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Morning Reading List

Through 34 games the Capitals are still waiting for Jose Theodore or Brent Johnson to emerge as the team's No. 1 goaltender. Yes, the team is winning and continues to succeed despite an almost never-ending injury cycle. But what could this team do with a consistent presence in net? And who is ready to be that goaltender? Tarik takes a look at Theodore and Johnson in today's hard-copy edition story.

*The Caps are expected to announce call ups for tonight's game at Madison Square Garden, as they will be without Mike Green (shoulder), Tom Poti (groin), Alexander Semin (back) and Sergei Fedorov (ankle). Donald Brashear and Dave Steckel are both questionable.

*Greg Wyshynski has lengthy must-read interview with "the unsung Russian" Viktor Kozlov that ranges from this season, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, to when he first entered the NHL with San Jose, his time with the Panthers and Islanders to the Olympics and family life.

*The Caps will retire Mike Gartner's No. 11 jersey on Dec. 28 against the Maple Leafs, and Mike Vogel takes a look back at the franchise's decision to select the right win fourth overall in 1979.

Rangers Cliff notes:
*Despite an up-and-down December, during which they've gone 5-4, the Rangers still lead the Atlantic Division and are in second place in the Eastern Conference with 46 points.

*The Caps and their sixth-ranked power play (22.4 percent) will face the best penalty kill in the league, as the Rangers shut down opponents a stifling 89.4 percent of the time. (Conversely, New York's power play is 23rd, with a 14.7 percent success rate, and the Rangers are 26th in goals per game at 2.44.)

*In their last game, the Rangers lost to the league-leading Sharks 3-2 in San Jose and failed to complete a sweep of their three-game road trip.

*After losing out on the Mats Sundin sweepstakes, the Rangers have time to focus on other pressing matters -- like defensive consistency. The players themselves, seem rather happy to keep their current roster (sans-Sundin) intact according to NHL.com.

Around the league:
*I'm sure you haven't forgotten about all those Michael Nylander trade rumors. According to Pierre LeBrun, the Blue Jackets aren't interested.

*Speaking of potential trades, LeBrun and Scott Burnside talk about who might be the big names up for grabs at this year's trade deadline.

In the system:
*Regardless of who's there Hershey seems determined to break as many franchise records as possible this year. Not long after setting the club's best ever 11-game winning streak mark, the Bears are one win away from tying the franchise's record for consecutive home victories (11) after defeating Lake Erie 3-2 for their 10th straight win at Giant Center.

*Simeon Varlamov continued his AHL success this weekend, improving to 11-3-0 and made 23 saves against the Lake Erie Monsters. Stack the Pads has video clips of the shootout with the Monsters including Varlamov's game-sealing save.

By Katie Carrera  |  December 23, 2008; 7:11 AM ET
 
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Next: A. Gordon, Helmer Recalled (Updated)

Comments

Love the interview with Kozlov. It was funny stuff! I especially liked his response to the Ovechkin clothing line question. Don't get to hear from/about him too often so it was nice for a change - he is one of my favorite Caps.

Posted by: capsfantess | December 23, 2008 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Morning, everyone. Yesterday was a slow day, but today doesn't look that way.

I liked the Kozlov interview, although I was a little concerned that he might choose to move to Russia at the end of this year. That would be sad - a lot of people underestimate him and what he brings to the ice.

On Hershey: Good thing too, since we seem set on borrowing half their roster. :P UNLEASH THE HERSHEY!

No shame in losing to the Sharks - they've got lots of company. :)

I dunno. I've got a bad, bad feeling about tonight. I just hope to God that skaters and goalies alike come out flying, and that Brash, Steckel, or both are in the lineup. If no Brash, then bring up Mink - Mink's a big guy and will scrap (and does in Hershey every now and then).

Just remember, as far as the Eastern Conference goes, this is a four-point game for us. This is a big game and we need the win like whoa.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 23, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I got the same feeling when he was talking about playing in Russia - though in an interview last year he did say he would play here as long as he could. I think the instability over there in conjunction with his family situation (his daughter being raised here) might prevent him from going there unless he really had to.

I wouldn't mind seeing him get an extension with us for another year - I like what he brings to the team both on/off the ice. I think it is going to depend, however, on not only his general play but also if he steps it up at the end of the season/post-season.

And what is with our Russians and the speeding? Slow down!

Posted by: capsfantess | December 23, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Will be at the game tonight rocking the red at the garden. Look for me in the left corner of the rink as you look at the goal the Caps shoot at twice.

I am hoping we put up a good fight and come out with a 3-2 victory.

Let's Go Caps!

Posted by: CTCapsPhan | December 23, 2008 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Injury Update:

SA-Town has a bruised forefinger and will only post 8 times today. Of course his work will be thrilled to gain a smatter of productivity from the dufuss. :oP

Greeny OUT. Not good homies.

Feds. High ankle sprain may take until March to get better but then all we need is bad ice surface which shouldn't be a problem at the Phone Booth.

Noah would be proud.

Posted by: windjammersouth | December 23, 2008 8:46 AM | Report abuse

I'm curious, how is the Hershey Bears' attendance usually?? and what is their building they play in called?

Posted by: rachel216 | December 23, 2008 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Great Eight - The Russian Machine (never break)

Varlamov - The Iron Curtain

Semin - The Russian Roulette (you never know)

Kozlov - Molotov cocktail (needs to be lighted up)

Fedorov - Sputnik (Set all Russian records)

Posted by: CodePoetry | December 23, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I watched the Hershey Bears highlights of the shootout, Varlamov is so good. :D

Posted by: rachel216 | December 23, 2008 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Merry Christmas to you too windjammer. You are an asset to our gathering of Caps knowledge and insight.

Posted by: SA-Town | December 23, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Rachel216: The Hershey Bears play in the Giant Center with an average attendance in the 7000 - 8000 range.

http://www.hersheypa.com/events/hershey_bears/index.php

http://www.hersheypa.com/events/giant_center/index.php

Posted by: uncatim | December 23, 2008 9:07 AM | Report abuse

and Cheef, and Puckguru, and trolls from philly & pgh -- God bless us everyone!

Posted by: uncatim | December 23, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

yep there's #1 from our favorite Towny. How bout #2?

Just stating the facts as I have been all along on the injury situation.

Let's play final score tonight. 4-2 is my guess. Who wins is your guess cause me knows the answer.

2 by 2

Posted by: windjammersouth | December 23, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

@Cheef if he/she chooses to come on in today. I am still trying to figure out if you're a Caps fan or someone who frequents different teams fan posts and injects negative posts to get a rise out of people. Experts, did you read that, E X P E R T S say that the Caps would be legit contenders for the Cup with solid goaltending. Our goaltending has been subpar this year to say the least. On another topic you love to jab at so much is toughness. Yes the Caps have a lot of injuries and to expect someone to play NHL hockey with a pulled groin, severly injured shoulder, or nerve damaged back is rediculous. To have their toughness questioned by most likely a non-hockey player is a joke too. I would challenge you Cheef to strap on skates and go play in a local U18AA Midget game. They will knock you into next week. I can set that up for you so please ask how to take part in a practice and I'll let the boys know that you question how tough hockey players are. There are not any cowards in the NHL.

Injuries are on the rise this season. I don't know why, I'm a fan, not an expert in injury stats. IMO it does seem that although the season is not any shorter there does seem to be stretches where the Caps have a lot of games in the span of 10 days or so, and then all of a sudden 4-5 days off. I think that has been consistent across the board for all teams not just a disadvantage the Caps are dealing with. Perhaps the league should look into a schedule with gaps that are built more for recovery. Just a lot of scheduling issues when teams compete for staudium time with BB teams, concerts, and the circus. It would be much easier to deal with injuries if we had a solid goaltending tandem.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 23, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Rachel216: Also, the crowd at Bears home games is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

Posted by: uncatim | December 23, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

@SA-Town: An asset or an @ss-ette?

@rachel216: Typical Hershey attendance runs in the high 7,000's. Giant Center is right outside Hersheypark, and it's a relatively small arena, but it's nice, clean, and very personable and friendly (if a little crowded). The jumbotron videos are a little cheesy, but their music is pretty good (I about snarfed my drink when the Bears went on the power play and the music played was "Goodbye To You").

Getting to Hershey: From DC, take 95 north to 695 towards Towson. Hop 83 north to Harrisburg and pick up 322 East to Hershey in Harrisburg. It's about an hour and a half from Baltimore, and 322 runs right through the middle of Hershey proper. The turnpike's also an option (that's how I got from Philly to Hershey).

It's a fun trip and one that I've done several times. As I have astigmatism and have problems driving late at night, I usually get a cheap motel for the night after a game, and there are some in Hershey.

Posted by: kittypawz | December 23, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Anyone know if the Caps are practicing at MSG or Chelesea Piers this morning?

Posted by: 16CapsFan | December 23, 2008 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Anyone know if the Caps are practicing at MSG or Chelsea Piers this morning?

Posted by: 16CapsFan | December 23, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

@windjammer

Whats your take on Brash's leg, and should the league have looked for a suspension on the dirty slash from Asham?

Posted by: SA-Town | December 23, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Definitely concur with kittypawz on Hershey: attended my first Bears game last month and really enjoyed it. The folks are really nice and know their hockey. The game we attended had almost a full house - attendance was over 8,700 that night. Also got a preview of what we just saw in DC with Varlamov, and it was as impressive then as it was recently. It was also great to see the Caps logo on their ice and see a lot of Caps jerseys in their crowd. Overall I don't think you could ask for a better farm club relationship not only in terms of proximity but in terms of talent and how solid the Hershey organization is in their community. Go Washington Bears tonight!

Posted by: Roose | December 23, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

At least 70% down and I win the big one. Up 10% and I lose.

See it is all relative. Looking forward to a healthy season next year and chance to win the Cup.

Sa-Town -- yoube justbe wastee away yours timey on this sitey this yearbe.

(the heehee club)

Posted by: windjammersouth | December 23, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Although GIANT Center is a great place to watch a minor league game I hope that the construction of a new arena in Baltimore will spark interest in the minor league affiliate coming back to Baltimore. I know I would go to Baltimore and catch minor league games when the are on the road.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 23, 2008 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Announce the callups already, caps.

Posted by: _jordan | December 23, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Katie.....do you really look just like Tarik? :-)

Posted by: dezlboy1 | December 23, 2008 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Come to think of it, wishing the AHL team would move back to Baltimore is kind of selfish on my part. I have enjoyed the fans when I've been able to attend games in Hershey. They do know the game well and the Washington/Hershey relationship has been a good one.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 23, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

@fanohock1

Understandable though. But after so many minor league teams have come and gone in Balto, I just don't ever see it happening or succeeding. This area has just enough hockey fans to support one team; once we get more than one it just doesn't seem to work. And you are right about the arena: they need a new one big time, as that place is a huge dump. I played a few games there for the Junior Bandits back in the day, and it was awful.

Posted by: Roose | December 23, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Another ECHL team bites the dust. Fresno Falcons decided yesterday to cease operations due to financial restraints. That is the second ECHL team this season to stop.

Posted by: cocorules | December 23, 2008 10:26 AM | Report abuse

@kittypawz

By NHL standards the Giant Center may be a small arena (10,000+ seating) but by AHL standards it is huge. Heck, if I remember correctly from when Portland was the Caps farm team, the arena maybe sat 5,000 and on the nights I was there 3,500 was considered large crowd for an evening of hockey. Also, the concourse on the Giant Center is quite wide compared to the Portand CC and wider and less crowded then some of the 400 level sections of the Verizon Center.

Much more of a social activity in Hershey as well. Many people have been coming for years and meet up with friends from outlying areas. Get in 1 3/4 (STH) or 1 1/2 hours before game time, many things to do, buy raffle tickets for, or just sit at a table (yes, table) on the concourse and eat. Also, they don't "darken" the arena for the game. Hate that at the VC (and thank heavens, no Red H.....s with bare bellies and boobs in your face). Also, you can go out to the team parking lot after the game and chat with the players, can't do that here (and they all use the SAME door). You can even catch up with the visiting team out back.

I love the Caps, but it is much more of a "come to the game, do warm-ups, watch the game and leave place" environment at the VC. Practice is actually more "fun". Good hotels over by the airport on U.S. 283 and cheaper than most in Hershey.

Posted by: Varly | December 23, 2008 10:33 AM | Report abuse

@Rachel216 - Giant Center in Hershey, PA has two things going for it that the Phone Booth does not:

1) Good hotdogs
2) Water pressure in the ladies' room on the upper deck ;-)

The crowd is a lot of fun, though quieter than at the Verizon Center. From my usual seats, I was able to shout loudly enough to alert Machesney that the puck he'd lost was between his knees last game I went to. It was out in the open and belonged to anyone until he sat on it. You can hear some of what the guys are shouting to each other on the ice, too, from the lower deck.

Seats down 5 rows back from the ice run $22, and upper deck seats run $16. And it's good, hard-hitting hockey. Lots of bang for the buck.

@kittypawz - I hope we do bring up Mink if Brash is out, since the other big Hershey scrapper (Grant McNiell) is still injured (I think...)! Mink won't take any cr@p.

@fanohock1 - I've been working on charting penalties on a spreadsheet, and using 9 point Verdana as my font, I have to reduce the view size to 80% to get all the Caps on one screen. There are only one or two other teams who have fielded anywhere near as many different players as we have, and of those teams, only the Caps need to be reduced below 90% to be able to see the entire list.

Bottom line:

1) The ice at the Phone Booth is terrible, and people are prone to injuring themselves at home as a result. We know nothing can be done about this right now, but the minute something CAN, we need to do it.

2) Our enforcers need to enforce on rat beasturds like David Backes and the guy who slashed Brash (forgot the name) so that they stop trying to hurt us.

3) Those players who ARE hurt *coughFedorov*cough*Green*cough* need to quit trying to come back too soon and hurting themsleves again. Since they won't police themselves that way, the team doctor needs to put some of these folks on LTIR so that they are forced to sit down and not skate so they can get healthy.

Posted by: irockthered | December 23, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

The three AHL buildings I've been in are the old Baltimore arena where the Bandits played, The Scope in Norfolk, and GIANT Center. GIANT Center wins far and away. FAAAR and away.

Posted by: _jordan | December 23, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

So what are our realistic options with "the lemon?" No team could possibly want him... can we slash his contract?

Posted by: gocaps71 | December 23, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Giant Center is awesome. My wife and I made our first trip on Saturday and had a great time. We sat in the lower bowl and you can totally hear the guys shouting directions to each other on the ice. "Cheese" was solid in goal and even jumped into a scrum at the end. Sam Adams Winter Lager on draft for six bucks (16oz.). Lots of knowledgeable hockey fans who are super friendly. One group in our section brought a bunch of trays of chocolates and sent kids to deliver them around the rink to different sections and we watched the trays wind their way down the rows. What a fun way to spend an evening.

Posted by: Scott_in_Shaw | December 23, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

@_jordan: Ironically enough those are the 3 AHL arenas I have been to as well. I was stationed down in Norfolk and caught many Admirals games. I was there when they trasitioned from an ECHL team to the AHL affiliated with the Blackhawks. Anyhow, in all fairness to Baltimore Arena and the Norfolk Scope GIANT Center is a new stadium. Now, I have caught a Bears game in the old Hershey Park Arena but my son played there a couple of years ago in a hockey tournament. That place is cool! Built back in 1930 it reminded me of my days of going to Chicago Stadium. It has the old wooden seats that are right on top of the action. GIANT center is obviously a more comfortable environment for the fans and I'm positive the perks for the players are better at the new stadium, but it is neat to see the old stadiums with the drinking fountains from days gone by.

Posted by: fanohock1 | December 23, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Looks like it's Bryan Helmer and Andrew Gordon for tonight, according to the text message I got from Caps Mobile Alert...

Posted by: irockthered | December 23, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

From Kozlov's interview:

Ovechkin opened his own clothing line recently. Did he give you a present?

"I have a hat. He didn't sign it, but I have a picture with him as proof that we have met."

Very funny, Viktor!

Joe B

Posted by: rw-c | December 23, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Did any one else have the chance to catch a Washington Presidents or Lions (names used at different times)at old Uline Arena at 3rd & M st S E Wash D C? Wonderful place for a hockey game-----NOT. It was fun though. Not sure what league it was at the time.

Posted by: sidehillman | December 23, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Giant Center is first class & a very fun place to watch a game. I just wish it wasn't a 240 mile round trip for me to go there. The old Balt. Civic was not a very good place to watch hockey. I saw the Skipjacks & several other editions of a Balt hockey team.

The most fun I ever had there was a game that Hall of Famer Doug Harvey was playing as he was winding down his career, watching him tripping another player so that the Ref couldn't see him. At the end of that game, Boom Boom G who was the coach. went across the ice & proceeded to knock the stuffings out of the P A anouncer by mistake. He meant to get the time keeper. Really funny stuff.

Posted by: sidehillman | December 23, 2008 11:15 AM | Report abuse

sidehillman:

I didn't see any games at Uline Arena, but after I moved to Reston, I played my first adult hockey game there.

Posted by: rw-c | December 23, 2008 11:23 AM | Report abuse

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