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Back to Work

The Caps (and this blog) return to action today, fresh off of a five day break.

Don't know about you, but after Wednesday's All-Star Game in Dallas, I'm ready to watch some real hockey again. I'm dying to see some hitting, a few battles in the corner and especially some passion.

Passion is the operative word for the Capitals tonight in Raleigh. The schedule says there's 34 games left for them to prove they belong amongst the Eastern Conference's eight playoff teams. I, for one, need some convincing.

It's been six days since they were beaten at their own game by the Panthers, who out-worked them from start to finish and ultimately embarrassed them, 4-1, on home ice.

So here's my prediction:

The Caps' effort tonight against the Hurricanes -- win or lose -- will reveal how serious they are about making the playoffs.

Who's going to show up? Will it be the Caps who beat the 'Canes 5-2 at RBC Center nine days ago? Or the Caps who went on vacation early against the Panthers?

I know a team doesn't make (or miss) the playoffs because of one game. But I know this, too: we'll know what frame of mind the Caps are in by 10 p.m.

Brief lineup update: Defenseman Brian Pothier (upper body) is day-to-day and winger Matt Bradley (family reasons) are out tonight. Defenseman Jeff Schultz, meantime, has been called up from Hershey.

I'm also told that defenseman Bryan Muir (broken foot) and right wing Richard Zednik (abdominal surgery) are close to returning. As for defenseman John Erskine (broken foot), he's not as close.

And finally, don't forget to send me your questions today. I'm doing a chat on www.washingtonpost.com, live from a rest stop (or other place with wireless) en route to Raleigh.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  January 26, 2007; 8:10 AM ET
 
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Next: Injury News and a Bold Playoff Prediction

Comments

All right, thanks for the update, Tarik.

I'm ready for the real action myself, but it's too bad that I won't get to see any Caps action since I'm in college in Rochester. Oh well, I'll watch the highlights.

I think what hurt the Caps in the last couple of weeks or so is the injuries to Zednik, Muir, and Erskine. Those guys bring speed and toughness to the Caps lineup. Do you agree?

Posted by: Rochester, NY | January 26, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

I cannot wait the Capitals back in action. Let's just hope that they were able to recharge their batteries during the break. This weekend will be key to determining if this is a playoff team or not.

Capital Fanatic
http://www.capitalfanatic.com

Posted by: Capital Fanatic | January 26, 2007 12:07 PM | Report abuse

The caps desperately need to show up tonight.....and ultimately skate into and perhaps, deeply into the playoffs.....

This team needs some REAL SUPPORT in the form of a REAL FAN BASE.......

If you are a true CAPS fan - bring along a hockey novice, introduce someone to the speed of the game...the toughness....the skill involved.

It's how I became a fan, and I strive to introduce a few folks a season.

Was anyone else at the game weeks back that had a whole host DC United fans in attendance? The chants throughout the contest were awesome - the closest I've heard to a real hometown quality to Verizon.

I think that a real push through the next half of the season could key another growth in the fan base - and help create a new winner-type mentality that the club has lacked since B. Cassidy sunk the ship.

Thanks

Posted by: future | January 26, 2007 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I watched part of the ASG, against my better judgment, and re-discovered how awfully boring it is. The young stars game especially was just atrocious, slow-motion shinny - the equivalent of shooting baskets in the driveway with a buddy.

Interesting how Green commented that playing in the young stars game would give him some confidence - I cringed at the thought that it would create some bad habits.

Bradley seems in and out of the lineup a lot this season, all for different reasons. I hope the issues aren't some sign of a bigger problem. I have a feeling that he's one of a good characters in the room and may be important in keeping things upbeat, but focused, for these next few months. Having him out I think hurts us in more ways than just breaking up the checking line.

Posted by: pepper | January 26, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

The young stars game was horrific...I felt embarrassed as a hockey fan. All Star game was pretty entertaining actually.

I agree with Tarik's take. Caps need to come out strong out of the gate tonight.

Posted by: usiel | January 26, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Tarik,

How was the ASG? Anything interesting happen that didnt make it into the papers?

Posted by: Shmee | January 26, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

> Ovechkin said he plans to continue wearing the bluish mirrored visor that was attached to his helmet during the All-Star Game.

REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM REDRUM

This what Marty and other team goalies will see in Ovechkin's blue ray mirror visor.

Drop your schticks now! :-)

Posted by: Anonymous | January 26, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Pepper -- I had to laugh at your comment. I was at the Young Stars game; basically it WAS shinny, but the good news is that, at one point, Green gave someone a shove, which stood out as the only "defensive" oriented move of the game!

Tarik -- I think many of us need some convincing that the Caps belong in that top eight, but perhaps more to the point, I think the team needs to convince themselves that they belong, too. We should start to find out what they think tonight and tomorrow night.

Finally, there has been huge and generally very negative press in Canada about the owners vote to stick with the current scheduling format; I'm curious to know how Ted voted. Any info/insight on that?

Posted by: Fred | January 26, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Well, there's our answer. Another stinker. Injuries notwithstanding, they're just a plain lousy team. We got treated to a little fluky hot streak for a while, but they are what they are and have a long way to go. Until they get it together they deserve to play to a half-empty arena. I've already paid way too much to see way too many pathetic performances.

Posted by: Mike | January 26, 2007 9:43 PM | Report abuse

One kid is carrying the whole team and he got schooling from management. Hypocricy at it's best.

- Get Kasparaitis!

- No, we still paying for Jagr.

- Well, it's not Ovechkin's fault.

Posted by: Pete | January 26, 2007 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Ugh. for christs sake, it was a mess for so many reasons.
1) I think the call on Klepis right after he left the penalty box was complete BS. The calls this season have been stupid. The new nhl is turning into a pansy game. By pansy I mean: soft, whiny and often unpleasant. Its gotten ridiculous. The guys in charge need to be drawn and quartered.
2) The Caps have a number of players that can't compete offensively and hardly defensively. As much as i hate to call anyone out, I have seen nothing out of Laich, Clymer, and Klepis, Beech, Pettinger and Sutherby. Asides from Ovie, Semin, Zubie and Clark, the offense doesn't exist. Period. Whats worse is those guys holding the team back aren't even playing consistent defense. As for the blueline, Pothier feels too much pressure and has 1 goal, Morrisson and Green are young and committed though still prone to large mistakes, especially Green; but hey, he's a rookie and so its inevitable. I accept that. Eminger is hit or miss. Nycholat as well. Apparently, Muir and Erskine were huge. Johnson gets worse with every game.
3) Because of the aforementioned performances, which are the average, this team cannot get to the playoffs. They don't deserve too. Painfully, brutally honest, i am. Sigh. Its a shame. I hoped that these guys could prove themselves capable, but I just haven't seen that. The hard part is that whats been confirmed is that the team isn't far in its rebuild and may actually be further away than previously thought or expected.

As i write this, the Caps can;t get the puck out of the zone and its led to another carolina goal. sigh. Joe B's mantra is "The Caps don't clear the zone..."

Posted by: Kerplunk | January 27, 2007 3:03 AM | Report abuse

OK, I take it back. Sad to say, but what they think and how hard they work doesn't make any difference at all when the talent is THIS thin. I had hoped for better. You don't have to call anyone out now, the 'Canes did it for us last night.

Posted by: Fred | January 27, 2007 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Tarik,
You ready to come down off the fence and admit that this team is not gonna make it to the top 8.
I had high hopes myself, especially after their good start but i just think the lack of depth has killed them.

Posted by: LIVINIT | January 27, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Yesh, what's with all the hate? Teams have bad games and bad streatches. They have even worse streatches when over half of the defense is on the IR. Hopefully we can get Pothier back next week. It's obvious just how huge his presence is to the whole team.

Give the kids a break guys, and gals. They're AHL call ups for a reason. It's going to take all of them alot more time, at least another season for some and probably 2-3 for others to really develop into NHL-caliber players. There's a reason the NHL is probably the least kid-centric league in professional sports.

Posted by: EricS | January 27, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I diagree, EricS. I hate to say it, but i do. With over half the season complete, the goals look like this: AO, 30; AS, 27; CC; 20; DZ; 17; followed by matt pettinger, with 11. No one else has more than Clymers 6 goals. That tells the story right there. They have had more than enough ice time to show that they can score, I think.

Posted by: Kerplunk | January 27, 2007 6:46 PM | Report abuse

> The Capitals are expected to move winger Richard Zednik before the deadline ...

http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/2007/01/28/3467360-sun.html

Hopefully Caps get a good d-man to help Alex&Alex.

Posted by: Pete | January 28, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

> After debuting a blue mirrored visor in the All-Star Game, Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin was back to his usual smoked black visor Friday and Saturday.

> "The boss said no," Ovechkin said, referring to Capitals general manager George McPhee.

http://www.newsobserver.com/796/story/537030.html


F***** noooooooooooooooooo

Posted by: Pete | January 28, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

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