm not saying Hendricks is as good as Cooke, just that they play a similar game.

Posted by: sgm3

yeah Hendricks is a good player to have on any team. He'll fit in anywhere and contribute anywhere. Where he lacks compared to similar players around the league is his size/strength. Not by much, but he's a light middleweight. No more. you need guys at different tiers. We're stacked at light middleweight. I'd like to see us move up in class.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 26, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

If other teams were taking runs at our guys, I can see why would have him on the ice every night. But that isn;t happening.

Posted by: jmurray019

A DJK isn't there simply to deter other teams from running our guys. When will this insane mentality end around here where we think that we need to only be in REACTIVE mode. Drives me nuts.


Repeat after me. PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE.

INITIATE MORE. RETALIATE LESS.

force other teams to worry about us instead of trying to counter their moves.

Having a capable (key word here) heavyweight or a coupla strong middleweights (aka Winchester/Crombeen or Asham/Rupp or Lucic/Thornton) will make everyone play more aggressively and less timidly. That's why some players play differently in different lineups. Even Steve Downie. Under Tocchet with a heavier lineup around him, he was even more abrasive than he is now. Now since Tampa has lightened their roster a bit, he's a little more well-behaved. He'll still stick up for teammates the way he went after Colby Armstrong last night but he's not quite as ornery as he was last year.

On our team, it could mean a little more aggressiveness on the ice from some of the guys you don't ordinarily associate that with.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 26, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

There's a reason Darcy Tucker was such a good fighter; dirty as he was, he had to be.
---------------

true warrior. That # he did on Daniel Lacroix of the Flyers..that warmed my heart even though I liked Lacroix. But the Flyers were trying to terrorize every team with their lineup that year and Darcy really stuck it to em.

"As a sidenote, I'm hearing first-hand that the USNDTP is - finally - teaching guys how to fight. Better late than never - it's not true you can't get hurt in a hockey fight, you most definitely can."

The Caps once brought in a fight instructor to teach some of their Euros how to defend themselves in a hockey fight. Under David Poile.

btw sidenote, the guy who Bob Probert reall credited with helping him become a better hockey player was ex-Caps coach Bryan Murray. Mike Keenan's been mentioned by quite a few players also for being a great teacher and mentor. And there's probably an equivalent # of players who disliked him. (I'm guessing all the soft ones)

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 26, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

@timbo

Yeah, the Jello Man is just plain dour. Horton has cooled, and I was hoping his fight the other week might spark his game (ahem, are you listening Brooksie??). With Savard being out, he's going to have to pick it up.

Speaking of Boston and Savard, perhaps they might see value in a guy like MP. I doubt anything could be worked out to help us offensively, but we could maybe pry a young, tough daman from them (I don't think they'd part with their Erskine in McQuaid, but it'd be worth an inquiry)

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 26, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

@timbo

Yeah, the Jello Man is just plain dour. Horton has cooled, and I was hoping his fight the other week might spark his game (ahem, are you listening Brooksie??). With Savard being out, he's going to have to pick it up.

Speaking of Boston and Savard, perhaps they might see value in a guy like MP. I doubt anything could be worked out to help us offensively, but we could maybe pry a young, tough daman from them (I don't think they'd part with their Erskine in McQuaid, but it'd be worth an inquiry)

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 26, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

seriously man..Laich played a very gritty game v the Rangers. I didn't see him do anything but dig hard into the ice and take the shortest distance to the puck and he tried to bury people into the boards. He also made two very nice plays on the forecheck where he outmuscled a guy for the puck and then created a scoring chance. The first time it was against McDonagh who is one strong kid on his skates (Rags are stacked with that type).

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 26, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with vermontcaps on this, Laich's overall play has been poor for about 20 games.

By this I mean he hasn't been playing for what you expect out of a 2nd line wing. He has contributed almost no offense. He creates very very scoring chances and has been horrible in front of the net. He has been terrible on the PP too(but everyone has).

However, I will give credit to Laich for his defensive play.

IMO, Laich would be a great checking line winger.

This season he has been one of the best forward in the league at playing D and he would fit perfectly on a shut down line(he also provides the ability to win a faceoff if the center is thrown out).

But he is, at best, an average 2nd line winger. He just doesn't have the offense.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 26, 2011 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I know his stats are not stellar in Hershey right now, but, anyone think Dmitri Kugryshev could stick with the Caps next year?

37 GP 4G 8A 12 Pts -1 +/- 6PIM

Posted by: wolvi6987 | January 26, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

See? I'm surprised he hasn't already been called up for a look, he sounds like a good fit on our 4th....barf

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 26, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

@jmurry019

IMO the last time the Caps looked good against a scrappy Atlanta team is when ESKINE POUNDED BOULTON IN THE "FIGHT OF THE YEAR" (HOCKEYFIGHTS.COM) Boulton picked that fight and John landed some
haymakers to his mouth. We played well, and won

Cstanton is totally right. This is a violent sport. You can't react. Guys like Hendricks and Erskine set a tone that is needed for Ovi, Green, and Backi to get the "elbow room" they need to do their work. Be proactive on the tone setting. How can GMGM not understand this when I watched him do it in our old division ?????????????????????????????????

Just amazed at the nimber of folks om this site that don't understand the NHL game or hockey in general. The Flyers knock on the door of "Mr. Stanley" constantly. The Pens have some real "bad dudes" in their lineup, and are getting ready to snatch that ugly bowl again. Has Leonsis turned into Dan Snyder? Ted refuses to imitate the success of the Pens and Flyers. Snyder refuses to imitate the success of the Pats.

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 26, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton

In fairness to you, Laich was more visible against the Rags. In fact, I jumped outta my couch when I saw him set-up in front of the net during a pp...hunched over, I thought he was Erskine for a minute! I do think he's been absent the last few weeks and even when he's on, I think he's capable of taking it to another level.

He can most definitely be more of a presence in scrums. He always does one of two things: 1) play peacemaker, 2) scowl at someone but never follow-up. His scowl (in which he does look mean) is starting to wear on me much like Fehr's stupid smirks (which, I must admit, he's toned down and has actually shown some steel in those regards this year)

I think Laich is just too darn nice and CLASSY to engage in the dirty work that I think is necessary to elevate his game. I think his leadership stature would increase tenfold if he developed an edge (different than a mean streak).

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 26, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

@Vermont
@Cstanton

Keep stirring up anger and unrest on the site, until people start to understand the NHL game. You can't be the softest team in the league and "hoist that big ugly punch bowl"

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 26, 2011 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Its called 'situational imitation'

We only imitate or try to imitate certain aspects of winning teams. Those aspects are ones that usually fall in line with what GM already believes in.


re: Laich, you can only dog a non-scorer for his effort. And his effort has been there lately. He can't control his scoring because he's not a playmaker. Throw him on a line with Majo and Hendricks and maybe he'll get some better chances.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 26, 2011 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I think Laich is just too darn nice and CLASSY to engage in the dirty work that I think is necessary to elevate his game. I think his leadership stature would increase tenfold if he developed an edge (different than a mean streak
--------------------

you can add Chimera, Fehr, Gordo, and even Brads to that list.

But yes, Laich could definitely bring a bigger edge to this team than he does. But like most of our players, he's not comfortable playing confrontational hockey. Physically, he's built about the same as Chris Clark. He could at least play with Clark's degree of grit. (Which was non-existent at the end of his Caps tenure but that doesn't surprise me.)

if anyone remembers the Flames run to the Cup, there wasn't a player in hockey who played with more aggression than Chris Clark that year. He was just a monster on every shift. I remember watching him and going...damn I hope the Caps pick him up. lol

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 26, 2011 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Happy 50th birthday to 99, the most dominating player in the history of all team sports.

Posted by: joek443 | January 26, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Laich scored 25 + 34 = 59 last year. A lot was on the PP but a lot was from traffic generated in front of the net. Scoring from in close in the second half of 08 and the playoffs was what got him the current deal. Now his production is down. We need the D he offers but we need the O too as we know it is there. He, Ovi, Backie, Green, Knuble and Semin are all way down on O production. Laich needs to step up and be more than a checking line player or else his current $2.4M is about as much as he'll ever make.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 26, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

F Gretzky. If he didn't have the ample ice room and stellar supporting cast afforded to him by Glen Sather his production would have been less.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 26, 2011 5:50 PM | Report abuse

You know who the most underrated forward on that Oilers team was imo? Dave Hunter. One of the best defensive checking forwards in the nhl but was overshadowed by all the offensive glitz on that team. He was also Dale's brother.

Posted by: cstanton1 | January 26, 2011 5:56 PM | Report abuse

@ vermont

sgm3 does make some good points, but still
doesn't understand "the nasty" aspect of this game.

When I think of #99, I also think of Marty McSorley and Dave Samenko (spelling ??) protecting his rear and opening things up !!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 26, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

@ vermont

sgm3 does make some good points, but still
doesn't understand "the nasty" aspect of this game.

When I think of #99, I also think of Marty McSorley and Dave Samenko (spelling ??) protecting his rear and opening things up !!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 26, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

F Gretzky. If he didn't have the ample ice room and stellar supporting cast afforded to him by Glen Sather his production would have been less.
--------------------------------

LOL right, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts...

Posted by: joek443 | January 26, 2011 6:23 PM | Report abuse

@Hunterfor

The Hockey News ran a special on #99 and there was a section with the most games he played with certain players. Hunter, Semenko, McSorley, McClelland, Krushelnyski, Messier and that's just the tip of a pretty big iceberg....man did he have some muscle backing him up!

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 26, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Ah... Dave "Cementhead" Semenko. He played his role. He opened up space for Gretzky. Everyone on the team should have a role to play and know exactly what it is. We need a proven, gritty 2C to set an example with his spirited play and will to win. A leader by example. IMO, GMGM should be directing his resources in that direction. Just sayin...

Posted by: sca187 | January 27, 2011 12:51 AM | Report abuse

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