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Theodore To Start; Clark Returns

Okay, here's what you need to know about tonight's lineup. It's a complete mess. I would give you lines, but there weren't any this morning.

"Every day is a different adventure when you come to the arena these days," Coach Bruce Boudreau cracked. "I'm not looking past tonight."

Here's what I do know:

*Jose Theodore will start in net and will be backed up by Simeon Varlamov. Brent Johnson, who has been battling a leg/hip injury, will be given some time off to rest.

"I want to give him another chance," Boudreau said of Theodore's performance against the Rangers. "The first period probably wasn't as good as he would have liked. But he came back and played strong, and now we'll give him a chance to run with it."

As for Johnson, Boudreau said: "I don't know if it's serious or not. It's more precautious. We've had guys getting hurt, then tweaking it again. We want him when he gets healthy, for him to healthy forever."

*Looks like Donald Brashear (leg) will be back in the lineup tonight, as will Chris Clark, who missed 14 games with a stress fracture in his forearm.

"He's feeling good for the first time in a long time," Boudreau said of Clark. "We're hoping he can add new energy to the group."

With Clark coming off long term injured reserve, that presumably means Sergei Fedorov (ankle) goes on LTIR so that the Caps can afford to keep Karl Alzner up. (I'll try to confirm this move later with GM George McPhee.)

*Boudreau on giving Nicklas Backstrom the 'A' last game: "I don't think he's ever going to be a screamer. He leads by example. He was the captain of the world junior Swedish team. I think he likes the responsibility. He's stepping up in second year. He plays older than he is."

Backstrom said: "It's an honor to be assistant captain. I don't speak too much in the locker room between periods. But I try to show on the ice more, try to play good so other players can see."

*Out tonight are: Mike Green (shoulder), John Erskine (concussion), Jeff Schultz (broken finger), Fedorov, Alexander Semin (back), Tom Poti (groin) and Tomas Fleischmann (flu). Boudreau said he sent Fleischmann home this morning so he didn't get everyone else sick.

*Erskine told me he's hoping to receive clearance from the doctor on Monday. He skated hard this morning and even stayed on the ice for some extra work.

*Green said he's aiming for Sunday's game, but acknowledged that he needed to take a few games off, saying "I wasn't playing my game." He looked pretty good today and also stayed out for extra work.

*Andrew Gordon won't play. He just left the rink with his bag over his shoulder, so I'm assuming he's been sent back.

I'll try to figure out the lines and post them before the game.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  December 26, 2008; 11:44 AM ET
 
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Comments

And the worrying starts in 3...2...

Posted by: Section117 | December 26, 2008 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Looks like Boudreau and co are finally doing the right thing with Johnny, and what they should have done with all the other injured players. Let them get 100%, then bring them back so they don't keep reinjuring themselves and we have them fully healthy come playoff time. Fedorov on LTIR should let his ankle heal all the way.

Also, glad to see JT starting tonight. I don't love him either, but he earned it with his play in the 2nd and 3rd periods vs the rangers, especially that save on Zherdev (still don't know how that didn't go in). Also, I know everyone loves Varlamov, but he should take his time and work his way up. He had a great 1st two games yeah, but let's not get ahead of ourselves and crown him yet.

Posted by: sirbobalew | December 26, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

wow, what a constant state of change.

Posted by: chuckatcws | December 26, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Two things , as much as I love Varly and want to see him play, I a, glad Theo is getting the start (I might be the only one) I think Theo need to get in his groove.

I think it is time for Capt.C to approach BB and suggest that he hands over the "C" to the leader of the team. I think it would go over well with the team, the fans, and everyone involved. THE TIME HAS COME....It would also give Clark alot of respect.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 26, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm freaking out MAN.

Posted by: _828 | December 26, 2008 12:06 PM | Report abuse

As of now, I pitty any goalie playing against the Sabres. They are the one team left that has our number. I hope that changes tonight.

Posted by: _828 | December 26, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully the injured will start to to heal fully but the depth we have developed has helped keep us in a strong position in the Conference standings. We should not have to scramble just to sneak into the playoffs and we should also be stronger once the post season starts. Varlamov needs to show he can work 2 or three games straight and having him sit here isn't helping that development.

Posted by: Section303 | December 26, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

@ 828

Wouldn't you say that the Flyers also have our number?

Posted by: TheVampireCorndog | December 26, 2008 12:11 PM | Report abuse

like 828 said in the last post give Varly a bad game and everyone will be knocking him too.

Posted by: HBFan | December 26, 2008 12:13 PM | Report abuse

TheVampireCorndog,
No, because we can beat them and have beat them. Up until the last game, we won 4 straight at their arena. We rarely beat the Sabres and they usually light us up and yet they lose to teams like the Islanders... I don't get it and I hope it changes, TONIGHT.

Posted by: _828 | December 26, 2008 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I am taking someone who has never seen the Caps lose at the Verizon Center. He's a Pens fan and does not appreciate the Caps too much. BUT, they always win when he is there. So, tonight's game should be in the bad... haha, what was I worrying about before?

Posted by: _828 | December 26, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

in the BAG... not bad...

Posted by: _828 | December 26, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

@ capsfanmiss

i agree. i seriously think someone needs to wear the C. i mean personally Ovie deserves it hands down, not just because of his great hockey skills, but everything he does off the ice. first guy to call theo and welcome him to the caps, first guy to call varlie and welcome him. stayed on hockey sched when he was in russia, skated with the rookies during development camp, first guy on the ice, last guy off. i know he doesn;t need to wear the C to be our captain, but Ovie is def our Captain and has been for a long time. i'm sewing on a C on my ovie jersey for tonight's game. I was going to throw it to Ovie during the warmups...hm maybe I still will. we shall see. anyways, here's to a great game and i'll see everyone there!

Posted by: capsfan387 | December 26, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Varlamov needs to show he can work 2 or three games straight and having him sit here isn't helping that development.

Posted by: Section303 | December 26, 2008 12:09 PM
-------------------------------------------
I'd guess he'll also be spending some QT with Dave Prior and might even get the nod Sunday, depending on how tonight goes.

Posted by: Section117 | December 26, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

We are starting to remove skeletons from our closets. We have had trouble at Pittsburgh, At MSG, At the Island. St. Louis has also been a nemisis for us, as little as we do play them. Sabres are a bigger skeleton.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 26, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I totally agree with the true team leader. He is a natural on ice leader. The speed of the team is the speed of the leader. OV carries this team when the need a "jump".


When he called Theo to welcome him to the team, and when he went on the ice with the rookies sealed the deal for me.

We love Clark...but the time has come to pass the torch! OV for CAPTAIN !

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 26, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

@section303

what?
BJ is injured, you need to dress 2 goalies. kind of the rules.....

Posted by: richmondphil | December 26, 2008 12:33 PM | Report abuse

dont these guys get flu shots?? i mean, they cost $20 at safeway. you'd think they would mandate flu shots for these guys, particularly given what happend to the team two years ago...i dont get it...

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 26, 2008 12:35 PM | Report abuse

@ section 303

The plan is to get Varly that expierence in Hershey. The only reson he is back up is because BJ is hurt and they need a back-up. He might get the nod once or twice depending on the circumstances, but I don't think a back to back is in the works just to develop him in the Bigs.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 26, 2008 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I agree we should give Jose the start...but if he is not on point I hope Bruce is quick to pull him out and give Varlamov a shot. The Caps have been doing good with comebacks, but it shouldn't be a nightly occurance. I say we give Jose another shot, he did finish up in NYC looking strong, but if he starts giving up soft goals then he needs to sit this one out! I am glad to see Brashear and Clark back...but we really need a D or two to come of IR...Green, Poti, or Erskine! I know patience is a virtue...they need to heal! Go CAPS!

Posted by: NatyBG | December 26, 2008 12:41 PM | Report abuse

re: the C.
i think the least of this teams worries are who's wearing the C. we're lucky to have several guys who could wear it well. looking at posts from angry ranger fans, they are sick of having drury wear the C.

clark is the captain and he aint voluntarily giving up the C. nobody does that in this league. ovie will be the captain and leads on the ice, without a doubt. we don't know what goes on in the locker room, but i'm sure ovie is a stud in there. clark has the experience you want in a captain.

i always wonder why teams are so quick to give young guys the captaincy (like cindy crosby and toews in chicago). what type of deep hockey/life experience can they draw on to lead a team. "well, this one time 3 years ago in high school we..."

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 26, 2008 12:46 PM | Report abuse

@dcsportsfan1

Speaking of angry sports fans......there are some not so happy campers in Pitt these days. They are bashing the goalie, the coach, the injuries, even some cindy bashing going on....all is not well it Pens world.....

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 26, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

capsfanmiss,
that warms my heart...a true christmas gift. are any of the campers named cheef?

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 26, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Capsfannmiss,

My Pens friend hates Sabourn and thinks the D is terrible. I told him he pretty much has the team we had last year. He is not happy with them at all.

It's so nice to hear when they are not doing so well.

Posted by: _828 | December 26, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

@dcsportsfan1

What's the fan site? I need another Christmas present.

Posted by: ChrisAm | December 26, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

check some of the commentary attached to the nypost game article. there was some other links to ranger blogs. not happy w/ drury, renney, the d, gomez, etc....

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 26, 2008 1:13 PM | Report abuse

And they'll probably lose tonight @NJD too. It's not their D's fault. They were outshooted 29-15 at home... lost with a shutout... against TB... they were very lucky with the Sabres as well (outshot there too)... it's their production. Can't give away so many important players (Malone, Hall, Hossa, Conklin) and expect same performance as last year. If they don't shake it, something drastic has to happen.

I hope Clark is healthy and ready to rock :) it would be nice for him to play as his old self.

Posted by: mauree | December 26, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

@ChrisAm

Pensblog is one of the bigger sites.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 26, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 26, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

"I want to give him another chance," Boudreau said of Theodore's performance against the Rangers. "The first period probably wasn't as good as he would have liked. But he came back and played strong, and now we'll give him a chance to run with it."

I love your emphasis on the quote TeB, it does make one rethink this latest Varlamov call-up.

Posted by: Section117 | December 26, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Theo was looking pretty good at practice today and, as long as he is still on the roster, deserves to start tonight. Varly should stay here, at least until such time when we have a true, trusted and consistent #1 goalie.

It is silly to depend on two unreliable (for one reason or the other) goalies, as the first period of the last game proved. Fortunately, Theo turned it around but, if he hadn't, there was no on to back him up.

Posted by: caraveli | December 26, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Shot in the dark, but does anyone have 2 upper level cheap seats to sell for tonight? Planning on looking outside the arena, but would love to find two before I go. Craigslist has a few, but not for cheap. Thanks!

Posted by: capsfansince74 | December 26, 2008 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The fact Clark plays the way he does and keeps coming back for more is the reason HE SHOULD STILL BE CAPTAIN.

Being a captain is more than numbers kids, if that were the fact Hunter, Langway, Witt and Labre would have never been Captains.

Posted by: ButterSchultz | December 26, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

butter, i agree with your assesment of clark. but langway was a two time norris trophy winner, cup winner and HOF'er. i think he's got the numbers...but true on labre and witt (ugh)...although i think witt and kono shared the C one season i think...

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 26, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Any confirmation that A. Gordon was sent back to Hershey?

Posted by: HuskyHockey | December 26, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Here is a great clip from the World Juniors exhibition. The first couple of seconds in is a great hit from one of the Caps prospects: Stefan Della Rovere

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-zmRP0e3kE&eurl=http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Video-Future-star-John-Tavares-s-incredible-puc;_ylt=Am7dAzIEvulMXGvnUZOU&feature=player_embedded

as you will hear Della Rovere is 5'11, the guy he hits is a 6'6
Slovakian player.

I am sure Hershey can't wait to get him in the system.
If that link doesn't work try this:
http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Video-Future-star-John-Tavares-s-incredible-puc;_ylt=Am7dAzIEvulMXGvnUZOUy5B7vLYF?urn=nhl,131260

Posted by: caps28fan | December 26, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

@caps28fan

wow that goal by Tavares is cool

Posted by: mauree | December 26, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Ohh yeah, and John Tavares has an amazing goal

Posted by: caps28fan | December 26, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

From the Caps game notes about tonight's game:

This marks the second of four meetings between Washington and Buffalo in 2008-09, the 126th all-time. Washington trails
the all-time series, 33-75-15-1, including a 16-36-9-1 record at home.

– Washington is just 3-14-0 in its last 17 games against the Sabres.
– Washington hasn't won more than one game against the Sabres in a season since 2002-03 (3-1-0)
– Washington has scored at least three goals in four straight meetings, but is just 1-3-0 in that time

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 26, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I agree, Clark should hand over the "C".......to Sergei Fedorov.

He has been a great leader during the course of his stay in Washington. Also, he is retiring after this year, and that will give the Caps the responsiblity of appointing a new captain at year's end (or 2 years from now, max). That new Captain will be Alex Ovechkin.

If Clark stays Captain indefinitely, it could mean another 6-7 years of no captaincy for Ovechkin.

Posted by: DrAdamson | December 26, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Othering interesting tidbits from the game notes:

Washington has a 7-2-2 record against the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference.

Washington's 8-5-2 record in November marked its most November wins since 1996 and its first November above .500 since 1999.

Washington has posted its 20th win prior to Jan. 1 for the first time since 1992-93.
With 20 wins in its first 33 games, the team reached 20 wins faster than all but two teams in franchise history (1991-92
and 1985-86 teams).

The Capitals have three of the eight active Hart Trophy winners in the NHL (Alex Ovechkin, Jose Theodore and Sergei
Fedorov).

Alex Ovechkin has posted 41 points in his last 26 games (20g-21a). His 46 points on the season, through 33 games played, rank third in the NHL and put him ahead of his own pace from last season.

Alex Ovechkin leads the league in shots on goal with 208 and has 51 more shots than any other player in the NHL (32%). He has led the league in shots on goal in each of his first three seasons, including the 446 shots he put on goal last year, the second-best total in NHL history. He's on pace to surpass 500 for the first time in his career this year.

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 26, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

In addition to his shots, goals and assists, Alex is third in the league in hits.

Joe B

Posted by: rw-c | December 26, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I'd bet that they are not talking about influenza. They are more likely talking about a bad cold and there is no shot for that.

Posted by: MKadyman | December 26, 2008 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Joe:
Yes, Alex IS all that AND a bag of chips (a BIG bag of chips!). I am just curious to see how he ends to season. He tends to start slow and then pick it up as the season progresses (i.e. he usually posts a 'hockey stick' trend ... get it?!? :-P). Given his pace now, he could hit some pretty amazing numbers this season. I bet he'll start passing guys soon (including his own past records).

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 26, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Alex Ovechkin has posted 41 points in his last 26 games (20g-21a). His 46 points on the season, through 33 games played, rank third in the NHL and put him ahead of his own pace from last season.

Alex Ovechkin leads the league in shots on goal with 208 and has 51 more shots than any other player in the NHL (32%). He has led the league in shots on goal in each of his first three seasons, including the 446 shots he put on goal last year, the second-best total in NHL history. He's on pace to surpass 500 for the first time in his career this year...

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 26, 2008 2:18 PM

... = best hockey player in the world

Posted by: Moose33 | December 26, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

@capsfansince74

Check out ticket exchange.

Go to washingtoncaps.com click on tickets, then ticket exchange. Should be self explanatory from there

Posted by: SombreroGuy | December 26, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Moose33:
You can say that again ... and the crazy part is, he's just getting better all of the time!! Can you imagine what he'll be doing when he is at his peak?!? It's just mind-boggling. We're watching history in the making - how cool is that?!? :-)

Posted by: --Boo-- | December 26, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

dcsportsfan: the flu shot is a scam.

Go Cappies.

Posted by: notfadeaway | December 26, 2008 3:38 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that some of you guys worry more about who wears the "C" than the players themselves, at least on this team.
The Caps seem to be a very cohesive group on the ice who enjoy to root for each other, and who wears what does not seem to be that important to them.

I am one of those who think JT needs to improve, however, I think he is capable and I am rooting for him to have a great game. I am hoping some of the boo-birds don't jump the gun if he makes a bad play, I think he might be lacking confidence on himself.

Posted by: opita | December 26, 2008 3:43 PM | Report abuse

i love how people complain about ovechkin taking too any shots.

though it may hold some validation in some very isolated incidences, in almost every case it would be better to get the puck on net, especially by someone like ovechkin.

Posted by: richmondphil | December 26, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

OV = Team leader
Team leader = captain

Clark is a nice guy, but the time has come !
Rock the Red tonight!

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 26, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"Give Varly a bad game" I should not need to point out that JT has had more than ONE bad game, in fact has had a number of games where the first shot went in, no matter how good or how bad the first shot was. Just saying!

Posted by: majiksea | December 26, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

USA up 3-1 Against Germany

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 26, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

4-1
oh...now 5-1 USA

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 26, 2008 4:56 PM | Report abuse

There will be some LOUD boos for Jose if he lets in one... on say the first 5 shots... everyone will be calling for Varlamov.

Posted by: rachel216 | December 26, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

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