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Caps-Canes morning skate notes

Semyon Varlamov will start in goal for the Caps in Carolina on what could be an historic night for the franchise.

They can clinch the top seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in club history with a win and a Devils loss (in regulation or overtime to the Rangers.)

If the Caps gain a single point, they'll break the last season's club record for points (108). With a win, they can also match the franchise record for victories (50) and set a new standard for road wins (they're tied with 22).

Following a very optional morning skate, here's what the lineup should look like against the Hurricanes tonight:

Forwards
Ovechkin-Backstrom-Knuble
Chimera-Morrison-Semin
Fleischmann-Belanger-Fehr
Laing-Steckel-Bradley

Defense
Sloan-Green
Poti-Corvo
Erskine-Carlson

You may notice there are some changes on the blue line. Coach Bruce Boudreau said he's simply giving Shaone Morrisonn and Jeff Schultz the night off in an effort to rest 'em up for the playoffs. Boudreau also praised Morrisonn for raising his level of play over the past month, an effort underscored by his nine-hit performance against Pittsburgh.

Brooks Laich, meantime, did not travel with the team. I saw him in the press box last night and he had a lot of swelling under/around his left eye. He wouldn't confirm that he's got a fracture from the puck that struck him during Tuesday's practice. But he didn't deny it, either.

Laich remains on schedule to practice lightly on Friday. But Boudreau said Sunday is starting to look unlikely for the tough winger, whose 257 consecutive games played streak came to an end Wednesday.

Some other notes and quotes from RBC Center:

*Scott Walker skated this morning, but is still likely to miss a few more games with what the team is calling a "tweaked knee." I put that in quotes because, as far as I can tell, he suffered the "knee" injury by getting punched in the head.

*Boyd Gordon remains with the Bears and is receiving treatment on his sore back. Not much more to update right now.

*Boudreau said he's looking for a full 60-minute effort from Varlamov, who has allowed 20 goals in five starts (1-2-2) since returning from a two-month layoff with groin and knee injuries. But he also left me with the distinct impression that he hasn't soured on the rookie.

"This is exactly what happened at the beginning of the year -- his first two periods were outstanding and then in the third period there would be a blowup and he would allow three or four goals," Boudreau said. "Then he got into a groove where he was allowing nothing until he got hurt."

"We need two goalies going forward," he added. "And we need two goalies at the top of [their] game."

*Manny Legace is expected to start in goal for the Hurricanes, who have lost four of their last six to drop out of serious playoff contention.

They'll be without Tuomo Ruutu, who will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. But the good news for the Canes is that franchise goalie Cam Ward (sidelined since Feb. 3 with a back injury) is practicing fully and could get a start or two before the end of the regular season.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  March 25, 2010; 12:57 PM ET
 | Tags: Carolina Hurricanes  
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Next: Bruce Boudreau: 'There's really only one goal'

Comments

"Scott Walker skated this morning, but is still likely to miss a few more games with what the team is calling a "tweaked knee." I put that in quotes because, as far as I can tell, he suffered the "knee" injury by getting punched in the head."

I love Tarik!!!

Posted by: capscoach | March 25, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

"Boyd Gordon remains with the Bears and is receiving treatment on his sore back. Not much more to update right now." Is this a typo or did I miss Boyd being sent to the Bears?

Posted by: NovaCath1 | March 25, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Varly should be in Chocotown for a week or two until he gets back his confidence and works on some of his bad tendencies: going down to butterfly too early, not coming out of the crease to challenge, lowering his glove. Neuvy has earned some more time in the bigs, also. IMHO, Varly is no where close to playoff level.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | March 25, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else hate it when BB plays both Erskine and Sloan on the same day?

Posted by: capscoach | March 25, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

giving my (semi) daily plug for erskine :) i'm happy he's in tonight, he never wouldv'e allowed rupp to roughouse ovi the way carlson did; i felt bad for carlson in the scrum as he looked totally helpless, like a deer stuck in the headlights....mark my word, the caps will never achieve greatness until they add some snarl and toughness to their lineup on a consistent basis

Posted by: vermontcaps | March 25, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

@JIMALLCAPS1
Neuvy is, I believe, injured right now...So even if BB wanted to send Varly down (or up depending on how you look at it) he couldn't.

So right now, we're stuck with hoping Varly can turn it around and get his mojo back...

@NovaCath1
Gordo is just getting treatment up in Hershey by one of the trainers up there. He'll be back up (or down) here once he feels he's healthy enough to play.

Posted by: jsnyd1 | March 25, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

ShaMo really threw his body around last night. After having to immediately hop a flight down to Raleigh after the game, I totally understand giving him a night off.

Posted by: LouLewis | March 25, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

@vermontcaps

The Red Wings of the past 10 or so years really haven't had any snarl (a declawed Bertuzzi doesn't count) and they've done fine. Also, the Caps have plenty of toughness...Ovi, Laich, Knuble, Chimera, Brads, Erskine (hopefully won't play a minute in the playoffs), Walker...

fists != tough
fists + playoffs = stupid (ie Brash)

Posted by: jsnyd1 | March 25, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

give Carlson a break, at least he stepped in. Which is more than either Schultz or Corvo would do. For a green rookie like Carlson to at least grab big Mike Rupp and pull him off Ovechkin is pretty impressive to me.

The guy who stood around and did nothing was Belanger. He looked pretty scared just hanging onto little Pascal Dupuis.

Remember, Carlson was also the player who fought a Flyer tough guy who was roughing up our goalie in the rookies game. He's got toughness and character to go with his talent. In the next couple of years he'll get bigger and stronger.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 25, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Damn...now we got to send out guys with back issues to Hershey , cause the team back cracker got busted...damn,,,(just kidding)

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | March 25, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

@ jsnyd1

don't be so quick to rule the sexy lumberjack out for the playoffs this year. While he may have been past by Carlson on the depth chart this year, last year he was arguably our best defender in the playoffs

Posted by: _stevo | March 25, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

fists + playoffs = stupid (ie Brash)

Posted by: jsnyd1 | March 25, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

not that stupid, he took out Blair Betts. Important player for the Rangers.

And Det with Kronwall and Stuart have 2 big hitters on defense. Then you add their grit upfront incl their skill players. Why do you think they were registering almost 50 hits/game in the playoffs and finals? Their grit is underrated as are the Penguins. But yes overall Detroit won their Cup a different way than a team like Anaheim did.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 25, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

last year he was arguably our best defender in the playoffs

Posted by: _stevo | March 25, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

glad someone remembered Erskine's accomplishments. Fans just like to pigeonhole him as a useless player because of his skating issues. But hockey is more complex than just being a great skater. Erskine when he's healthy and paired with the right partner can be a real asset to us. And he keeps it simple, doesn't get caught up ice. His game is just banging forwards along the boards and freeing up the puck. Thats when he's at his best and thats how he was so good against the Rangers.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 25, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Varly should be in Chocotown for a week or two until he gets back his confidence and works on some of his bad tendencies: going down to butterfly too early, not coming out of the crease to challenge, lowering his glove. Neuvy has earned some more time in the bigs, also. IMHO, Varly is no where close to playoff level.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | March 25, 2010 1:21 PM
----------------------------
Varly can not be sent to Hershey. The AHL has a thing call the "clear day roster" which was set a week after the trade deadline. It lists the group of skaters and goalies the team will use for the remainder of the season and the playoffs. It also lists "in residence" players who will fill roster spots in case of injury or NHL callups. Hershey's goalies are listed as Neuvirth and Holtby, with Bacashihua in residence. When Neuvy got hurt last week, Cash moved up into his spot. Yes, there are lots of grey areas in the rules, but I don't think they could just plug Varly into the Hershey roster because he "needs to get his confidence back".

Posted by: tess2201 | March 25, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

here's some lumberjack love

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNsw5gEJOxY

Erskine with 3 crosschecks to Callahan's back, then he whirls around and knocks Avery down, then goes after him. Just good ole mucking it up in the crease action. He's not a great stay at home defenseman, but he's one of the few we got along with Mo.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 25, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

@jsnyd1
"Gordo is just getting treatment up in Hershey by one of the trainers up there. He'll be back up (or down) here once he feels he's healthy enough to play."

Remember that hershey doesn't have a licensed trainer on staff. go figure why, they use med center personnel for treatment stuff. My guess is he is up there seeing the same Doc that worked out Fehr's back problem a few years ago - successfully.

Posted by: rockdaredlangely | March 25, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton1

I agree with having heavy hitters on a team and maybe I took snarl and turned it into bruiser. I just take exception with people who think that the team isn't "tough", which leads me to think that they do mean lack of bruisers.

People like Brash are wastes of roster spots on the whole for teams like the Caps, Red Wings, Sharks, Canucks, etc. There's absolutely no reason to waste a spot for a 5 minute at the most player in the playoffs.

Also, if the Caps couldn't beat the Rangers WITH Betts in the lineup, they didn't deserve to win the series.

@_stevo/cstanton1

I don't discredit Erskine's accomplishments from last year, he could have been considered the best defender in the playoffs we had. But look at the team this year and he doesn't crack the top 6 unless we're playing Tampa, maybe Philly or the Rangers. Too slow for the system and doesn't have the hands or positioning to make up for it (at least this year).

Posted by: jsnyd1 | March 25, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

@rockdaredlangely

Ahh ok, thanks for the clarification. I didn't realize that they did not have a trainer...kind of odd to think about actually.

Posted by: jsnyd1 | March 25, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

But look at the team this year and he doesn't crack the top 6 unless we're playing Tampa, maybe Philly or the Rangers. Too slow for the system and doesn't have the hands or positioning to make up for it (at least this year).

Posted by: jsnyd1 | March 25, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Tampa has better team speed than Boston does. So if we end up playing the Bruins, Erskine would be an asset. He's a better option to bang around guys like Wheeler, Lucic and Thornton than is a Corvo type.

Posted by: cstanton1 | March 25, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

@cstanton I couldn't agree more about Carlson, he did just fine last night. for a split second he was maybe surprised when Rupp came in waaaay after the play was whistled dead and started being his d-bag self, but he quickly recovered and got him away from Ovie. Carlson also leveled Crosby with a good hard, clean check - which of course the WATB started cross-checking him for as soon as the refs weren't looking.

The one who hasn't shown me anything as far as physical play goes - or nearly enough anyway - remains, Sr. Jose Corvo.

Posted by: govtimbo | March 25, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm interested to see how Flash plays these next couple of games without Laich. After last nights performance (2 penalties) I'm afraid he may be the odd man out once the playoffs begin. Flash just doesn't seem to finish anything cleanly. Its frustrating because his talent puts him into position, but then he wiffs, mis-handles the puck, or turns it over at the blue line. Even when he scored that game winner last week, the shot was a knuckler off the heal of his stick. And he doesn't crash the net as hard or as well as Chimera.

Posted by: nfb987 | March 25, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Why does BB not put Sloan in for Laing as a forward. Is that experiment over??

Is there room for Erskine, our toughest, most physical, blueliner, for the playoffs? The math does not work if S. Morrison's stock is up, and Carlson looks like the second coming of Mike Green increasingly.

Thats your six for the playoffs: Green, Sarge, Corvo, Poti, Morrison and Carlson.

Posted by: Political_Stratgst | March 25, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

thanks for the love to johnny e. everyone :) i agree that carlson is going to be a real deal, real soon, but we need that element right now....i'll never forget watching scott stevens go toe-to-toe with bobby nystrom in his rookie season (18yrs vs. 30-something), and i saw similar bouts from a 18yr old lucic (being up here now, the bruins are my adopted 2nd team....so long as they're not playing against the caps, i root for them too....rest assured if we meet boston in the first round, i'll be in boston donning my caps jersey proudly)....point is, if carlson's playing in the nhl, he needs to bring it now; if he's uncomfortable getting aggressive with much older, seasoned veterans, than perhaps he would be better served getting some seasoning and confidence down in hershey

Posted by: vermontcaps | March 25, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

thanks for the love to johnny e. everyone :) i agree that carlson is going to be a real deal, real soon,
________________________________

meant to say carlson will be the real deal, real soon......

Posted by: vermontcaps | March 25, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

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