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Posted at 10:34 AM ET, 01/16/2011

Young players helping Capitals endure injuries, scoring slumps

By Katie Carrera

Recently, it hasn't been hard to notice that some of the Capitals' most effective players are some of their youngest or least experienced in the NHL. The combination of a myriad of injuries and having many of Washington's biggest stars still working out of offensive slumps has given opportunities to others, who want to leave the best impression they can.

In the 11 games since Washington last saw the Senators on Dec. 19, including when the Capitals broke their eight-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory in Ottawa, the younger players and call-ups --Mathieu Perreault (3), Marcus Johansson (3), Jay Beagle (2), John Carlson (1), Andrew Gordon (1) -- have combined to score 10 of the team's 27 goals.

Johansson has been a consistent presence during that span, particularly in the past week as he's helped create scoring chances and shows a growing confidence as he earns more trust and ice time from the Capitals' coaching staff.

"He's earned it," Coach Bruce Boudreau said of the rookie center's increased ice time. "He's playing great. He's reminding me of [Nicklas Backstrom] my first year -- started slow and as the season got along and he got more acclimated to the league and everything else that he became a great player. It's unfortunate we haven't be able to stay with the same group of players for [Johansson] to play with, injuries and lack of production in other areas have dictated otherwise. He's done really well because you can see sparks; he's going to be a fine player."

Then there's Beagle, who's in his longest recall stint with the Capitals during his time in the organization having played in 10 consecutive games and 12 of the last 13. Beagle's earned praise for his penalty killing skills, as Boudreau hasn't hesitated to use him while shorthanded, and his constant work ethic. But Beagle understands that there can't be any off days for someone who's been brought up from the American Hockey League and he tries to keep that pressure in perspective.

"As a call up, you can get sent down on any day. If you're not playing well they'll find someone else that will play," Beagle said. "I felt like I haven't played as good as I can the last two games, so I've got to step it up and I know that and I've got to play better. I'm hopefully going to be going [Sunday]."

Gordon is the latest to rejoin the Capitals with a chance to contribute again after being recalled from Hershey Saturday, to help Washington move forward despite injuries to three of Washington's right wings: Eric Fehr (shoulder), Matt Bradley (broken finger) and Alexander Semin (undisclosed lower body injury). He will likely appear in his ninth NHL game against the Senators with the chance to show he can aid the Capitals as they try to stop this three-game slide.

The Capitals did not hold a morning skate because of today's early start but I'll have more from Verizon Center this afternoon.

By Katie Carrera  | January 16, 2011; 10:34 AM ET
Categories:  Andrew Gordon, Hershey Bears, Jay Beagle, Marcus Johansson, Mathieu Perreault  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Capitals recall Andrew Gordon
Next: Michal Neuvirth likely to start against Ottawa

Comments

pkme: C'mon that kind of talk is goofy.

The Capitals just can't seem to get any passes, and maybe they shouldn't, but when the Capitals win, they win the wrong way. When they dump and chase fans want them to carry the puck. When they carry the puck people want them to dump and chase. Fans have suggested entering the zone and pulling up short to allow team mates to crash the net, Nylander earned the nickname "circles" in here for using that tactic. The Caps are struggling right now. Even me, the biggest of all Kool-aid drinkers admit that. The Canucks DOMINATED our guys the other day. As were over 18000 fans, I was there the other night. The body language on the Capitals bench was, well, let's say, they looked beaten in the 2nd. The confidence that oozed from the Canucks pores, whether fans on here want to admit it or not, is the same type of confidence that oozed from the Capitals pores last January when they drew at least a point in something like 26 games straight.

The Capitals without a doubt implemented a more defensive approach this season from the start, not just the last few weeks. They have been using the trap when they have the lead in the 3rd and blew 3rd period leads because they are just not that good at it yet. They don't want to ditch it though because as many have already said, that is the type of play that will carry teams deep into the playoffs.

Now, having said all that. If Ovi, Backs, and Semin don't find a way to start putting pucks in the net, this team will be in serious trouble. They are expected to carry that burden and there are millions of reasons for team mates, fans, and management to expect that. All three of them know that which is why, IMO, they look unbelievably frustrated. I didn't add Green into the point production list because I believe he best helps this team get where it needs to go is by continuing to improve his defensive end work. I am very happy with the improvement he has shown over the last 10 calendar months.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 16, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Let the guys that are producing play on the power play. Young guns are shooting blanks.

Posted by: theAnswerIs42 | January 16, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Folks, please remember this, the guys that are producing have the luxury of playing against the 3-6 defensive pairings. When our 1st line is out there the top D pairing from the opposing team is out there. If BB sits Ovi and Backstrom so they can be punished for not performing. Our guys that are producing now become the top line thus playing against the top D pairing and low and behold, produce nothing.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 16, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

fanohock

just kidding about the roid comment.

Posted by: pkme | January 16, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

If BB sits Ovi and Backstrom so they can be punished for not performing. Our guys that are producing now become the top line thus playing against the top D pairing and low and behold, produce nothing.
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LOL right, all that our top guys are good for now is being decoys... how pathetic

Posted by: joek443 | January 16, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Maybe if you give more ice-time to 3rd/4th line players, the top line will get to play more against less formidable defensive players and will actually be more beneficial... might even help them break outta the slump.

Ever think of that??

Posted by: joek443 | January 16, 2011 11:52 AM | Report abuse

No joke, that's not what I am saying at all. With Ovi and Backs in their slumps have you seen other teams choose to move their top D pairing to play against the guys that are "producing?" No, of course not. If they did, the minimal production would disappear and Ovi and Backs would benefit by playing weaker players. Please stop using LOL because it makes me feel I am talking to high school kids.

Also, you don't like how the NHL awards points to "losers?" You've said that on many occasions. Well, you're a race fan, points are awarded to 10th place finishers.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 16, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Well, you're a race fan, points are awarded to 10th place finishers.
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When you're racing against 42 other cars every week as they do in nascar, finishing 10th is no small feat.

Giving a full point to a loser just inflates the point total, this team is 24-21. 24-14-7 just makes them look a whole lot better than they actually are.

Posted by: joek443 | January 16, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

pkme: Sorry, I saw you're comment about joking. I've seen posters that are typically tearing into every part of the Capitals organization spreading the rhetoric so I finally felt compelled to respond.

Joek I won't be in here during the game because I don't like to do anything but watch hockey during the game, but let's see if you can give some kudos on good plays today instead of just sitting with your fingers on the keyboard waiting for a mistake. Not the "it's about time" ones either. There is a difference between people like you and cstanton1 one whose posts I have grown to appreciate due to his consistency. (assuming he, if she, sorry) For example, cstanton all along said he wanted to see Green change his game to focus more on defense, and he has, and cstanton has acknowledged it, and seems to appreciate it. You on the other hand will jump on something Green does negatively and never acknowledge the 2 hits he throws in a zone to gain control of the puck and make a nice outlet pass. People see what they want to see. IMO, you see only the bad right now. Maybe it is because you are simply a fan that is tired of the Capitals not winning championships which I can respect, but constantly tearing into players with truly acknowledging when a player that is struggling does something positive makes it seem like you really just like to be miserable.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 16, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

That's race example is a matter of opinion. On average about, what, 10 cars don't even finish the race. 20 more of those based on crews don't even have a shot from the start, so finishing 10th is well, losing.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 16, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Now other major sports in the US like Basketball and Baseball play until there is a clear cut winner. The NHL chooses not to do so during the regular season. Even in the NFL a tie is better than a loss. If two teams are fighting for a wild card spot a 10-5-1 team advances to the playoffs over a 10-6 team.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 16, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

If the NHL would just play the game the same during the regular season as they do in the playoffs I would totally support not awarding a point for being tied after regulation. Instead they go to 4 on 4 and then a shootout. No other sport treats OT differently than regulation.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 16, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

People see what they want to see.
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That's the first correct thing you've ever said. I spent two full days solid defending Backstrom to the likes of capscoach and hunterforcoach on here just last week.

I have no problem with Green especially now when he's no longer a first pair D-man. He's been much better since Carlson has taken over the role of the number one d-man which is what I've been saying about Green all along. Which is he's not a number one d-man material because he's just too mentally fragile.

Posted by: joek443 | January 16, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I had no problem with games ending in a tie and getting a point. But I do have a serious problem with giving a point to a OT loser.

Half a point, maybe but not a full point.

Posted by: joek443 | January 16, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Overtime football is different as well, strategywise

Posted by: guer_j | January 16, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Instead they go to 4 on 4 and then a shootout. No other sport treats OT differently than regulation.

Posted by: fanohock1 | January 16, 2011 12:16 PM

with the amount of time spent cleaning the ice to prepare for a shootout, they could easily make the OT 10 minutes instead of 5. i don't have any problems with a game ending in a tie and each team only getting a point. watching a shootout is exciting - but giving a team an extra point (and a win) doesn't make sense to me.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | January 16, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

On average about, what, 10 cars don't even finish the race. 20 more of those based on crews don't even have a shot from the start, so finishing 10th is well, losing.
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That's right, in order to finish first you must first finish... that's the oldest cliche in racing. Finishing a race is not a given because too many things are outta your control.

Posted by: joek443 | January 16, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

@theansweris42
@joek

Answer- the Caps lose in the playoffs because they don't play playoff hockey. Stop the nonsensical insights. Each series is different. Each series takes radical twists and turns. Heck, we bounced Halak early.

joek - What exactly are you seeing in Backy's game that has you thinking the playoffs will turn out well for us ?
I'll take any of the Pens top 3 centers over this guy, because they play playoff hockey. Backy is just another slick passing Swede, who hasn't taken any pressure off his wingman by becoming a scoring threat.

Why can't Ovi score ? No room to work or change his game due to the opposing D-men living in his underwear. Start bending twine Backstrom. Bounce a puck off Rolo's head. Spend more time skating into the slot, instead of waiting along that wall to make a "lipstick pass"

Now go ahead joek, pour it on !!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Hunterforcoach | January 16, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Gee...do you think it could be that they are in shape, excited, and willing to play hard and hit?????

Posted by: CB28031 | January 16, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Hunter,

you're a joke and a disgrace to the name, go watch professional wrestling or MMA... that's more up your alley.

Posted by: joek443 | January 16, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

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