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Posted at 2:21 PM ET, 01/10/2011

Capitals look to move up in the East with upcoming busy schedule

By Katie Carrera

The Capitals got a bit of a reprieve from the NHL's schedule makers last week after the Winter Classic, but beginning Tuesday in Florida, they must pick up the pace again with a hectic slate that is made up predominantly of road contests.

Washington will play three games in the next four days, four in the next six (or five and a half, considering that Sunday is a 3 p.m. start) and of the nine games to be played prior to the All-Star break, six will come on the road. It's a prime chance for the Capitals to pick up points and try to move up the Eastern Conference ladder.

"We have to grind it out and try to win a game 2-1, 3-2, which is what we've been doing," Karl Alzner said. "We're turning into more of a team that, I think [I] probably shouldn't say [we're] built for the road, but can do damage on the road. We're not going to do anything special; we might bore a couple teams out there, but that's fine with us -- we want those points."

Prior to Monday night's games, the Capitals sit in fifth place in the East with 54 points. But while they are fighting for the Southeast Division lead and a higher ranking, they're only eight points ahead of Carolina (46), which is in ninth place and out of the playoff picture. The proximity of teams in the standings places added significance on each game for the Capitals now -- particularly those against Florida and Tampa Bay -- with the lead in the much-improved Southeast up for grabs.

"Now that every team has caught up to us in games played, now we really see where we stand," Alzner said. "We were talking about it earlier, that we're only [eight] points out of ninth place right now with Carolina, and that's kind of scary. To be that close to being out of the playoffs, which is not somewhere that we want to be, so we've really got to make sure that we keep pace with those top teams right now."

In situations like this one, Coach Bruce Boudreau said he doesn't have to remind the players too much of what is at stake with teams shifting up and down the standings following every outcome.

"It's not a runaway, that's for sure," Boudreau said. "The games that we're playing, every one means something. It's not like Florida's 40 points behind or your next nearest competitor is 40 points back....I don't know if it's any easier to motivate, but there should be a lot of self motivation rather than relying on me to motivate them."

By Katie Carrera  | January 10, 2011; 2:21 PM ET
Categories:  Florida Panthers, Karl Alzner  
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Next: Capitals recall winger Brian Willsie

Comments

OV & Co are just pacing themselves. It's a long season. :) Right Tom? LMAO!

Posted by: pokerface1208 | January 10, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The first two, no way - but are you seriously can't be comparing Alzner to Semin?

Posted by: Timbo_1

I didn't say keep Alzner over Semin straight up, but in order to keep 3 solid, consistent players who are getting better over time as opposed to keeping the stagnent Semin, it should be a no brainer.

Posted by: LloydChristmas | January 10, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see Atl, TB, and Pgh drop their most recent games. We have no reason not to pick off Fla and TB on the road and come home to take a tough game against Vancouver. Plenty of tough games coming up on the schedule.

Posted by: Justafan | January 10, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Cody Eakin was traded!

Posted by: pokerface1208 | January 10, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Cody Eakin was traded today from the Swift Current Broncos to the Kootenay Ice for what? 5 players and 3 picks! That's right, FIVE players & THREE picks! Yeah this guy's a stud. Our future is looking incredibly bright up the middle (which I believe you need in order to win the Prize) with Eakin & Kuzzy in the mix.

Man this GMGM guy sux.

Posted by: pokerface1208 | January 10, 2011 2:55 PM | Report abuse

pokerface: Did you ever play ping-pong? I played in a few low-level tournaments. The better players were grouped into those who attacked a lot and those who mostly spun the ball and played defense. I was more defense, pretty good at stopping the slams and cutting them back, then moving the ball side to side until I'd get a lay-up. Points were made through either forced or unforced errors and sometimes it was a two-step process (force them to give you a easy kill shot). Caps last year were like the ping-pong player who would slam, slam, slam and feast on errors. Teams then said, like Bylsma in 24/7, "Above else - no errors! Play fundamantally sound! Don't run with them!"

Easier said than done, but teams learned to pull back on D, reduce turnovers, clog slot and force Caps out on the perimeter. Now the Caps must face reality - learn a new offensive system that will work in the Playoffs and oh, by the way, that also means you have to learn to play solid D.

I don't think Ovi is "pacing himself." :) I think he's trying to figure out something he never had to do because he was blessed with so much talent - play a solid team game. The other players, Alzner, Laich, Green, learned it in Jrs and the AHL, Knuble in college and Backie learned in the SEL. Ovi and Semin never learned. They didn't have to. Until now. God it hurts, doesn't it?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 10, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I forgot, Ovechkin and Semin skated by on talent while the rest of the team selflessly played error-free hockey during the run up to the 2008 playoffs.

Posted by: GFisher1 | January 10, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

@Tom

No no no, you didn't get my joke. Don't you remember last yr (a particular person) on these boards saying that OV needed to "pace" himself more? The elite players do etc etc etc. Oh man I'm so sorry you don't remember that. I can't believe you don't remember that. We had a field day on that one for a bit. Oh well I tried. :)

Posted by: pokerface1208 | January 10, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

GFisher: I don't think you understand. Boudreau came in and developed a system that best utilized the talent and got the Caps turned around in a hurry. However the system had/has holes. So now he is trying to implement a more standard, non run-n-gun system. That's what I think is happening. Meanwhile, many of the players learned this while growing up. In Russia I'm not sure they did. Ovi was like the high school pitcher with 95+ fast ball. He didn't need to "learn to pitch" because he could "throw it by everyone" as they say in baseball. Now BB is saying, "We must change from throwers to pitchers." This means fundamentally sound on all aspects of the game. Even the Russian U20 team was the same, they were outmuscled and beaten until 2-3 players did it on their own. Kuzzie played the entire 3rd vs Canada. That style IMO won't win 16 in spring. Maybe you have another opinion.

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 10, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

poker: I got it, I just used your line as an excuse to expound. I haven't expounded much lately. Meanwhile vermontcaps has been expounding like crazy and I just thought it was my turn.

BTW, speaking of expounders, cstanton1 has disappeared again. Maybe he works for an alphabet agency and is "on assignment."

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 10, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I really like what I have been reading about and seeing in Cody Eakin.

He has a rep as an all around player with a selfless, hardworking attitude.

Just what the Caps need!

Posted by: wtf_e_fehr | January 10, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Re: Eakin trade - Is Kootenay better in the standings then Swift Current?

If not, will he be coming to Hershey earlier had he not been traded?

What about being captain? Does he still have the C on his jersey with the new team?

Posted by: jwash4472 | January 10, 2011 3:26 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal

Funny that you bring up Byslma because I think the Pens have to adjust a little, too. I saw some post game conference where the reporters were grilling him about the team adjusting to the trap and being without SC. He seemed miffed.

I'm pacing myself :-) because I want to see how this all ends. Hopefully with a deep run in the playoffs with the team intact and healthy. We'll see. I kind of want the Caps to break the mold and develop a new way to win the Cup. Lead us into a new era. Historians will say "win the Caps way." Wishful thinking, I know.

Posted by: nicety251 | January 10, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal1

It is possible that they are using a mix of the styles. Having some guys break for stretch passes in the early periods. Maybe not as often as before, but still timely doing it and only certain players(Ovie, Semin, and Chimera because of his speed) doing it.

So Ovie will still be getting some of those chances and he uses his talent for those. The times they choose to chip the puck in deep, I think Ovie has to get to the net more, and I think he is starting to do that.

If the Caps PP was anywhere near where it was last year the Caps offense would be one of the tops in the league. So, IMO, the problem isn't the offensive philosophy, it is the poor play(and maybe poor system) of the PP.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 10, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

@jwash

Kootenay (new team) is in 1st place in their division and Swift is in 3rd so he's going to a better team. Kootenay is like the 2nd or 3rd best team in the league whereas Swift is more of a middle of the pack type of team in the WHL. So I'm thinking his arrival in Hershey may be delayed a bit by this trade. Great point though.

Posted by: pokerface1208 | January 10, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

@jwash

Kootenay (new team) is in 1st place in their division and Swift is in 3rd so he's going to a better team. Kootenay is like the 2nd or 3rd best team in the league whereas Swift is more of a middle of the pack type of team in the WHL. So I'm thinking his arrival in Hershey may be delayed a bit by this trade. Great point though.

Posted by: pokerface1208 | January 10, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Simple - don't go lose 8 in a row.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | January 10, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

@ Capscoach

You really repeatedly have the most immature arguments and responses to other posters on this board that I see. Your Erskine "could have signed someplace else" reply to Vermont is just so naive and narrow. Erskine is a marginal NHL talented player. He therefore needs to demonstrate other skills to separate him from the rest of the also-rans. He does a fine job at that. For you to even think for one second that a player of Erskin's caliber is not going to accept a two year extension to play the game he loves is just.... well, naive again. Erskine's playing days could be over by taking one hit or one punch at any moment, like tomorrow night perhaps.
You need to stop evaluating hockey and the business of hockey from a secure high school teacher's perspective and the "security" that goes along with that.
Erskine does get treated like crap from BB. But I know Snark likes him because he told me he did the last time he extended him. That doesn't translate into getting more ice time though. Which John should be getting over Poti at the moment.

Posted by: rblatch45


@rblatch45

of course b/c I dared to disagree with you I am naive...b/c only your opinions and analysis could be correct...please!

Erskine is playing very well this season. There is no reason to think another team (esp. a young one) would not be interested in his services for the same price or even a little more than what we just gave him!

He would definitely get more ice time on a team that was rebuilding. If a player is miserable and feeling cheated by their coach they will not sign an extension so early in the season.

And as far as your "secure teacher" viewpoint...well I am a recent graduate and got laid off at the end of my first year along with all the other first year teachers b/c of a 15mil dollar budget hole...I have an interview tomorrow for a long term position...so I know a little bit about security or lack thereof.

And the guy got 2 games off...big whoop! Poti deserved a chance and it looks like based on todays practice lines that Erskine will be back in tomorrow.

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

One other thing: rblatch

If Erskine is just a "marginal" NHL player ( I more or less agree) than why do you people keep freaking out every time he sits a game!

He is good a what he does...play a physical game, not against teams top lines, and with less minutes than the top 4 players...he would look terrible as a top 4 player so lets stop acting like he is the end all be all to this teams D! If you haven't noticed, our D has had pretty good numbers lately. Poti is just as good (in a different way) than Erskine when playing the way he can...not sure if he can recover from all the injuries this season, but I sure as heck hope BB gives him plenty of chances...the playoffs could add an extra 28 games to a season and I bet dollars to donuts at least one D man gets injured or at least needs a night off. Sure would be nice to have our #7 ready to go in that situation. I would hate to see Poti come back in during a game 7 if he hasn't seen any action since January!

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Now I really want Semin resigned long term, mostly just to p#ss off joshu1.

=)

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | January 10, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Brian Willsie got recalled from Hershey for the trip to Fla.

Before some of you flip out and say why not Andrew Gordon its because of the 10 games being subject to waivers rule.

Posted by: ThePat | January 10, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Why do we need Willsie if Gordo is about ready?

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Considering Semin hasn't scored since November and is currently hurt, I don't see much trade value for him. More likely the Caps hang on to him and see how he performs in the spring before re-signing him. Also, I don't see the Caps wanting to move a guy who is there No. 2 goal scorer when Ovie has been slumping.

If the Caps weren't playing well or there were issues with team chemistry, I could see a trade of a player like Semin, but not currently. The next two games against FL and TB are key to setting the tone for the rest of the month. There are a lot of tough games on the road including Philly and Atlanta as well. This look slike a make it or break it month at this point.

Posted by: wizfan89 | January 10, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

@pokerface

dumb question here, but have to make sure...the Eakin trade only affects the Junior league...he is still our prospect right.

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

@capscoach -
I'm not going to entertain you while you're laid off by having one of your back and forth so called discussions that you so obviously like to pass the time.

I will say only this. Improve your reading comprehension. You missed the part after I said Erskine was a marginal NHL talented player. I then said that "He therefore needs to demonstrate other skills to separate him from the rest of the also-rans. He does a fine job at that."

That part elevates him above the also rans.So I think he is better than what you stated was said. And we don't "freak out" (immature people freak out) when he doesn't play. We state why we think he should. And that reason is he is playing better than Poti.

Good luck with finding a job. Seriously.

Posted by: rblatch45 | January 10, 2011 4:39 PM | Report abuse

@rblatch

if vermontcaps is not "freaking out" I don't kow what would be considered freaking out :)

2nd...just to be clear...I work.

3rd. you look at one of my posts and then attack me as naive and immature, then decide to not respond or debate an issue...that is the definition of immature.

I think Erskine is great where he is. I don't see why people "get upset" every time he is benched when it is clear we need to have a 7th man ready at all times and by sitting a player for weeks and weeks, you are guaranteeing a rusty first game back...which could be devestating if it happens in the playoffs. Unfortunately for Erskine, players like Schultz, while not as physical are capable of eating up more ice time so it is harder to bench them unless they are playing poorly (which except for Poti) no player (on D) is.

Ideally I see Poti getting in about every third game unless he continues to deteriorate...sitting Erskine every 3rd game shouldn't hurt him. Green, Hannan, Alzner, Carlson, and yes Schultz are better than Erskine. That means it is him and Poti that are our 6/7th. I have made a very reasonable argument that you are welcome to disagree with...many do and many don't. But I don't appreciate being called immature and naive when people like vermontcaps and others throw out crazy posts left and right, but b/c you generally agree with them it is ok.

Lastly...thank you for the luck...social studies teachers are a dime a dozen right now so I will need it.

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

@capscoach

Pretty insightful analysis of how the Caps D has been operating. The good news is that they all seem to be buying in to the new emphasis on defense. It's a shame that they had to switch to this during the season rather than back in training camp. Hopefully, it will all be second nature by the time playoffs begin.

Posted by: rock-o | January 10, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

@rock-o

thanks...wink wink :)

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse

if vermontcaps is not "freaking out" I don't kow what would be considered freaking out :)

Posted by: capscoach | January 10, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Freaking out? No, no, no capscoach, I'm just now taking interest in the team and starting to get warmed up.

Is it true? Can it possibly be true? Did we really call-up Brian Willsie? Yippee, hooray, simply fantastic....UNBELIEVEABLE!! Didn't we see enough of this loser the first go-round? I guess he plays soft enough for BB's liking, so we shouldn't miss a beat as a team. Just PATHETIC, I'll say no more.

Gotta love BB's treatment of DJK as both a man and a player. Why no injury updates, or timetables for return? It's as if the man DOESN'T EXIST. Why hasn't a reporter inquired of DJK himself his status? I'm sure BB has instructed DJK to keep mum on his handling, and even I could be quiet for $600,00.

The situation is mindboggling, absurd, and embarrassing as a fan.. Either play DJK, trade him, demote him, or release him but don't pretend he's not here. I suggest we trade him and B.Gordon to the Isles for Konopka. It would be sweet to see DJK dress against a BB-coached team.

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 10, 2011 5:54 PM | Report abuse

@tominsocal...Cstanton disappeared right after the 24/7 episode in which McPhee responded to critics of the team by stating "if they knew the game, they would be in the game"...

Posted by: boomer44 | January 10, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

boomer: Touche!

Posted by: tominsocal1 | January 10, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

GMGM is still an arrogant SOB... he should at least win one before he acts like he's Glen Sather.

Posted by: joek443 | January 10, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

CapsCoach,
Correct. Eakin is Washington professional property regardless of his junior tenure. If he gets more ice time in Koot, all the better. I thought he played great in Buffalo and anxious to see him with Da - Bears.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | January 11, 2011 1:47 AM | Report abuse

CapsCoach,
Correct, Eakin is our property regardless of his junior tenure, Anxious to see him with Da - Bears.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | January 11, 2011 1:50 AM | Report abuse

Sorry for the repost, technical difficulties.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | January 11, 2011 1:51 AM | Report abuse

GMGM has done his job, BB now just needs to impliment and execute. Compared to other teams in the east, we've got the player/personnel to hoist and if we $#!+ the bed again in the spring, I'm going to have to stay drunk all summer to deal with it again.

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | January 11, 2011 1:58 AM | Report abuse

Mornin boys,

I know I'm a little late to the party, but I wanted to comment on a few of you all's post's about the Caps system and lack of scoring. I do agree an adjustment in their offensive philosophy is needed. However, don't discount the effect that the Caps inept power play is having. When a team is rolling on the power play that forces teams to be more cautious defensively because they don't want to take penalties. Which, in turn, leads to more open ice 5 on 5. I think our boys are headed in the right direction overall. I do think a trade for a solid forward would benefit this team come playoff time. If GMGM can find one at the right price, I'm sure he'll pull the trigger.

Posted by: jcreech1 | January 11, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Where's the All Star article? Final rosters announced.

Posted by: tslats | January 11, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse

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