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Johnson to Start vs. Devils

Brent Johnson is expected to start in goal for the Caps, who are hosting the red-hot Devils this afternoon. New Jersey has won eight of its past 11 games (8-1-2) behind goaltender Martin Brodeur, who is expected to start his 22nd consecutive game.

But Brodeur won't be the only thing the Caps will be battling today.

Coach Bruce Boudreau wouldn't be specific about the flu/illness that's spreading through the Caps' locker room, other than to say that center David Steckel is out and "a few other guys" are "under the weather." Steckel skated 12:17 in last night's 6-3 loss in Raleigh, although Boudreau acknowledged that he probably should not have played.

"I don't have it, so I don't know what it is," Boudreau said before joking, "It's got to go through more layers to get to my insides."

As for Steckel trying to play through the illness, Boudreau said: "Right or wrong, it's hard for an athlete who wants to play to realize that he shouldn't play."

So, today, the decision was made for Steckel. He's out and Eric Fehr is in - a move that has had a ripple effect throughout the lineup.

Here's how things figure to look:



A few other tidbits from Boudreau's pregame chat:

*Asked what the Caps defensemen need to do better after Carolina buried four rebound goals last night, Boudreau said: "Touch somebody, to be blunt about it. They stood around and let every 5-foot-9 guy Carolina had come in and take whacks at the puck. It's something we've hopefully addressed."

*Boudreau also revisited last night's defeat in Carolina, saying: "Until three minutes left in the second period, other than their power plays, we controlled the whole game. We played better than them, and I though we had it down pretty pat. But for whatever reason in the third period, if we're behind, I don't know if it's a mindset or not, there's a lack of push."

*As for the mood in the dressing room after the deflating defeat at RBC Center, Boudreau said: "We've had a lot of games where we've lost and bounced back. So I don't see any reason why this should be any different. But we'll see. We're playing probably the best team in the league right now."

*Just saw assistant GM Brian MacLellan and pro scout Larry Carriere in the press box. They arrive in town every year around this time to hunker down with GM George McPhee as the trade deadline approaches. The deadline is Tuesday at 3 p.m.

That's it for now.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  February 24, 2008; 1:26 PM ET
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Next: Southeast Division Sell-off?


Thanks Tarik

I like Fehr back on the top line.
But I wouldn't play again Lepisto with Erskine.

Posted by: mauree | February 24, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday was MUST WIN..

I'm not sure what that makes today!

Hopefully they can find a way to get it back together. A hot streak starting today and they're right back in it.


Posted by: Oneal | February 24, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: Crappy team | February 24, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

How can you honestly not have Eminger in today, Erskine is only a depth D and 44 needs to play from here on out. I think Eminger and Lepisto could develop a similar chemistry to what Green and Morrisonn have developed if given the chance.

Posted by: BBD36 | February 24, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

can ANYONE win a face off!!!!!!!!

Posted by: GO SOX GO | February 24, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

why does it seem that the flu ravages the locker room every season!!! i know its harder to stay healthy when you are killing you self physically every night but the organization should be able to prevent this kind of thing from spreading throughout the entire locker room so quickly

Posted by: Anonymous | February 24, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

*Asked what the Caps defensemen need to do better after Carolina buried four rebound goals last night, Boudreau said: "Touch somebody, to be blunt about it. They stood around and let every 5-foot-9 guy Carolina had come in and take whacks at the puck. It's something we've hopefully addressed."

I FRIGGIN LOVE BRUCE BOUDREAU!!!!! Hanlon would have just hugged them all and told them how scary he thinks the Hurricanes are so no one was to blame. Finally we have a coach who holds players accountable for bad play.

Posted by: DC FURY | February 24, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

The canes exploited this teams two main weaknesses.

1. No one to clear the crease. This has been driving me crazy all season! At some point it becomes worth it to take a few 2min roughing minors and just bury the posers in front of the net. They have got to address this soon, if not thru a trade then during the off-season.

2. A glass jaw. This has been a problem with this team since last season. They don't seam to be able to handle the pressure of playoff expectations. The more pressure the tighter they play. It's getting better as proven by the first period last night, but not cured by any means. Please spare me the excuses.....injuries, flu, whatever. Just win. Good teams get it done with out excuses!

Posted by: livinit | February 24, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

This team is better than Carolina, we just keep letting Carolina beat us. Seriously, I'm beginning to hate Carolina as much as Pitt,NYR, Philly.

Posted by: Scott | February 24, 2008 3:54 PM | Report abuse

here's what you have to do against carolina - knock the **** out of them and drive to the net with the puck - they WILL obstruct - they always do - it's just a matter of time to get some power plays. they are a fairly dirty team. it's frustrating though that they can crosscheck the **** out of us in their crease, but we just push someone hard, and we get a penalty.

Posted by: 7734yeah | February 24, 2008 3:56 PM | Report abuse

i was at the game saturday and again i stress my point that we should not have to score 4-6 goals to win a hockey game...noone has addressed Kolzigs lack of reflexs on sat. the puck laying right next to him and him just staring at it untill it ended up in the back of the net

Posted by: capsfan08 | February 24, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

It´s time to bring Josef Boumedienne up from Hersey, he´s doing pretty well there, makes points for the 16th game in a row!!

He was awesome when he played in the Swedish Elite League, a offensive defender that could score, now he seems to be in the same shape again....

Posted by: Mike | February 24, 2008 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Hello All!

Just got to a TV but been gettin' stats.


Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | February 24, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Just stating the obvious but if we stay out of the box and we can win.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | February 24, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I am loving this adjustment we made with the lines.

Ovechkin-Backstrom-Semin has been unbelievable.

Let's get this win!!!

Posted by: Zack | February 24, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Guess were seeing how elite goal tending keeps a team competitive......

Broduer is just sick in this third period....

Posted by: chris larry | February 24, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse

That'll about wrap it up.

Posted by: Kurt | February 24, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

And a soft goal let in by Johnson to give New Jersey the win. I swear, this is the worst goalie tandem in the NHL.

Posted by: Ben | February 24, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

dam...that sucks....we need a stud goaltender to go with our young guns..

Posted by: chris larry | February 24, 2008 5:39 PM | Report abuse

not much to say. Our boys played well... the Devils are the best looking team imho. Brodeur is unbelievable.

Posted by: mauree | February 24, 2008 5:40 PM | Report abuse

Time to start saying byebye to our playoff chance. Unless the Caps win the next 4-5 games in a row, they're done. They can't close out tight games anymore, they can't get pucks past legit goaltenders, and our goalies give up too many softies. I drool at the thought of how good this team could be with 1-2 more solid defenseman and almost any other goalie tandem in the league.

My opinion, rebuild...not over, at all.

Posted by: Well... | February 24, 2008 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone else see the replay of Oduya's knee of knee hit to Ovechkin. It you watch close, it's pretty obvious it was intentional. I may have to add him to the list of cheap shot artists I hate such as Orr, Orpik, Sutton, half the Flyers roster, etc...does anyone know if he has a history of crap like that?

Posted by: Sam | February 24, 2008 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Not sure how either of Johnson's were "soft" - Madden needed to be cleared out of the crease and scored from 2 feet away. That being said, there are two types of goalies in the league: some need defense in front of them and some don't. Ours need a defense in front of them.

Brodeur, Luongo, DP, and some others don't need defenses, because any rebounds go behind the net or to the corners. Kolzig, Osgood, Gerber, and others need a defense in front of them to win games. This is why Gerber failed in Carolina, but suddenly plays great in Ottawa.

I've been gone all week and missed some of these games. My one question: is Ovechkin not himself or has he just been getting robbed these past 3 games?

Posted by: Raber | February 24, 2008 6:36 PM | Report abuse

I think Ovie has to adjust a bit for the pressure. And BB has to rotate him more, I think sometimes he's tired.
However: I liked his latest rushes, where he doesn't waste it but give spectacular assists.

Posted by: mauree | February 24, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Just got back from the game. Not sure how much they showed of OV on tv when he didn't have the puck. But in person, when OV didn't have the puck, he looked REALLY tired and/or sick. Even when he returned to the bench! Didn't I hear he had the flu already? Could he be having a relapse? Anybody else notice he didn't look like himself?!

Posted by: pg | February 24, 2008 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Is there any possibility that BB is playing Erskine in order to trade him? God I would hope so...I hate him!

Posted by: kcme | February 24, 2008 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I thought we played okay.

But then there's that little issue with the points and the winning.

Ovie plays physical and he gets played physically and it's late in the season. An unpopular poster (not me!) mentioned it would affect him later in the season, though he isn't on IR as that pessimist predicted.

Posted by: austinsteve | February 24, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

I think they're playing Erskine out of necessity. I doubt he has much trade value unless some team needs a guy who will fight. He'd be too much of a liability defensively though (except for the Caps of course).

Posted by: mcpheeyou'rekillingme | February 24, 2008 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Just got home - can't believe we lost ... again! :-X It was a surprisingly fun game, considering the low score and the fact that we lost. The place was PACKED - a lot of great energy and high hopes in the crowd.

Did anyone see Johnny get stabbed in the second period? How was that not a penalty?!? I didn't see the Ovie hit - how bad was it?

Glad BB said the Caps need to "touch somebody" (after last night's game) to prevent rebound goals. They certainly did a better job of that tonight. They were very physical ... now if they can just add a few goals to that kind of play, we'll be set!

I have not seen MN play a lot this season - any scounting opinions out there? Regardless, Tue should be interesting ...

Posted by: Boo! | February 24, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

The Wild are, overall, a better team and I'm not optimistic about pulling out a win, especially how the boys have been playing lately. I'm trying to see the glass as half full, but it's getting hard. At least Semin is starting to pick up his game...too bad the rest of the team isnt.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 24, 2008 9:18 PM | Report abuse

MN can be a very fast team, we need to play with the same intensity as tonight.

I didn't like some of the referee calls. That stabbing, Lepisto's hooking (it looked like the other guy was holding his stick). I'm sorry to repeat it but I will until I notice it, think it's wrong, or somebody proves me wrong: BB should yell at the refs for such calls. They can change momentum and a whole game. It's not a perfect world, and calls are not always fair. If a referee know he's hold accountable and have to explain each call, he'll be more careful, even at a subconscious level.

Posted by: mauree | February 24, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Now here comes the part in the season where no matter how well the Caps play, they won't be able to beat any goalie.

Posted by: CantMissKid | February 24, 2008 10:01 PM | Report abuse

I think another problem the Caps have run into since the all star break is this;
The book is totally out on them.
After firing Hanlon the Caps really came out of nowhere - I don't want to take anything away from them for the incredible month & a half of hockey they played but let's face it - they surprised a lot of teams. That element of surprise is now gone.
You can see it in the way teams defend against us now. It's most obvious in the way Backstrom is drawing coverage now. The kid still does a great job hunting down loose pucks and can still get a good pass off but opponents have been taking away all of his options lately. Now it's on him to elevate his game. It's also evident in the way teams penalty kill against the Caps, effectively neutralizing Ovechkin on the point & putting all kinds of pressure on Green - they know that there won't be any Caps going to front of the net so it's easy for them to take away the points, forcing quick dumps & hurried shots & passes, forcing the Caps to win battles on the boards - battles they're just not winning.

Today's game was a big improvement over recent efforts - they skated hard for an entire game, did a lot of hitting, and at least tried to get to the net (they failed, more often than not but trying is a step in the right direction). I saw passion out there today - which is all I ask for really. If they get beat after giving their all, you tip your hat to the other team (or other goalie in games like today's).

Posted by: smoke | February 24, 2008 10:13 PM | Report abuse

I was saying in the last two weeks the team was losing the steam, now is clear the team has lost the steam. Even our hero Laing couldn't block the shot. BB brought a boost with his Hearsey Bears players, now honeymoon is over, the reality is AHL players vs. NHL players.

Laing, Motzko, Lepisto, who else is left in Hersey? D and Olie suck as it was when Hanlon was in power. Nylander was too big to lose, not to mention Clark and Pothier.

The only hope is if GMGM will make the trade. (Rrrright...)

Posted by: alex | February 24, 2008 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of PP, I liked AO NOT on the point, an experiment abandoned sometime ago during mid-season.

Posted by: mauree | February 24, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm disappointed, but not surprised. NJ is flying high. We certainly made it a game. I thought that BJ was great in net. I also thought that Brodeur was sick lucky. This easily could have been our game.


Posted by: Greg S. | February 24, 2008 10:53 PM | Report abuse

With the way the flu attacks locker rooms, I'm surprised that the Caps don't just immunize all their players.

Who knows, maybe they did, I have heard that this year's flu shot isn't doing very well.

Posted by: Gelf | February 24, 2008 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Ovie is hands down the toughest, most talented and durable player in the leauge.

Posted by: jds | February 24, 2008 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Out of curiosity... why on earth isn't Ben Clymer playing with the Caps?
I'm not saying he's going to be the savior but on a team that has lost most of its veteran leadership and is just dying for lack of grit & determination wouldn't a player of his ilk be helpful? I can't imagine that he could do any worse than Matt Pettinger right now (and that's coming from someone who genuinely LIKES Matt Pettinger as a player)?
Plus - the man has Cup-winning experience. Isn't that exactly the sort of experience the Caps could use in the locker room?

He's already cleared waivers at least twice this year... why not bring him up?
He will crash & bang in the corners, he will crash the net, he will drop the gloves & stick up for his teammates, he will do anything the team asks him to do... and he won't cost any assets to get him on the roster.

Posted by: smoke | February 24, 2008 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Hey - that's what we need - Ben Clymer! starting to facebook him now.

Posted by: McPHail | February 25, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse


Ohhhhh I get it now...I see what you're very creative, a play on words.

You're ragging on George McPhee so you took the word fail and made it PHail...that's genius.

/i get jokes, jokes are funny

Posted by: Yosh | February 25, 2008 12:47 AM | Report abuse

Free Eminger!

Posted by: strungout | February 25, 2008 1:00 AM | Report abuse

Dont lose the faith...A W vs. the Wild, and things will be in good shape.

Posted by: SA-Town | February 25, 2008 5:02 AM | Report abuse

I'm actually up on yesterday's game. The Caps played tough, had lots of good scoring chances, dominated NJ (a superior team) most of the game. Even the top teams are gonna loose sometimes. In this case, the Caps showed that they can bounce back after a tough loss and play hard and well w/less than 24 hours rest.

True, they lost a tough one, but I see that as just bad breaks. If they keep their heads up and keep playing tough like yesterday, the wins will come.

BTW, missing an Eastern Conf Wild Card slot is far from a done deal. We're only 4 pts behind Boston (they have 1 game at hand), but still with 19 games to go. Boston, NYR and particularly Buffalo (plays Detroit 1xx and Montreal 2x) have tougher schedules.

Posted by: Drew | February 25, 2008 5:56 AM | Report abuse

Time to sell the deadweight. Most teams are buyers right now, looking for an edge to get in the playoffs and the Caps are on the outside, looking at the inside slipping away. Trade off Pettinger (where did the goals go?), Eminger (never lived up to a first round pick), Boyd Gordon (also never lived up to a first round pick), Matt Bradley (teams need muckers, checkers, grinders), and Erskine (not likely, but worth a dig) for picks. The Caps may get some juicy picks in a deep draft. The lack of output from these guys may push other players to step-up, that not scoring might get you kicked off the roster.

Posted by: JIM | February 25, 2008 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Interesting that we are closer to 8 than 3 - good point! Funny ... sure, that's the way it should be, just not the way it's been, so I don't think a lot of folks are looking at that.

I agree - we're not out of it, but the rest of the season has to be picture perfect if we are going to make it.

FLA losing yesterday helped, let's hope that Philly and Toronto lose today, and the Islanders, Canes, Bruins and Atlanta lose tomorrow (oh, AND the Wild! ;-)).


Posted by: Boo! | February 25, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Nobody said Happy B-Day to me?

You can see how much my absence had cost to Caps. When I am on the ice no 5'9" guy comes around and mess with rebounds like in Canes game. Cause I am 6'6" and I am towering the d and dog gone, people like me!

Posted by: Papa Panzer Schultz | February 25, 2008 8:34 AM | Report abuse

yeah thats what the Caps need....more draft picks....

Posted by: chris larry | February 25, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Brian Campbell can't step out of his house these days without someone asking the Sabres defenceman whether his time's running out in Buffalo.

"Grocery store. Down the street. Parking lots," Campbell said Sunday, noting the places he's been cornered by fans.

Sabres general manager Darcy Regier has said his objective is re-signing Campbell, but hasn't ruled out whether to trade him if a contract isn't completed by Tuesday. Another option would be keeping Campbell to bolster the Sabres' late-season playoff run and hope a deal can be reached before free agency opens July 1.

Posted by: Papa Panzer Schultz | February 25, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

@chris larry

Yeah, the Caps need more draft picks to restock for the future. Hershey is a great training ground -- look at how well a lot of the younger Caps have done coming out of there versus Portland. The recent drafts/trades have been very good for the Caps (OV, Semin, Alzner, Green, Schultz, McChesney, Steckel, Backstrom, Morrison, Jurinca, Bouchard, Pokulok, Godfrey, Neuvirth, Varmolov, Laich, & Flash). So why not more buidling from within and more young talent so the Caps aren't so thin.

Posted by: JIM | February 25, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse


Any possibility GMGM will make a trade to boost Caps?

Posted by: alex | February 25, 2008 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Was at the game yesterday. I was disappointed with the win, but it was different than Saturday night. I really think the guys played well and definitely held their own. When NJ went up on that 5 on 3 our guys could have just folded, but they did not. We have something to build on from that game.

With respect to trading. I am not thrilled with the prospect of losing either Bradley or Gordon. Bradley has hustle and grit. He may not score except in shootouts :), but he can scrap and wear down the other team. Also, there were so many times in the last few games where Gordon was scrapping for the puck that he came away with it. We kept saying over and over, wow he still got the puck!

I am not that familiar with the Wild, but think tomorrow's game will be interesting. Hopefully the Caps that played yesterday will show up and will be able to score this time.

Posted by: Kim | February 25, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

One thing about tomorrow's game. Would be cool if Backstrom scored on Backstrom!

Posted by: Kim | February 25, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse


Alex played really well in the last two games. He set up three goals against Canes, he fed Semin for a single goal vs. NJ. He also set up twice (Fehr? and Green?), first was a cross from the left to right to Fehr, 100% chance, Fehr should've one-time that one, another one was behind the net to Green(?), the guy was standing in front of the net, 100% chance!

And there were some sequences when Alex was simply unbelivable. One was when he chased the puck on the left, outmuscled the NJ d-man and went almost one on one. It was a thing of beauty.

All that didn't convert to goals, but at least it was spectacular to watch.

Posted by: shoulda record it on Tivo | February 25, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Backstrom on Backstrom, Brashear on Boogard

Posted by: Anonymous | February 25, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

I was at the game yesterday (left the sombrero at home) and had a great time. It was one of the more exciting games and better atmospheres of the year. The sellout crowd didn't hurt, but the game FELT like a playoff game. Lots of pushing and shoving after the whistles, etc. So many scoring chances that we JUST missed. It was frustrating to lose but at least the team put on a good show. Exciting hockey like that will keep the fans coming back and will make it easier to management to spend some money in the offseason

Posted by: Sombrero Guy | February 25, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

@ Kim

The Caps have enough tough grinders and not enough scorers, so they can trade one or two for a team willing to give up a high draft pick in this sellers market. The Caps also need a tough defender or two (who can skate and play both the body and stick to you Erksine fans), so a straight-up trade: a grinder for a stay-at-home defender. The Caps can call up a couple energy grinders from Hershey -- they have more than enough of those, but too few who can finish plays. It sucks to watch the Caps work hard in the corners, cycling the puck, and then shoot right at the goaltenders chest. So they get a shot on the scoreboard and jack to show on the scoreboard.

Posted by: JIM | February 25, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Looking forward to tomorrow nights game. Gaborik vs. Ovechkin should be entertaining. As for the playoffs, I hope GMGM will not make a trade before tomorrow's deadline. I don't think bringing in any veteran talent at the costs of losing draft picks and prospects is a good move for this team at the moment. Maybe when the Caps consistently make the playoffs and are considered contenders for the cup do we make deadline deals to fill in the holes for a playoff run. It would be great if this team could put together a strong string of victories and get into the playoffs but missing them isn't the end of the world. The current squad wouldn't make it pass the first round of the playoffs as it doesn't have enough depth yet. So the Caps should keep drafting talent, figure out what the long term goalie situation will be, and start playing prospects at the NHL level. In no time the rebuilding will be finished.

Posted by: Lowell | February 25, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

The difference between the Capitals and other teams is ... our opponents never run into a "hot" goalie.

Brodeur was too good yesterday. The Caps should have had 5-6 goals yesterday. Against a very good NJ team, the Caps were definitely the better team on the ice for long stretches.

Posted by: Caps fan in TN | February 25, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

And when Brodeur hangs em up the Devils will be trouble for a long time.

Posted by: Harry | February 25, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

McPhee isn't going to do anything; accept that. Why would he? It's not about just this year, but going forward with these young players. Everyone needs to remember one thing: these kids are doing something most of them (including Ovie, Semin, Green) have never done - playing games that matter! How many games have really mattered over the last 2 seasons? NONE. To expect them to understand what it takes in the NHL without taking their lumps is not fair. Anyone notice how calm Brodeur played yesterday. He's played a few games that mattered... Winning some games has made us all greedy for the playoffs and that's great for the team and its' fans. But to expect this team to win these close games every game may be too much at this point in their young careers. It is fun to watch! Go Caps!

Posted by: Roose | February 25, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

While we all understand that there are a lot of young guys on our team and that no one can predict how they will react under pressure I think that it's gmgm's responsibility to get rid of players that are a hinderance (ie Erskine!) and to add depth to this team, especially since we are missing some crucial parts of the puzzle. He won't do it but the holes in our d need to be addressed. I think our forward lines could be productive if they would score more and I'm seriously tired of no one being in front of the net and missing out on the dirty goals/rebounds. Can someone please tell them to get in there!

Posted by: kcme | February 25, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

If I'll play tomorrow, it will be Backstrom vs. Backstrom and Schultz vs. Schultz

Posted by: Papa Panzer Schultz | February 25, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

At this point, I'd honestly be surprised if the Caps made any trades either as buyers or sellers.

Posted by: Steve R | February 25, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse

No one should be complaining about the Caps' effort yesterday - they should have won 5-1 at least. To me, it was good to see them creating one scoring chance after another.
That said, how about GMGM looking at say, Steve Staios in Edmonton? He's cheap at $2.7 Million and is a physical top 4.

Posted by: Shaggy | February 25, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

If I were GM, I'd do anything to help BB and Caps to get into playoffs THIS year. I don't want another doom and gloom season ending, besides young players need playoff experience as early as possible.

Posted by: Bogus GM | February 25, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

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