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Big Night For Nycholat

Tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning will be No. 10 in the NHL this season for Lawrence Nycholat.

That's a big deal for the 27-year-old defenseman, who has spent most of his career toiling away in the minor leagues.

It means he is now subject to waivers. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, another team could claim Nycholat if the Capitals were to send him back to Hershey this season. Considering the way he's played the past nine games, he almost definitely would get scooped up.

The Caps aren't going to risk losing him.

After failing to make the team out of training camp the past two seasons, the Calgary-native had become afterthought within the organization - until the Capitals suffered injuries to three defensemen in late December.

Since getting the call, Nycholat has two goals, four assists and a plus-minus rating of plus 5 in Washington. What's more telling is that he's getting 21:54 of ice time per night.

"The 10 game threshold is always a consideration," Coach Glen Hanlon said today. "We're going to play the best players who are here. Lawrence has deserved a chance to stay. So I see no reason for his play to fall off, and I see no reason for him to return Hershey."

Hanlon paused, then added, "But we're all under the microscope. And we're all evaluated daily."

Generously listed at 5-11, 200, Nycholat isn't a the biggest or strongest player on the ice. He isn't the fastest or most agile, either.

But he's impressed the coaching staff with his efficient play. He's smart in his own zone, makes crisp breakout passes and doesn't panic.

"I'm excited that I've played any number of games in Washington this year," Nycholat said. "They've given me an opportunity, and I just want to keep impressing them and keep contributing so they'll want to have me in the lineup every night."

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  January 11, 2007; 12:34 PM ET
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