Tomas Fleischmann and Nicklas Backstrom return
After taking Saturday off, a more complete Caps team was back on the ice for practice this morning.
Olympians Tomas Fleischmann and Nicklas Backstrom returned from Vancouver and took back their spots in the lineup. Neither of the Alexes, however, were in attendance. (Alexander Semin reported to KCI, but was given a "mental day" by Coach Bruce Boudreau; Alex Ovechkin is expected back tomorrow after possibly taking part in the closing ceremonies in Vancouver tonight.)
"It's good to be back again, but it's a little disappointing about the tournament," Backstrom said of defending champion Sweden getting shocked in the quarterfinals by Slovakia. "I guess that's hockey. I'm glad to be back for Washington and [I'm] looking forward to the last run before the playoffs."
I've got to write a feature story (and watch the gold medal game), so Gene Wang is handling the story for tomorrow's Post. But before I go, a few brief notes:
*This morning's practice was another lengthy, system's heavy session that concluded with some hard skating at the end. The intensity of the skate, however, was less than that of previous days as Boudreau has begun to taper the workouts and prepare his players for their March 3 return in Buffalo.
*Boudreau's explanation for yesterday's moves:
Tyler Sloan and Quintin Laing "haven't played a lot of hockey, and who knows how much they are going to play," he said. "Quintin, for example, has played like six minutes in the last six weeks, so we felt two full games would do him wonderful. And the same for Tyler. Instead of being a sixth defenseman, get out there and be a top three and play in all situations."
As for Semyon Varlamov, "he just needs to play. He told us he did a lot of skating in the Olympic break, but [Ilya] Bryzgalov and [Evgeni] Nabokov took the nets, so he he didn't see a lot of pucks. We want to get him to face some shots."
Sloan and Laing played last night against Bridgeport and are expected to suit up for the Bears today in Wilkes Barre/Scranton. Varlamov, meantime, is expected to get the start.
*Boudreau's thoughts on today's US-Canada rematch:
"The gut feel is the real feel, and in the end, I am Canadian," he said. "So, 5-3 Canada. Or 6-3 if they score in an empty net."
Is this bigger than a Game 7 of Stanley Cup final?
"Not if I'm in it," Boudreau cracked. "It's big for the country. Canada, we're the loveable losers. The Americans beat us at everything, all the time. So for this to happen on Canadian soil, it's either going to be, 'Oh, man, they're always beating us.' Or, 'Hey, we finally won one.'"
"I don't know how many TVs there are in Canada, but they'll all be on, to one thing, at 3 o'clock. It will be the talk of the town for days and days to come."
Gene will have more on the return of Fleischmann and Backstrom in tomorrow's paper.
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