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Erskine Is Questionable for Game 2

The big news out here at KCI today was the recall of defensemen Karl Alzner and Tyler Sloan. Suspicions were raised last night when both players were surprise scratches for a playoff game in Hershey, and those suspicions were confirmed a little more than an hour ago when they took part in the Caps' morning skate.

Coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn't say whether either will get into the lineup tonight against the Penguins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. But there's a pretty good chance that one of them will suit up because John Erskine is "questionable" with an apparent leg injury (suffered when he took a shot on Saturday).

Alzner and Sloan -- together they are Hershey's top 'D' pair -- are technically emergency recalls, according to Boudreau, because they are filling in for Erskine and Jeff Schultz (back).

"We've only had six healthy defensemen up here and I think we were playing with fire if someone would go down in warmup," Boudreau said. "We've got John banged up a little bit. He's going to try it and see if he can go. But we figured we take precautionary measures and call up a couple of guys just in case. If we had to go to one, they both know our systems as well as anyone."

Boudreau also conceded that he might have made a call-up anyway. After looking pretty good against the Rangers, it was pretty apparent that the Caps 'D' corps could benefit from another mobile defenseman (or two) to keep up with the Pens' speedy and skilled forwards.

"Especially at one point in this series we might have to go back-to-back so we want them to get acclimated to us," Boudreau said. "They're here for today and probably on a continued basis."

When deciding which Hershey defensemen to recall, Boudreau joked that he called Bears Coach Bob Woods and asked which of them had the best playoff beards.

For the record, both Alzner and Sloan have scruffy beards.

Sloan said he found out about the recall late yesterday.

"I don't know anything right now," he said. "We've just been told that it's precautionary in case anything happens. I was going to rink for meetings, then went home for some rest and a nap and got a phone call saying, 'Stay home, you're sick. And your partner caught the flu.'"

Alzner cracked: "We had the 12-hour flu."

Seems to be a lot of that going around the NHL these days.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  May 4, 2009; 11:25 AM ET
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Next: Shapiro: Smokin' Al Known for Good Calls


Erskine has really stepped up his game this post season! Let's go Caps!

Posted by: sroessle | May 4, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Intrigue, suspense, mystery...
I can only take so much. I think I might have to ignore the computer today and just settle on being surprised this evening.

Posted by: oo7 | May 4, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

If Alzner's back, I smell a Steinbog update in the future.

Posted by: Section117 | May 4, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Erskine is a big loss - he has played great the last couple of months. But Sloan and Alzner both looked pretty good when they were up this year.

Posted by: ccCapsfan | May 4, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

It is nice to be able to recall quality players if there is a need, and even then, the Bears still beat the Baby Pens and have gone up 2-0 in the series.

Posted by: MikeL-Caps91 | May 4, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Trial by fire for both if they either see action. Not only the playoffs but the Pens and in place of our most physical defender.

Good luck, boys. Strap it on and stand tall.

Posted by: saintex | May 4, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

It will be nice to have some more speed on the blue line. Gotta choose Erskine over these kids though....As long as he's healthy.

Posted by: ZMANN84 | May 4, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the laugh, Sloan and Boudreau. I about snarfed my lunch when I read Sloan's account. Guess we'll see what happens tonight.

Posted by: kittypawz | May 4, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Greg S. | May 4, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Depth in the playoffs........priceless

Posted by: RichC3 | May 4, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Scofield | May 4, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

@Greg S.

That Sloan hit is what I call "Rockin the Red."

Posted by: SA-Town | May 4, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Man, I remember when I though Erskine being out was a good thing. Stay healthy, big guy! Although, I do like the idea of getting some fast and rested guys in the lineup, too.

Posted by: amberlynne | May 4, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Remember, Erskine is not out yet, just questionable...

Posted by: uncatim | May 4, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Uh oh!! Lumberjack out......that ain't good.

Posted by: doughless | May 4, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Please, just 3 or 4 "Sloan" hit on Crosby and Malkin per game and 1 or 2 "Ovechkin" hit on Gonchar and the Caps should have this series.

Posted by: JohnWWW | May 4, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Yuck, why couldn't it be Mike Green with the injury, preferably season ending?

Posted by: hackeynut666 | May 4, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with everyone Erskine has played tremendous in the playoffs this year, the best hockey I've ever seen him play in all his time with the caps. Poti has also been solid in the playoffs as well. However, if they are both hurt it might not be a bad idea to sit them both for Game 2 so we can have them as close to 100% as possible for the remainder of the series. Erskine took a pretty nasty shot off the leg towards the end of the game Saturday and Poti's been nursing an injury for awhile.

One important note in what BB said above
"Boudreau also conceded that he might have made a call up anyway. After looking pretty good against the Rangers, it was pretty apparent that the Caps 'D' corps could benefit from another mobile defensemen (or two) to keep up with the Pens' speedy and skilled forwards"

That's a very keen observation, because NY was a much more physical team and we really needed to be physical in that series. Pittsburg is a "finesse" team for the most part. Having talented skaters could be very important and sloan/alzner could be very good if they play tonight. Both are very solid skaters. I'm not implying that they would outplay Erskine or Poti by any means but having there speed and skating ability could be very big tonight if they HAVE to suit up tonight. Look at some of the breakaways Pitt got in Game 1 or how they always seem to get a couple breakaways in games because of their speed. It may not hurt allowing Poti/Erskine to rest 1 game and get 2 fresh smooth skaters back there. Just a thought.

Posted by: DCSportsFan28 | May 4, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I must say, Alzner certainly has "beardability". (Sorry, couldn't resist!) Sloan isn't bad either.

Posted by: jmu_capsgirl | May 4, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

A good clean hit on malkin usually ends up with Crosby trying to fight the whole team...What a leader he is...

Posted by: SA-Town | May 4, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Erskine has played really well up to this point but anyone else notice he looked really slow in game 1? I remember yelling for him to skate at least a few times (it was obviously due to the injury).

I think it will be a good idea to have a couple mobile defensemen up to take his spot until he recovers.

Posted by: Moose33 | May 4, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse


Me too, funny how things change. I used to think except for Green and Poti, you could take our whole D-corps and swap 'em for different players.

Posted by: bhound69 | May 4, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse


I see no problems with Cindy trying to fight everyone. Nothing like having him sit 5 min for instigating. Just make sure that the cups are lowered.

Posted by: Greg S. | May 4, 2009 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I strongly disagree with the comments on the last post re: Sloans play. I've been watching Bears defenders for over ten years and he and Alzner have played very well in the postseason and are a big reason for our record (and the PK success.) Sloan tends to go for the big hit on occasion and get caught out of position. Karl gets turned around and can get beaten by a speedy forward. They both will play a simple defensive game if in the lineup tonight and will be fine.

Posted by: ekays | May 4, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I have to say. Karl's got some pretty bodacious playoff fur going.

Posted by: kittypawz | May 4, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I texted a friend during Sat's game that Erskine looked slow - guess this explains it. Hope it's not serious, and, if needed, the boys from Hershey will carry on in the Varly-Bouds tradition!

Posted by: bluejeener1 | May 4, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

@hackeynut666: Yeah Green getting hurt would be the best thing for the Caps. Friggin' bonehead. Do real Caps fans a favor and don a Pens jersey fool.

Posted by: fanohock1 | May 4, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

@hackeynut666: I don't see it. Green scored a goal if I remember correctly against the Rangers. I don't recall the message boards lighting up on some egregious mistake Green made (recently), so I don't get your comment. I guess it's an opinion.

Here's mine: Before you start wishing injury on a Capitals player, note that there will be several hundred people with differing opinions. Each of our players are valuable to our team. Unless they're obviously scoring goals for the other team or intentionally s*cking, shut your pie hole.

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | May 4, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Erskine has had a pretty solid playoffs so far. But he has been beated by speedier guys a few times and the Capitals D in general have been pretty bad at giving up 2 on 1s. I think Alzner would just try and hang back and play solid D so if he's in hopefully there won't be any of these caused by him jumping up. We'll see.

Posted by: Stu_c | May 4, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Erskine being out is fine. Despite everyone being on his bandwagon right now, he is most likely to get "schooled" by Sidney and/or Malkin - to borrow a "tool" from Teddy, Erskine's like Brendan Witt 2.0.

I don't know if Alzner or Sloan is an upgrade just yet, as first time play-off jitters is not good against the Pens.

In terms of it's a wash with either guy - yeah, I'm pretty comfortable it's a wash.

Posted by: Jaymagz | May 4, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: lylewimbledon | May 4, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse


I think you're hanging out pretty much by yourself here. Erskine's played really quite good since coming back. He's been solid on D, good positioning, hard hits, and playing against the best lines.

Posted by: Greg S. | May 4, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I definately remember the Poti block, good to see he's in, if a little bruised. As for Erksine looking slow Saturday, might I suggest that while Erskine has had a good set of playoff games, speed is not his biggest asset.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | May 4, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Yahoo!!! Last minute Ticks!

I need sign ideas.. Help me Oh, Sage and Masterful Caps fans! I need a Good un!

Section 420 reporting in! Painted red head, Blue Goatee again. Brash Jersey.


Posted by: jdhoover | May 4, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I agree with oldtimehockey: He looked great against the Rags, because his game is well-suited to a team like that. And that's fine; having a little bit of everything is no bad thing. But he's no speed demon. Alzner and Sloan are both better skaters.

In the end, we can all drive ourselves crazy with what-ifs or we can sit back and enjoy the game.

Posted by: kittypawz | May 4, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Markus Naslund's decided to hang them up as a NYR. Wonder if they'd like a reunion with Nylander?

Posted by: Greg S. | May 4, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if? What if?


Posted by: mikebrady1 | May 4, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I need sign ideas..
Posted by: jdhoover

OK, I'll give you mine, since I haven't scored last-minute tix.

As the hobo said th Bugs Bunny in "8 Ball Bunny" ....

"Penguins is practically chickens."

The quote of course is completed by...
"And I hates to see chickens cry so much, that I has to put them out of their misery."

Posted by: Baildog | May 4, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

ah, they weren't sick! they were being rested for the callup! okay good.

Erskine has been great. Steckel has elevated his play tenfold. Regular season, I thought he was too slow, not all that useful, could be counted on to do nothing with the puck. Against the Rangers and Pens, he's been using the long reach, he seems to have an extra step, and he's making some great plays.

Posted by: WritingLight | May 4, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse


Pens fans - do the math: 8+28 > 87+71

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | May 4, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Erskine got hurt LATE in the third pd. on Saturday on a Pens PP IIRC. I remember him hobbling off.

Posted by: SavedByZero | May 4, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Defense remains a big question mark regardless of which players are in.

Same goes for goaltending, The save was amazing, so was the goal from the blueline.

Posted by: LarryDavid | May 4, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Erskine may have looked slow at times in Game 1 but remember who he was on the ice against. Crosby and Malkin are tough matchups no matter who the defensemen is. I thought he did a pretty good job on them but maybe the extra speed a defense [Alzner - Sloan] may be needed to contain the two Pens stars.

Posted by: bigschu8 | May 4, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Erskine has been one of the Caps best D-men in the playoffs and he is the toughest guy on the team when Brashear is out. Big loss if he can't play tonight. I'm not sure which player is best suited for the Pens. Alzner has great positioning and can make that first break out pass very effectively. Sloan on the other hand is a strong and fast skater which would be good to have when matching the Pens offensive style. He also appears to play a more physical game than Alzner. Tough call. Maybe they should also recall Carlson to make things interesting :)

Posted by: madflava | May 4, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

The save was amazing, so was the goal from the blueline.

Posted by: LarryDavid | May 4, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

If Valramov gives up one weak goal every seven games, I'm a happy camper.

Posted by: ModestProposal | May 4, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse


What part of 8 goals in 7 games is questionable D and goaltending?

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | May 4, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Pittsburgh PENISguins.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | May 4, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

anyone (defense or offense) willing to hit should be good enough against the pens - they do not try and play a physical game like philly or nyr. bradley can be the enforcer tonight.

funny - i'd go with: Pittsburgh PENISLessguins

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | May 4, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse


He's still the best goalie in the playoffs.

Scratch off Valiquette and Halak who only played 60 mins combined, you have Varly and Hiller left on the top.

Jonas Hiller ANA 8 16 1.83 329 0.951 2 0 5 3 0 525 65:39 0 0 0
Simeon Varlamov WSH 7 9 1.29 181 0.95 2 0 5

Varly with one fewer game played has an incredible 1.29 GAA. Next best is Thomas at 1.51.

Varly has a .95 Save % vs .951 for Hiller. Excuse me for 1/10th percent.

Varly has 2 shut outs. Arguably against a weak offensive team, but IT'S 2 SHUT OUTS!

Posted by: Greg S. | May 4, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse


Here to rile, are ya??.......keep it up, someone from NBC will discover you and you can join their cult.

Posted by: bhound69 | May 4, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

In the first round, Caps' puck-mover Mike Green took a little bit of a beating from the pundits, who have come to expect a lot from the wildly talented defenseman. In the first game of his team's second-round series against the Penguins, Green seemed to be regaining his stride. During the 3-2 win, Green received a team-high 26:17 minutes and finished plus-1. He also was credited with three hits and three blocked shots. If the Caps are going to build on their series lead, Green will have to continue to elevate his performance in Game 2.

No worries - Greenie is BACK!
For you haterz - suck it.

Posted by: Rocc00 | May 4, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

@ Greg S. Yeah, my bad, I forgot how amazing of a defenseman Erskine was/is. He's like Schultz without the long stick or a poor man's Jason Doig.

Seriously, losing John Erskine is not the end of the world. We definitely will miss his toughness around the net.

Posted by: Jaymagz | May 4, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

@jdhoover: You might want to be careful with your sign(s). Event coordinators got pissy with my sign during Game 2 with the Rangers. Sign said "Stars' Sloppy Seconds" directly behind the Ranger bench. I guess either Avery or the Asst. Coach complained about it and told the coordinator, who got upset I put up the poster twice. They were fearful that it might show up on national television. *snicker*

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | May 4, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Erskine played well against the Rangers but against Pittsburgh Karl Alzner may be a better choice given his better puck handling and skating skills.

Alzner like Poti and Green is good in open ice, which is a key against a quick, counterpunching team like the Penguins.

Posted by: leopard09 | May 4, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

In a fantasy world, Varly is best.
In reality, he dropped a puck that actually cost the Caps one game against NY and almost cost them on Saturday.

One bad goal a game is not acceptable, anyone who thinks so is clueless.

He is without question a solid goalie (so far), so was Jim Carey

Posted by: LarryDavid | May 4, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Erskine was a great match up against the gritty forwards on the Rangers in clearing the front of the net and winning fights on the boards. Pittsburgh style is completely different and his lack of speed was exposed numerous times on odd man breaks (not that he was the only one who got beat). If he's less than 100%, he's a liability against the Pittsburgh skill players.

Alzner and Sloan are much better skates and BB is probably thinking about matching up against Crosy, Malkin, etc. It's also possible one or both will be needed in the back to backs in Games 4 and 5. Poti's been playing hurt all season and wonder if he's worse off than the Caps are letting on.

Posted by: wizfan89 | May 4, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the ideas. And the heads up LCCF.
I had a Caps hat with a green water bottle glued on it for the last game. But I couldn't get tickets! It would been a hoot!

So we printed up a couple of signs with the Pens logo with a NO symbol on top (circle with a line through it) and a 4 foot wide MOVE US DOWN sign since we are way up in the rafters ( which, by the way HAS THE BEST FANS IN THE WORLD... But... I need to be down low... because... Ummm..yea. .. I get ALTITUDE Sickness.. Yeah thats it.. Altitude sickness...) And a CZARLAMOV sign.

Posted by: jdhoover | May 4, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

@jdhoover: Your signs are tame. So no nagging from the Event Coordinators treating you like a terrorist. =) Enjoy yourself at the game. My cousin and her friends love watching up there and echoes your sentiment that the awesomest of fans are up there. So much for my penchant for sitting behind the Caps bench. =/

Posted by: LeftCoastCapsFan | May 4, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Didn't Erskine get caught pushing into the neutral zone on the first goal Saturday? Semin had to cover for him.

Erskine was great against the Rangers, but in Game 1 I thought he looked a bit off the pace. I don't know if having him out for a game is that big of a deal. Alzner and Sloan might have some jitters, but maybe not (Varlamov didn't exactly play nervous, and he's even more inexperienced at the NHL level). I mean, if the Caps are missing the quality Erskine brought against NY, then it's a problem. If it's the Erskine we saw in Game 1, then I don't know if the sky is falling.

Posted by: Chest_Rockwell | May 4, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I attended the Bears-Pens game in Hershey last night. The crowd (7,313) fell silent when it was announced that their top two defensemen were scratches due to illness. For what its worth, aside from a breakdown (Hellmer, for what its worth) late in the third period that spoiled Neuvy's well-deserved shutout, the D was awesome, especially during a lengthy 5-3 PK. John Carlson, by the way is AWESOME, played great D AND scored two goals. The Bears do NOT need Alzner and Sloan to shut down the WBS Pens.

Posted by: bucknelldad | May 4, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Green did look a little timid last game. Maybe he saw the Kunitz hit on the flyers Timonen. Also, Smart move by the Caps, bring up a couple Heshey Bear players to cover Malkin & Crosby. There's a reason these guys are playing in Hershey and not the NHL.

Posted by: bullyboy | May 4, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

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