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Posted at 11:29 AM ET, 01/ 4/2011

Semyon Varlamov likely to start for Capitals vs. Lightning

By Greg Schimmel

Tom Poti participated in the Capitals' optional skate Tuesday morning and said he hopes to play tonight against Tampa Bay.

The veteran defenseman missed the Caps' previous three games after he suffered a concussion against Pittsburgh on Dec. 23.

"I'm feeling OK," Poti said. "Hopefully I can play tonight."

John Erskine joined Tyler Sloan, D.J. King and Michal Neuvirth in the scratches skate after the main session, and he appears to be the player who will sit, assuming Poti is able to go.

In other news:

-- Neuvirth participated in the entire session Tuesday and appeared to be fine after he left Monday's practice early when he was apparently clipped in the face by a stick.

When asked during the skate Tuesday about Neuvirth's status, Coach Bruce Boudreau said "Is he out there? OK."

-- Semyon Varlamov was the first goaltender off the ice Tuesday morning and should be in net tonight against the Lightning for his fourth consecutive start. Varlamov is 4-1 with a 1.81 goals against average in five career starts against the Lightning.

-- Matt Bradley needed help lacing his skates and putting on some of his equipment, but the forward did some light work after the main skate and seems to be progressing nearly two weeks after he underwent successful surgery to repair a broken finger.

-- Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Scott Hannan were the Capitals regulars who opted out of Tuesday's skate.

By Greg Schimmel  | January 4, 2011; 11:29 AM ET
Categories:  Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tom Poti  
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Comments

And now begin the Ovie bashing...

Posted by: capscoach | January 4, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Not sure if this has gone around yet or not but I just received it in an e-mail. Love the commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhY1BYkiNUc&feature=player_embedded

Posted by: CapsSkins | January 4, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Oh Sh*****T ! I can hear the moaning and groaning comming in from the Vermont now.....we better put on our flame suits now.

Just think of Big John getting a maintenance day and not being the "odd man out" for this game.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | January 4, 2011 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I have no problem with rotating Erskine and Poti (as long as Poti is playing ok comparably to Erskine) It will help us in the playoffs to have a SOLID #7 who isn't going to be a liability. And Poti is not terrible when he is playing at his normal level...he needs some playing time to heopefully get back there.

I really think BB will rotate them or go back to Erskine full time if Poti doesn't step up in the next few games

Posted by: capscoach | January 4, 2011 11:47 AM | Report abuse

@darrylrbaker

Interesting to read the Pens comments 48hrs after the game. Given that everyone in the NHL should know that Steckel is clean, passive, and gentlemanly player I think the Pens are just laying the foundation for a real nasty game next time.

They're leading the league in fights, yet in our two games against them they haven't tried to exploit that advantage. For all this bluster coming from their locker-room, my guess is that they won't really care about the outcome of the game. Seems like they're intent on retribution, and methinks that anyone in a Caps jersey will be at risk of receiving a cheap shot. I don't think our "vaunted" power-play will encourage them to play clean.

If that's the case, it would be too much to expect Erskine to keep everyone on the bench safe. Bradley and Hendricks, while game, wouldn't be among the top-6 fighters on the Pens. With the tens of millions $$ Leonsis has invested in his players, I hope he communicates to GMGM and BB that if the Pens go head-hunting in our building we better be able to match-up...time to get the rust of DJK and start prepping him EVEN IF ONLY FOR THE PENS GAME.

@capscoach

why do you think the Bruins traded Thornton years ago?

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 4, 2011 11:53 AM | Report abuse

After the solid game that Ersk had Sunday there is absolutely no excuse for him to be a scratch, period!! Another example of BB's incompetance IMHO.

Posted by: PhilR | January 4, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

@vermont

so should we trade Ovie :)

Posted by: capscoach | January 4, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Hey PhilR is back!

All our D played well in that game? Schultz was good to...I know he doens't hit and that makes you want to scream, but every D had a good game (a good couple of games actually) So Poti needs to get back in there and as good as Erskine is, he is our #6 so he is going to get scratched on ocassion.

This is not the crisis some make it out to be...Erskine is good in his role...but he is not top 4 guy. So a day off here and there is not going to kill him...if anything he could probably use the break...his hands probably hurt.

Posted by: capscoach | January 4, 2011 11:58 AM | Report abuse

@capsfanmiss

I have no problem w/Erskine getting a "maintenance" day every now and then...he's earned it. If he's benched next game, LOOK OUT.

I'll be appalled if we win tonight, and BB sits #4 next game too and says he wants some continuity in the lines and pairs. My gut tells me this is the start of #4 being nothing more than a part-timer but I'll wait and see.

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 4, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Why is it that whenever two players collide, whoever stays up is always at fault. Crosby seemed just as much at fault for the accidental collision as Steckel, Crosby just received the worst of it. I guess Steckel should've rolled on the ground for a while pretending to be hurt and then nothing would've been said except Milbury saying how tough Crosby is.

"If that's the case, it would be too much to expect Erskine to keep everyone on the bench safe"

I do find this comment comical. Do you really think Ovie or the other players are scared, but wouldn't be if DJK was dressed? How many times has a Cap been cheap-shotted and injured in the past 4 years? Has it even happened?

Posted by: sgm3 | January 4, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Players take cheap shots every game...it's the toothless guys that notice and make sure it doesn't keep happening.

Posted by: lylewimbledon | January 4, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

capscoach,

Yep, back from a much needed vacation! Sorry, but the way Poti has played this year he should not receive a jersey until one of the other D go down with an injury which will happen sooner or later. Ersk has been a stud and deserves to be on the ice. If this is a maintenance day ok, but I have a feeling it is more than that.

Posted by: PhilR | January 4, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone see the list of the top 6 All Stars. I can agree with Crosby and Letang, but Malkin, Fleury, Toews, and Keith? Looks like someone rigged the ballots again.

Posted by: ablake70 | January 4, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

I agree with most of your point but Semin did take a few cheap shots from Orpik in the 2009 playoffs, he was speared and slashed, and, of course, there were no penalties called on Orpik.

Posted by: MReilly9 | January 4, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

What I find comical is that the Caps are too good and above playing a guy like DJK. We haven't played a mean-spirited game against any team the last 4 years, so your point is moot. If Pitt is truly our "main rival", we're bound to see an old-fashioned, blood-letting game at some point between us and them (as true rivals engage in from time to time). Sounds like Feb. 6 could be that game, and I'll want to be able to compete with them. When push comes to shove, I hope we'll be able to shove back in our own building.

@capscoach

it really says in #4's contract that he's our 6th defenseman? As a schoolteacher, you should know that individuals can rise above their labels/stereotypes and transform themselves. Stop living off Erskine's role-playing days and recognize that he's a valuable component on our backline and doesn't deserve to split-time w/Poti

Posted by: vermontcaps | January 4, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I agree with most of your point but Semin did take a few cheap shots from Orpik in the 2009 playoffs, he was speared and slashed, and, of course, there were no penalties called on Orpik.

Posted by: MReilly9

I agree that those happened. But that would've happened regardless of who dressed for the Caps.

However, on that note, I actually would be in favor of the Caps dressing DJK against the Pens for the sole purpose of taking runs at Orpik. I'm not talking ridiculously dirty or head shots. But to just unload on him a few times and slash him repeatedly in the wrist.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 4, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

sgm3,

Green last year against Colorado I think. That is the only one I can recall off the top of my head.

Posted by: PhilR | January 4, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

@PhilR

how can you judge how Poti has played this year...he's only been in like 5 games :)


I wanna see how Poti does after a few games back before I make my final judgement on BB's decision.

Posted by: capscoach | January 4, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Did you see the animal ferocity exhibited by Erskine as he prepared to square off with Rupp? Not to be too graphic, but this guy will fight to the death. Tell me the Caps don't feel a lot better that this guy has their back. He may not be the most physically gifted defenseman, but face it, a large part of the game is psychological. If the Caps face the Penguins in the playoffs, I don't think any Caps fan can honestly say that they won't be extremely apprehensive. The Caps as a team have to have a take-no-prisoners approach, and Erskine embodies that attitude. Play him!

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | January 4, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

lumberjack should be in there, but I'm not too worried....poti will probably get hurt in the first shift or two and big john will be in there saturday

Posted by: _stevo | January 4, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

@vermontcaps

I'm fine with dressing DJK for some games. I have never been against it. However, I am against dressing him for the sole purpose of reacting to the other teams lineup. If you do that then you let the opposing team dictate what your starting lineup will be and they will put out the lineup that gives them the best chance of winning.

I really have never had a problem about DJK playing some, it is the poor reasoning you give for playing DJK that I have generally have a problem with.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 4, 2011 12:23 PM | Report abuse

per DJK...

watched him in practice, and he actually had a really good shot...he did awesome in the shooting drill...I was surprised.

Posted by: capscoach | January 4, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

sgm3
Ask MP or Matt Bradley.

Posted by: 1dirtybore | January 4, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Hmm... what game did Erskine shine in on Sunday???

It's great news that Erskine will be patrolling the press box where he belongs.

Oh, and we have just a little over a month before the Penguin Scum are back on the schedule. You can bet that the NHL Front Office has taken notice of any comments and will make sure that everybody knows that they will be keeping an extra special eye on the game on Super Bowl Sunday.

I will give Bettman and company credit, they have done a very good job of preventing any more Bertuzzi incidents since the original one happened.

Posted by: CapsNut | January 4, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Erskine has been great this year...cut him some slack. Plus, he is the only defenseman who hits back there...that says a lot about our other D. Poti is awesome at deflecting shots into our goal!

Posted by: lylewimbledon | January 4, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

This is a good article regarding Crosby's reaction to the Steckel hit:

http://nhl-red-light.si.com/2011/01/04/crosbys-whine-is-hard-to-swallow/

Posted by: sgm3 | January 4, 2011 12:32 PM | Report abuse

sgm3
Ask MP or Matt Bradley.

Posted by: 1dirtybore

Bradley wasn't injured on a cheap shot and after seeing the replay I don't think MP was injured on a cheap shot either. It was probably only deserving of a 2-minute penalty.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 4, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I actually would be in favor of the Caps dressing DJK against the Pens for the sole purpose of taking runs at Orpik.
----------

That's actually not a bad idea - there needs to be some sort of response, at the very least.

On a similar note: did anybody see the two-hander Sid gave Carlson at the tail end of the game, with like .06 left - and can you imagine the collective TSN / Sour Grapes Cherry / Colie Campbell / Maguire outcry if the situation had been reversed?!? Good player - too bad he's a gutless puke.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 4, 2011 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Ok, so does anyone know why Ovie keeps opting out of these practices? How is he going to make adjustments if he's not skating and putting in the work? Not sure if he'll get out of his funk if he's not working. My opinion, the captain of the team should not opt of out of these, it sets a bad example.

Posted by: kevin91491 | January 4, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

@kevin91491

Maybe Ovie is watching video to see what's the best way to attack the Lightning. Just because he isn't skating does not mean he isn't preparing.

Posted by: sgm3 | January 4, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Game day skates are a joke and a waste. If anything team should be in the tape room watching tape on the opposing team. I don't think you will ever hear a player say "man that game day skate got me prepared for tonight" If anything it ads more strain on players.

Posted by: CapsBaby | January 4, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Some of the hardest hits I've seen on the ice were two players on the same team running into each other. The hardest hit I ever took was a collision with my own defenseman. People sometimes run into each other on the ice. Steckel isn't dirty and didn't "run" Cindy.

Since Poti is made of glass, I expect him to sit quite often. However, BB considers #4 the 7th d-man. It really doesn't matter that vermontcaps thinks Erskine is the #1 d-man (in history), he is more often than not going to sit.

If Varly stays heathly (big if), he will be the #1 goalie. Hopefully the Caps don't try to run and gun with Tampa. Solid defense will lead to transition and odd-man rushes against Tampa.

Posted by: chriscaps | January 4, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Look at a video from the end of the ice. Crosby hit Steckel with his head. Sid should have gotten two minutes for interference.

Posted by: tim-n-VA | January 4, 2011 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Look at a video from the end of the ice. Crosby hit Steckel with his head. Sid should have gotten two minutes for interference.

Posted by: tim-n-VA | January 4, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

That SI article on Sid someone linked to above was illuminating. Obviously the guy's a great player, but he's such a cheapshot artist and bad sportsman it's hard to have a lot of respect for him.

I'd also have a lot more respect for the Canadian hockey media if they stopped building the guy up to be something which he is clearly not.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 4, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

OVIE should skate because he needs to get better and perhaps lose some weight. He's playing too heavy. Would anyone agree with that??

Posted by: matthewrayman | January 4, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

OVIE should skate because he needs to get better and perhaps lose some weight. He's playing too heavy. Would anyone agree with that??

Posted by: matthewrayman | January 4, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the link, sgm3. I still can't believe the mainstream media called out Crosby. The Pens are just embarrassed that they lost the game. After the Cup and the Olympics, this event was supposed to cement the Pens as the best team ever and Crosby as the greatest player/leader ever. It was more than just two points to them.

@matthewrayma

Ovi's weight has not changed since last year when he was one goal away from the Richard and 3 points from the Art Ross.

Posted by: ablake70 | January 4, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who thinks #4 needs to sit because of poor play is either blind or just biased against him. Poti has been crap this year, and while JE is not a top-pair blue-liner, he has more than earned a place on this roster. Second, all of you clamoring for DJK to suit up, have you watched his fights this year? They flat-out suck. Maybe he needs to get warmed up or something, but the bear hug and dance routine doesn't impress me at all.

Posted by: alpca3877 | January 4, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

The reason to dress King IS to match up with teams that are going to challenge physically.

There is no need to activate him to play against Montreal, so I disagree with the opinion that King has to be included in the regular packages to be effective on this team.

King's presence on the ice against the Penguins is the best way to ensure that Backstrom or Green doesn't get slashed in the back of the head.

Posted by: RoyHobbs4 | January 4, 2011 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Second, all of you clamoring for DJK to suit up, have you watched his fights this year? They flat-out suck
-----------

No - but I just kinda figured after watching him play in his own end that the dude must be one helluva fighter.

To be fair though he was taking on some pretty tough guys though, no?

And I wasn't arguing for #4 to sit if DJK suited up - in fact they should both dress the next time we play Pitt - Ersk's played much, much better this year, and has earned his spot. I just don't want him out against the other team's top-6, is all.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 4, 2011 2:35 PM | Report abuse

A cheer to the Pens fans for stuffing the ballot box. All of the Caps fans could have voted 30 times a day for all the Caps players. We didn't. I personally don't care if Ovie is the only Cap at the All-Star game. I would rather have our guys rest during the break anyway.

Posted by: chriscaps | January 4, 2011 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Second, all of you clamoring for DJK to suit up, have you watched his fights this year? They flat-out suck
-----------

No - but I just kinda figured after watching him play in his own end that the dude must be one helluva fighter.

To be fair though he was taking on some pretty tough guys though, no?

And I wasn't arguing for #4 to sit if DJK suited up - in fact they should both dress the next time we play Pitt - Ersk's played much, much better this year, and has earned his spot. I just don't want him out against the other team's top-6, is all.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | January 4, 2011 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, there is no need for Semin to practice this morning, I mean he is playing out of his mind after all. What a joke. I wish BB would lay down the law and require the guys who are sucking (i.e. Semin) to "opt in" to the morning skates.

Posted by: mjw4m | January 4, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

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