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Brashear Out Tonight vs. Atlanta

Morning skates are usually lighthearted, featuring lots of horseplay and plenty of chirping amongst the players.

That was not the case at Philips Arena an hour ago.

The Caps are under a lot of pressure, probably needing to win five or six of their final seven games. The serious mood, no doubt, was a reflection of that.

Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing remains to be seen.

"It was a little quiet; the music wasn't going as loud," defenseman Mike Green acknowledged. "We're just focused. We don't want to be over focused, but everyone is very serious about what's going on here and how important these games are."

Coach Bruce Boudreau also sensed it.

"I wanted it more lively," Boudreau said. "But maybe it's [because this is ] a more serious situation. I don't know. If you lose, you make it into something. If you win, it's [nothing]. As far as I'm concerned, as long they're ready at 7 o'clock, and they got a good sweat out there, and they feel good about themselves, that's the important thing."

Boudreau also said that enforcer Donald Brashear is nursing a lower body injury and will not play. With rugged defenseman John Erskine (upper body) also out, that leaves the Caps a little short in the toughness department against an opponent that's got a couple of willing combatants in Eric Boulton and Chris Thorburn.

Boudreau did not specify the nature of Brashear's injury, but he did say he "should" be back for Tuesday's game in Carolina. I saw Brashear ride the stationary bike hard for about 45 minutes and he seemed okay.

There are some other changes to the lineup as well. Defenseman Sami Lepsito will be scratched tonight and will be replaced by Steve Eminger, who will get in for the first time in 10 games.

Here's the rest of the lineup:

Forwards
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Kozlov
Fleischmann-Fedorov-Semin
Cooke-Laich-Fehr
Laing-Gordon-Bradley

Defense
Morrisonn-Green
Poti-Jurcina
Schultz-Eminger

Huet will oppose Lehtonen in goal.

The Thrashers, meantime, have only won two of their last 16 games and are out of the hunt. But Atlanta Coach/GM Don Waddell said his team feels a sense of responsibility to the rest of the league to play hard every night.

"We've battled hard," Waddell said. "We haven't given up. We don't talk about being the upsetter team. But we talk about winning games, playing hard and trying to move forward here."

That's it for now. Don't forget to join me for our weekly online chat at 2.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  March 21, 2008; 12:19 PM ET
 
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