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Amid the Capitals recent success, the plethora of injuries and the aid provided by call ups from Hershey, defenseman Milan Jurcina has quietly become one of Washington's most consistent presences. Over the past 11 games, Jurcina has played at least 17:20 in 10 games, recorded two goals and three assists and is a plus-5. He's also earned the responsibility of shadowing opponent's top players.

*Today's AP story focuses on the Caps' expectations, and desire for perfection after a less than flawless win over the Islanders.

*After responses from his question of the week, Pierre LeBrun shares that he thinks Alex Ovechkin will indeed win the Maurice Richard trophy again this season.

*Both Pierre McGuire and John Tortorella name Ovechkin as the league's top forward, when asked to chose between Ovechkin, Jarome Iginla, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for TSN's weekly hot-topic quiz.

*For those who missed it earlier this week, Mike Vogel took a historical look at the interest in Brett Leonhardt's NHL debut and compares it to April 23, 1990 -- game 3 of the Patrick Division finals no less -- when the Caps pulled Shawn Simpson from his spot on the radio broadcast to the locker room and the bench as a backup.

Blues Cliff notes:
*St. Louis has lost its past four games and is no stranger to playing with injuries. In addition to being without Paul Kariya (hip), Andy McDonald (ankle), T.J. Oshie (ankle), Eric Brewer (back) and Manny Legace (concussion) the Blues lost Jay McKee indefinitely after fracturing his finger against Calgary on Tuesday.

*With the loss of McKee, St. Louis called up Jonas Junland from the Peoria Rivermen. Junland is the third defensman summoned by the Blues along with Tyson Strachan and Jeff Woywitka.

*The Blues like to play a wide-open free flowing style, but given their injuries they can't always keep up with the run-and-gun style they encourage, says the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Jeff Gordon. Take, for example, the 6-3 loss to Calgary on Tuesday.

*In the random category today, The Hockey News lists gifts that each of the NHL teams should ask for under their trees.

In the system:
*With Kip Brennan practicing with the Bears here's what the lines looked like in yesterday's practice as Hershey prepares for three-games this weekend.

*Viktor Dovgan and Maxime Lacroix were reassigned to South Carolina.

By Katie Carrera  |  December 18, 2008; 7:30 AM ET
 
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Next: Thursday Morning Update (Update)

Comments

Wowwwww! Go ALEX! :-)

Posted by: irockthered | December 18, 2008 7:35 AM | Report abuse

If the Rocket Richard trophy doesn't come with a cup it doesnt matter.

Posted by: trunkenmath | December 18, 2008 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Wow, the Bears have a rough schedule this weekend. Three in a row? Yipe! I'm glad they're rested is all I can say about THAT. Here's hoping for three big wins!

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are 16-11-1-1
Lowell Devils are 11-11-1-3
Lake Erie Monsters are 10-12-1-3
and
our Hershey Bears are 20-7-0-1... if they bring their A game all three nights, they should be just fine.

I wonder, though - why does the AHL do this? Stack games three in a row, I mean? This isn't the first time this season; the boys in chocolate are used to playing back-to-back on the weekends... Is it because they can't get fans to go to AHL games on weeknights, or something?

Posted by: irockthered | December 18, 2008 7:51 AM | Report abuse

Michal friggin' Rozsival.

Posted by: Section117 | December 18, 2008 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Manitoba Moose are sneaking up on the Bears, though, with 40 points to the Bears' 41... so we need to pull a lot of wins to stay ahead of them and Bridgeport, who has 39... so...

LET'S GO, BEARS!!! I hope they get Varlamov back soon... they need him!

Posted by: irockthered | December 18, 2008 7:53 AM | Report abuse

@trunkenmath - not really, but it's COOL! I'd like to see Ovechkin get it this year, if only because he's so dynamic and he's bringing fans to the sport left and right!

Plus, he's not a jerk, like some players are, so that gets him extra points in my book. ;-)

Posted by: irockthered | December 18, 2008 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Beg to differ! But every trophy OV wins stays out of Pittsburg, until we win the cup (not likely with Three-or-more in goal) I hope Alex brings everything else to DC just like he did last year. It is not Alex's fault with made the worst unrestricted free agent signing of the summer of 2008!

Posted by: majiksea | December 18, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Yes they work to keep the games on Weds, Fri, sat, Sun. to help with fan attendance. it is a bit harder when they play weds,fri, sat ,sun which they do a few times this year that 4 in 5 is rough. If you ask the Bears players they think they got a very favorable schedule this year. Graham Mink posted that on his blog when the schedule was released. http://grahammink.blogspot.com/ Grahams bog.

Posted by: cocorules | December 18, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

The gifts under the tree link gave a me a chuckle. Too bad Washington's is stupid:

Washington Capitals – Santa’s just going to ask Ovie to hop on the sleigh and tour around the world, spreading joy to all.

I can think of two right off the top of my head that are better:

1. A deal that would let them keep Karl Alzner for the rest of the year.
2. A break from the injury parade.
3. The Sharks' killer instinct.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 18, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

All AHL teams cluster their games on the weekends. It is easier to get fans out and it saves on travel expenses. The NHLPA mandates against the NHL doing the same.

Posted by: majiksea | December 18, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

With Alzner playing so well, with Jurcina stepping up, with Pothier maybe to come back by the fall, with Sloan coming from nowhere to play well - I wonder does GMGM kick himself now for the Erskine two-year extension.

If it's Erskine or Jurcina next year, just one or the other - which player would you choose?

And does the play of Jurcina perhaps make it easier to move Mo rather than risk another large arbitration settlement?

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 18, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Let's not go overboard with Jurcina and the rest of the Caps defense! They were really bad against the Isles the other night! They had so many guys camped in front of Johnson I thought it was a VFW convention going on! Caps need a “good-solid-veteran“ defensemen to keep these guys from wondering all over the place!
Bruce is doing a heck of a job with what he has back there! Don't get me wrong, we have some good young kids who need some leadership!

Posted by: Finder1 | December 18, 2008 8:05 AM | Report abuse

@majiksea: Easy there, chief. (No, I'm not calling you Chief.) Yeah, Theodore so far has been a bust. That doesn't mean that we're not going to win anything. There's very little doubt in my mind that we're going to wiggle at the trade deadline - although, never play poker with GMGM. It's hard to tell.

Me, I'm still a little twtichy about tonights' game after watching us nearly fall apart against the Islanders. I saw a lot of stuff from the beginning of the season that I didn't like seeing, and I hope I don't see it again. Hopefully the change in our blueline and how ot plays sticks.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 18, 2008 8:09 AM | Report abuse

@pawz

you're kidding? Here it is:

1) A conference final against the Pens. We play 4 games, win them all with a shutout. Ovie and Semin Hat Trick in each game. The Pens with four 5 on 3's each game and clearly advantaged by the refs, but can't score one goal.

2) A SC final and win against the Sharks. 7 games that will make history and will be remembered worldwide, watched by two billions people across the globe, every single one of them inspired and crying in the end. All football fans turns to hockey.

Tall order? Come on Santa, you can do it!

Posted by: mauree | December 18, 2008 8:14 AM | Report abuse

@tominfl1: Jurcina. No contest. Jurcina's problem is that he needs the right partner. With the right partner, he shines. We saw it when he was paired with Fedorov, and we see it again when he's paired with Alzner. (And I think Alzner is learning from Jurcina as well, honestly.)

As for kicking himself over Erskine, I don't know. Maybe, maybe not.

Am I the only person who thinks that the big thing we need right now, with our D stepping up like they are, is a little bit of sandpaper? We are behind only Detroit and tied with Florida for the second fewest fighting majors in the league right now, and while it was good to see Bradley and Laich step up, we need someone besides Brash who can really flatten someone. Sorry, Brads (love him) can't fight.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 18, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse

@mauree: Nice, except a couple of things:

I think the conference final this year will be against the Bruins. I think they'll be a tougher opponent than the Pens (depending on the ref). How about a first round against the Pens?

You want football fans watching hockey? We'd get the stadium defeaned by shouts of DEFENSE while the footballs fans try to catch up to the fact that we took the puck back and are on the attack.

7 games against the Sharks in a Stanley Cup Final would indeed be memorable, win or lose. I'd want to win, naturally. (I still think the Caps/Flyers series was the most memorable of the playoffs last night, and that includes the Stanley Cup Final.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 18, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

@pawz,

haha you're right, let me rephrase it: football fans realize hockey is much cooler than football but can't keep up with the pace. Every two minutes they need a bathroom/snack/surf channels/read paper/fix kitchen breaks. No really, why they don't stop the game during line changes????

Posted by: mauree | December 18, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

@Kitty
Not really my opinion alone about Jose, it is shared by a number of hockey writers and XM commentators. I was actually happy when we signed him over Huet (who usually ranks as the number two bust)but he has just not played well enough to even have a chance in the playoffs. Given his track record, we are not likely to see sunstantive improvement until his contract year next year.

Posted by: majiksea | December 18, 2008 8:48 AM | Report abuse

@mauree - *snicker*

I gave my boss cr@p yesterday about the Steelers. Told him hockey was a real sport. ;-)

Posted by: irockthered | December 18, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

@mauree: *snrt* Exactly. And what do you mean your average shift is only about a minute long? I like football, but hockey is just MUCH faster-paced.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 18, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

@majiksea: Not all things work out. Johnson is playing out of his mind right now (may he continue to do so), so it's not like it's the end of our world. Maybe we trade him, maybe we send him down, maybe we just deal. We'll see. My point is that some things don't work out. You grumble and move on.

Speaking of grumbling and moving on, I still have a bad feeling about tonight. Maybe it's just the Islanders game, but we gave up way more shots than I like. Hopefully BB fixed some of what happened Tuesday, otherwise we could be in for a very long night.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 18, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Why does everyone want to factor Pothier in our plans for this year?

Just because he is on the ice doesnt mean he is going to play.

The best thing to do is encourage his progress from a health standpoint, but dont start posting on here "what do we do now?" scenarios.

He is far from coming back.

Posted by: SA-Town | December 18, 2008 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I was going to read that "under the tree" article till kitty posted what it said about the caps. Completely not worth reading anymore.

I actually watched the Flames/Wild game last night on NHLN/TSN where they did their quiz about the best FWD in the game. Literally, the ONLY support some fat dude gave for his pick of Crosby was that he was Canadian. Then I had to take a drink or two, as it was a chance for some commentators to mention Cindy's name during a broadcast of a game not featuring him (this was the studio crew, not the in-house play-by-play).

Both the other guys made very good cases for Ovie (2-1 vote) but Tort's was the only one I was interested in, having coached against both.

The game itself (Flames/Wild) was fantastic. Great defensive 1st period, crazy 2nd, timely goal by that headcase Gaborik to tie it up, and great OT winner by Bertuzzi.

TSN also had a top-10 "body part" goals in honor of Iginla's goal vs the blues a few nights ago. That was a great segment, with Brashear making the list at @6. Took a shot (way wide right) from the left circle that went off an opponent's face and into the net. Was the only goal he scored that year.

Finder-

Initially I was upset about the 3rd period on Tues, and felt the D did a horrible job, not boxing out and assisting in screening BJ. Then I looked back at what NYI was doing in the 3rd. They were sending 2 guys to the front of the net. In that case, you have to help your goalie out and try to block as many from the point as you can. What makes matters worse is the front of the net is that gray zone where if the ref feels like it, he can call interference on a defender who goes in and sweeps guys away. Your best defense is to establish position on the strong side and keep them from moving across the crease (similar to boxing out in basketball). With 2 guys camping infront, boxing out doesn't work, and you may as well try to block whatever you can. The key though is recognizing this is happening and stepping up quick on the guys at the point so they have no lanes to shoot. With 2 guys in the middle, they also have nobody to pass to. Our FWDs didn't do this for whatever reason (lack of communication).

Oh, and I noticed when PP's are winding down with BJ in the net, someone, somewhere is SCREAMING the seconds to the guys. Not sure if this was NYI or Caps, I'll listen for it tonight if BJ starts.

Posted by: FFSEnough | December 18, 2008 9:04 AM | Report abuse

kittypawz: re: sandpaper.

I was bummed we didn't keep Cooke. He is 3+10=13 pts so far, and was decent on the PK. The sandpaper doesn't need to be a fighter, it could be a guy like Hunter or Ciccarelli. Actually the best sandpaper we have is Ovechkin. And there isn't any reason why Jurcina can't continue to listen to BB and improve and add that to his game. It would be really funny if the Jurcina/Alzner pairing was kept intact for an extended period since they seemed to be so opposite.

Posted by: tominfl1 | December 18, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Kitty
Tonight is a good night! It is a hockey night! Win or lose I get to go to a game, watch the Caps, yell real loud and go home happy or disappointed, but in the end it is Hockey Night in DC!

Posted by: majiksea | December 18, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Amen, majik!

Posted by: DrinkingPartner | December 18, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Caps will be just fine tonight. After Monday's lackluster 3rd period against NYI, coach layed into the team. The team always seems to respond positively to this. The way STL is giving up goals of late, I smell a hat-trick for OV.

Posted by: cbs75 | December 18, 2008 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Now that I'll drink to, majik. :) LET'S GO CAPS!

I still have to fuss, though, especially with the sub-.500 teams. When I do, we seem to kick butt and take names. When I don't, well ... NYI 12/16 is your exhibit A on that. So, JSchon or no JSchon, I will continue to do so. :)

We really can't afford to blow the Blues off, though. We can't blow anybody off.

@tominfl1: Matt Cooke wanted to stay, they just didn't have room for him in the roster. I think the only player from last year's team that didn't actively want to stay was Huet.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 18, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Im thinking we see White Darth Varlamov tonight in net. Jose still a little banged up...Save Johnny for the huge game on Saturday.

Varlamov then goes back to Hershey, and Jose gets the start on the 26th vs Buffalo. Hopefully Johnny can play vs Philly and NYR.

Posted by: SA-Town | December 18, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

From the Times -

The Caps are just getting started with the morning skate. In today's version of the great goalie watch, Brent Johnson and Simeon Varlamov are on the ice, but Jose Theodore is not.

The news of note -- John Erskine is on the ice. He hasn't been out there with his teammates in a while, but he is closer to coming back from his concussion. More in a bit.

Posted by: SA-Town | December 18, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

good to know Big John is out on the ice...thanks for the update SA-town

Posted by: _stevo | December 18, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

A couple of things here...

1. We're #4 this week in the ESPN power rankings!

2. I feel pretty good about tonight's game. The Blues aren't a very good team, they're banged up, and we've been great at home.

3. We're deep. Come trade deadline we can deal for a big veteran D-man and maybe a goalie who we can ride to the Cup. (I'm too lazy to go out and look at who is in the last year of their contract before becoming a UFA and give suggestions on who either of these guys may be, but you get the point)

The only thing that sucks is that I really like all of our young players and would hate to see any of them go elsewhere.

Posted by: griz0615 | December 18, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Morris Day.

Posted by: _jordan | December 18, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Can't we love hockey AND football?

I agree with kittypawz ... let's keep Alzner and trade Nylander to Atlanta for a bag of coal.

And Santa, can you grant full health to Brian Pothier?

Posted by: Cerealman | December 18, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, SA-Town, for the good news: The sexy lumberjack is back!

Posted by: Cerealman | December 18, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Whoa, whoa, wait a second.

ESPN does NHL Power Rankings again? When did THIS happen?

Posted by: Section117 | December 18, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

CLUTTERBUCK!...Damn you, CLUTTERBUCK!

Posted by: lylewimbledon | December 18, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Semin getting some more national attention. Seems the Yahoo! blogger likes him: http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/What-Semin-looks-for-in-a-lady-provided-she-doe?urn=nhl,130052

Posted by: kenjabi | December 18, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Just one question:

Is Simeon playing tonight before he goes back to Hershey??????

Or can he start against Philly?

I would love to see him shut Philly out...that would be better than the game against Montreal.

Posted by: caps28fan | December 18, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Interesting interview with Semin!

"At times the game itself is not necessary to me. I would rather make a few good plays, make a few passes, get a little strategy going on the ice."

In other words I don't care about winning, I just want to look good on the ice.

Posted by: majiksea | December 18, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Looks like Sundin to the Rangers-battle between them and Canucks. He keeps refusing huge money from Vancouver and it appears he is just waiting to see if the Rangers have Cap space to squeeze in 6 million.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | December 18, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

CLUTTERBUCK!...Damn you, CLUTTERBUCK!

Posted by: lylewimbledon | December 18, 2008 10:31 AM

@lylewimbledon:

LOL...That's a Dickensian name if ever I heard one!

Posted by: Rhino40 | December 18, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Rangers will not make room until Sundin makes a decision, after that they can arrange a trade or two.

Posted by: majiksea | December 18, 2008 11:36 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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