Semyon Varlamov works out, Ducks on a mission
The big news today at Kettler was the the reappearance of goalie Semyon Varlamov on the ice. It was so big that, as Varlamov finished his workout and went over to sign some autographs, a UPS delivery driver who had just finished dropping a package off at Kettler started asking questions about just when the 21-year-old would appear in an NHL game again.
Varlamov performed skating drills and took shots from strength and conditioning coach Mark Nemish for about 45 minutes while goaltending coach Arturs Irbe looked on, and even got down in his butterfly for a good portion of the workout.
As he walked off the ice, Varlamov said he "felt good" and that there were no setbacks or twinges this time around. Since his most recent knee injury came during a rehab stint in Hershey, Varlamov has been on the Bears' injured reserve, meaning he can't take part in a full practice with the rest of the Capitals just yet. But Varlamov said he expected to skate and work out the next couple of days at Kettler before going back to Hershey for another rehab stint this weekend.
"Is he out there?" joked Coach Bruce Boudreau when asked whether he was encouraged Varlamov was finally skating again. "I was giving up asking, I felt like I was the person asking every day. The trainers were getting sick of me, so I'm glad he's out there."
As for the Capitals' other injured goalie, Jose Theodore, the prognosis seems better than originally feared after he left last night's game between the second and third period. Boudreau called the veteran netminder day-to-day but added that "he's a lot better than we thought." Boudreau expects Theodore to practice tomorrow.
Now what about tonight's game against the Anaheim Ducks? Keep reading for some more news and notes from a relatively busy morning despite the fact that all of seven players took the ice for an optional skate:
*Tyler Sloan and Quintin Laing stayed on the ice after the morning skate for extra work, so I'd expect them to be the healthy scratches tonight. Boudreau said Brian Pothier will return to the lineup after being sidelined with a broken hand since Jan. 13. One would expect the offensive lines to remain the same considering the Capitals have accumulated 57 goals in their last 11 games. Also figured I'd mention this stat of the day, courtesy of Caps PR ace Nate Ewell: The Capitals' shooting percentage during this current seven-game winning streak is 16.9 percent, which translates to a .831 save percentage for opposing netminders.
*Though the Caps got back to D.C. in the wee hours of the morning, the bright side is they got to sleep in their own beds last night and according to Boudreau, are "playing as well as we've played as a team since I've been here."
The Ducks, meanwhile, began a four-game Southeast Division road trip last night with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss at Atlanta. Forward Ryan Getzlaf hit the post with a slap shot as time expired in the third period. Anaheim's lone goal of the night came from a familiar face -- former Capital Steve Eminger -- who now has two goals and four assists in 37 games this season.
Even with last night's defeat, the Ducks have won eight of their past 11 and are starting to look eerily similar to last year's team that went 10-2-1 down the stretch to sneak into the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Veteran sniper Teemu Selanne has been saddled with injuries this season and has missed the last two weeks since having jaw surgery to repair two broken bones (Laing would be proud). Forward Joffrey Lupol is also out due to back surgery.
In their stead have been emerging forwards Bobby Ryan (who is also the answer to the trivia question: Who was selected No. 2 overall in the 2005 NHL Draft after Sidney Crosby went to Penguins?) and Corey Perry. Ryan leads the Ducks in goals with 24 this season, while Perry leads them in points with 61. Also worth noting is that veteran center Saku Koivu returned for Anaheim last night after missing two games with a sprained knee.
During the Ducks' recent hot streak, goaltender Jonas Hiller has taken over the No. 1 spot between the pipes from Jean Sebatian Giguere. Hiller has started Anaheim's past 11 games and currently has a 20-15-2 record, .915 save percentage, and a 2.81 GAA. However, since the Ducks played last night and have games Friday and Monday on the road, I wouldn't be surprised to see Giguere get a chance in net against the Capitals.
Boudreau said that while tonight is a quick turnaround against an opponent his team isn't all that familiar with, the Capitals were lucky they had an off day in Vancouver back in December when the Ducks were in town to face the Canucks, and the coaching staff did plenty of scouting then. But with Anaheim just four points out of the Western Conference's final playoff spot and coming off a disappointing loss, Boudreau knows that the Capitals' first eight-game winning streak since 1988-89 won't come easy.
"I'd much rather face the team higher up in the standings and sort of a little bit safe than the hungrier team that needs every point," said Boudreau. "Just because the four teams we played last week were higher in the standings, these games are all tougher because they're the teams where every point means something. With Anaheim losing last night, I assume that they're gonna come out knowing they have to win tonight and play that kind of game."
*And, last but not least, an update on the Islanders' Jack Hillen, who was struck in the face by an Alex Ovechkin slapshot in the first period last night. Hillen suffered a broken jaw and damaged teeth and was in surgery until early this morning, according to Newsday. He's expected to be released from the hospital tomorrow and will miss 6-8 weeks. Just watching the replays of the shot were gruesome, so it's good to hear nothing catastrophic happened to the young defenseman. Hopefully he makes it back on the ice before this season is over.
*Gene Wang will be chatting live from Verizon Center during tonight's game, and he'll post the lineup around 6:30 or so. Come by and check it out if you're watching on TV from home.
January 27, 2010; 2:34 PM ET
| Tags: Alex Ovechkin, Anaheim Ducks, Brian Pothier, Jose Theodore, Quintin Laing, Semyon Varlamov, Tyler Sloan
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