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Posted at 2:01 PM ET, 12/ 2/2010

Michal Neuvirth to start, Tom Poti out against Stars

By Katie Carrera

Defenseman Tom Poti suffered a mild groin strain in Washington's 4-1 win over St. Louis on Wednesday, but felt better than expected Thursday morning at American Airlines Center in Dallas according to Coach Bruce Boudreau. Poti won't face the Stars in tonight's 8:30 (EST) start as a precaution.

With Scott Hannan here the Capitals have more depth on defense, but that doesn't mean Boudreau doesn't want Poti to be healthy and in the lineup on a consistent basis. Poti has missed 17 games this season because of a pulled groin and its lingering effects, and his longest stretch in the lineup was the past four games.

"You'd like to see him play the next 60 games or 50 games, but our whole goal is to make sure he's healthy and it doesn't happen again," Boudreau said. "He's worked really hard off the ice since he first pulled the groin and hopefully it's more maintenance today than anything else."

In his game debut with the Capitals, Hannan will be paired with John Erskine. Boudreau also discussed how he envisions the defense shaking out in the event that all of Washington's defensemen are healthy at the same time -- something that is by no means a guarantee this year.

"It's tough because you think you've got [Jeff] Schultz and [Mike] Green together and [Karl] Alzner and [John] Carlson and it would be a natural fit for Poti and Hannan, but Erskine's played very well," Boudreau said. "It will probably be Poti and Hannan when all is set and good, but we don't know right now because every game somebody seems to be getting hurt."

At least against Dallas tonight, it will be Hannan and Erskine together. Neither seemed worried about the transition, as they're both defensive-zone types who have plenty of experience switching things up. (Because of injuries to the Avalanche, Hannan said he played with almost every possible defensive partner in Colorado.)

"I think we're a couple of big bodies out there," Hannan said when asked what he hopes to accomplish in a pairing with Erskine.. "We can be physical, try to bang around out there and move the puck. I think that's going to be a key tonight....You just try to read off of him, you talk to him before the game and figure out what tendencies are. It's obviously going to be a little bit different, but I'm sure we'll handle it alright."

Said Erskine: "I know he's a pretty stay-at-home defenseman, so I know he wont be jumping up in the play all the time. I've played against him so I know the way he plays, but it will be a learning thing tonight. It might take a while to get to know his habits and all that but we have to play a simple game tonight and learn each other's game."

--Behind the defense, Michal Neuvirth will start for the first time since Nov. 20 against Philadelphia. Boudreau said Neuvirth is "fully, 100 percent healthy" after being a late scratch against New Jersey on Nov. 22. Boudreau said the plan was always to get him a game even though Semyon Varlamov has won four straight since returning from his lingering groin injury.

"People forget now that Varlamov's played four good games in a row [that Neuvirth] was unreal for us and he won games for us at the beginning, and he's got 12 wins under his belt," Boudreau said. "He's not losing his spot just because somebody's playing good. He's getting back in there and getting a chance to compete for that No. 1 spot."

It appears Neuvirth's counterpart in the Stars' net will be Andrew Raycroft, who is 5-3-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average and .916 save percentage against the Capitals in his career.

--Alex Ovechkin congratulated his fellow countrymen in the Capitals locker room when the news broke that Russia has been chosen to host the 2018 World Cup.

"It's huge for our country, for our people, and I'm very happy," said Ovechkin, who is an ambassador for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. "It's two huge deals coming up for sport, the biggest things in the world and everyone will see."

By Katie Carrera  | December 2, 2010; 2:01 PM ET
Categories:  Alex Ovechkin, Injuries, John Erskine, Michal Neuvirth, Scott Hannan, Tom Poti  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: In sixth NHL season, Alex Ovechkin is rounding out his game
Next: Caps sign 2009 draft pick Brett Flemming

Comments

And let the goalie war begin. Hey-yow

Good luck in your first game as a Cap Hannan Montana.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | December 2, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Poti needs to get this fully rehabbed. Hannan signing happened just in time - looking forward to see him play tonight. Would also like Ovie to score a couple.

Any other trade rumors for us floating around out there?

Posted by: Redwolf1 | December 2, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Hannan needs to drop the gloves...show that he has a set.

Posted by: SA-Town | December 2, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

SAOTI,

Please no play on that annoying name!! I have two tweener girls in the house and between her tv show and her music it about drives me insane!! So, for the love of god please think of another nickname for Hannan, I beg of you!

Posted by: PhilR | December 2, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

OK, so his name isnt a palindrome, but maybe it's an anagram...

I therefore dub him "Mr. Mojo Risin'"...

Of course, if he gets into some rage-filled donnybrook that could be changed to "Banannan"...

Posted by: Rhino40 | December 2, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

It's official; Erskine screwed again....can someone please explain to me how come Erskine is getting squeezed out when (among our D) he's:
-1st in hits, blocked shots, fights, pims
-Tied 2nd in goals and gwg
-3rd in points
-4th in +/- despite rotating partners
-all this playing the least amount of time

Unbelievable, I CAN'T WAIT FOR BB TO GO, what more does Erskine have to do to earn a regular spot? It would be nice if he beat the crap out of Shultz or Alzner in practice, but he's too much of a team player to do that. We'll miss his gritty and determined play; I'm tired of too many Caps playing like they're ENTITLED to their minutes (see everyone on backline save for #4)

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Why is "dropping the gloves" the only way to show "you have a pair"? Why can't Hannan smash a couple of Stars with good hard hits instead? There is a time and place to fight but, fighting just to prove your tough is stupid. Also, he is paired with Erskine tonight. If anybody has to stick up for a teammate or send a message, Erskine can fill the need.

Posted by: chriscaps | December 2, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

vermontcaps,

As often as Poti and Green are banged up I don't think you have any worries about Ersk being benched for any significant period of time.

Posted by: PhilR | December 2, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

@vermontcaps

Erskine is tied for 5th of defensemen in GA/minute. The most imporant stat for Erskinse as he creates little offense(even though he did score a couple of nice goals this year). So when comparing how he is on a per minute basis he is 5th(tied with Poti). Erskine also plays against easier competition than either Alnzer or Schulz who still have a better GA/minute ration than Erskine.

So while Erskine has definitely exceeded expectations this year and is playing solidly(this isn't meant to be a rip on Erskine), he was the Caps 6th best defenseman and is now 7th. There are 7 defenseman, someone has to rank 7th and it is Erskine.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 2, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

@PhilR
Fine........buzz kill. =)

Is his middle name Chris by chance? We could call him Dateline or To Catch a Predator Guy then (and yes I know it's Hanson but work with me). Hi, come into the zone, sit down, have a seat. No no, she's not coming back with the lemonade.

Or perhaps, we could call him BB (short for Black Betty)....

Whoa, Black Betty Bam-ba-Hannan
Whoa, Black Betty Bam-ba-Hannan

Black Betty had a child Bam-ba-Hannan
The damn thing gone wild Bam-ba-Hannan
She said, 'I'm worryin' outta mind' Bam-ba-Hannan
The damn thing gone blind Bam-ba-Hannan
I said Oh, Black Betty Bam-ba-Hannan
Whoa, Black Betty Bam-ba-Hannan

Wow...no more caffeine for me.

Posted by: SeminAllOverTheIce | December 2, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

It's official; Erskine screwed again....can someone please explain to me how come Erskine is getting squeezed out when (among our D) he's:
-1st in hits, blocked shots, fights, pims
-Tied 2nd in goals and gwg
-3rd in points
-4th in +/- despite rotating partners
-all this playing the least amount of time

Unbelievable, I CAN'T WAIT FOR BB TO GO, what more does Erskine have to do to earn a regular spot? It would be nice if he beat the crap out of Shultz or Alzner in practice, but he's too much of a team player to do that. We'll miss his gritty and determined play; I'm tired of too many Caps playing like they're ENTITLED to their minutes (see everyone on backline save for #4)

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Hey this team has a guy injured almost every day on the back line this year - I see this as depth and a way to keep Sloan and Fahey off the ice.....if memory serves me Erskine was missing from the playoff series last year because he was hurt and Poti was gone for game 7 - so look at this as a way to rest the big minute guys....glass is half full ---

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | December 2, 2010 3:17 PM | Report abuse

-1st in hits, blocked shots, fights, pims
-Tied 2nd in goals and gwg
-3rd in points
-4th in +/- despite rotating partners
-all this playing the least amount of time

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 3:07 PM

i like erskine and what he brings to the team - but he is not a better defender than schultz or alzner
he does get fewer minutes than the other guys - but if his minutes we increased:
* he get more hits = good
* he block more shots = good
* have more fights = not always good
* have more pims = again not always good
* get more goals/gwg/points = no wait... i don't think he would

for the style of game he plays - i'd rather he be a healthy scratch now and then to stay healthy than getting another concussion.

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | December 2, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

vermontcaps: Tell us, honestly, which is it, are you Erskine's agent or a member of his family? Or perhaps Ersk himself?

Posted by: tominsocal1 | December 2, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

vermont,

52, 55, 74 and 27 have a wee bit more upside than 4, no?

Posted by: Steve_R | December 2, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

I listed a TON of stats, you gave one (5th in ga/min)....I'd offer he's 5th in ga/min because he's played with Sloan and Fahey all year; reverse Shultz and Erskine, and I'd wager Erskine's numbers would be better than Shultz's (and I doubt Shultz would put up the numbers #4 has playing w/Sloan and Fahey)....simply put, he's a victim of BB's favoritism.

@tominsocal1
I'm neither, just his biggest fan (then again, my fav. players over the years have been guys like Enrico Ciccone and Tinordi so go figure)....

I promise to stop extoling all the good things Erskine does....it's time we trade him to a team that will appreciate him...can we work something out w/either the Pens or Flyers, perhaps?

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

@steve-r

I can't stand Shultz or Alzner, period...championship teams are the sum of the whole, not the ones with the best individual parts...what Erskine brings to the table the team needs; he's unique on the backline, and we have pairs of everyone else

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

@captkirk

i agree w/your last statement, it's important Ersk stay healthy, and I'd be happy if he dressed 3 of every 4 games....but it won't happen; if everyone is healthy, #4 will be buried in the press box as he inexplicably was last year (and playoff hockey?? do people forget he was solid 3 yrs ago, was our best d-man 2 years ago, and never got a shot last year)

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

vermont,

If you can't stand them, you can't stand them. I won't waste both of our time trying to change your mind. I'll give you that Erskine is unique on the Caps blue line.

Posted by: Steve_R | December 2, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

also, how can Erskine possibly be tied for 5th in offensive production per minute when he's 3rd in scoring with the least ice time?

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

"I promise to stop extoling all the good things Erskine does....it's time we trade him to a team that will appreciate him...can we work something out w/either the Pens or Flyers, perhaps?"
Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 3:50 PM

Sheez! Please, come in off the ledge.

Posted by: Wiley_One1 | December 2, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

@vermontcaps

Erskinse is tied for 5th in GA/minute.

Offensive production means GS(goals scored)/minute while on the ice. But I know Erskine is more of a defensive defenseman so that's what I wanted to focus on, what his strength is.

And you talked about winning championships. Alzner captained his team to the WJC title in 2008 and won two consecutive AHL titles. Why are you so convinced that this guy can't win when he has been on winning teams his entire career while playing a very important role on all of those teams.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 2, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Erskine is better, but he is still a pylon at times. He is the odd man out for a reason, cause he is a the 6th best on the team, look at the bright side he is ALOT better than Sloan. I like the Big Lumberjack, but he is "limited" in what he brings to the team.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | December 2, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

i was confused about the offensive production, i gotcha now......is my point about being paired w/Sloan and Fahey contributing to his high ga/min fair?? (he is, after all, the only dman paired with those two this year)....as for his offense, he directly played a part in 7 goals to Alzner's 3...

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

and in fairness to Alzner, I think he'll be a fine defensemen. I guess I resent that just because he's been the beneficiary of playing on good teams, he can't play his way out of the lineup while whatever Erskine does, it isn't good enough to buy him some slack. Same goes with Shultz.

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

"is my point about being paired w/Sloan and Fahey contributing to his high ga/min fair??"

@vermontcaps

Yes, that is a fair point and is, by far, the best point you made in Erskine's defense.

"as for his offense, he directly played a part in 7 goals to Alzner's 3"

When I think of offensive production for defensive defensemen like Erskine and Alzner I mean more of how they start a rush that leads to a goal. This often leads them without a point but it is the beginning of the offense. Alzner is quicker, faster, has better stick skills, and is a better passer than Erskine.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 2, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Poti didn't look completely healthy even last Friday so I wasn't surprised he suffered a setback. The trade for Hannan had as much to do about insurance for an extended absence by Poti as it did in upgrading the defense. Most people on this blog know that Poti has had a history of groin injuries and this year he's recovered slower than in the past. I think the Caps have taken a conservative approach with getting him back in the lineup recently, but think he should sit for an extended period until he is 100%.

With Erskine having a strong season, pairing him with Hannan will give us a strong third pairing who is defensive oriented. I'm not a huge fan of Schultz, but admit he's had a very consistent season and made the fewest mistakes of our defenseman. Schultz seems to compliment Green the best as he's played with him for a long time and can anticipate when he'll go on the offensive.

Posted by: wizfan89 | December 2, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

you can spin Alzner's skill-set versus Erskine's all day long, but 3g4a=7points is still better than 1g2a=3 points the last I checked...plus, Alzner doesn't hit nearly as hard/ often as Erskine and he can't fight. But like I said, Erskine's style clearly doesn't fit what the Caps are seeking in their 6th spot, so let's trade him and give him a chance somewhere else....anyone know when DJK will get another game?

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

@vermontcaps

I don't want to get rid of Erskine. I like him as a 7th D-man and feel comfortable with him filling in when injuries occur.

As we know, injuries will happen during the playoffs so having 7 D-men who can play is important to making a long playoff run. So I definitely want him to remain on the team.

But I would still take and play Alzner over Erskine in a heartbeat.

Posted by: sgm3 | December 2, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

@sgm3

I concede that in a perfect world, Alzner's head and shoulders above Erskine talent wise. (I'm not sold on other intangibles present in the NHL, however). I just want the Caps to be well-rounded in EVERY respect, and aggression/intimidation/fighting are still a part of the game. Take Erskine out, and we're relatively meek and passive on the blueline even with Hannan in the lineup (6 fights in 770+ reg season games)...Year in and year out, we've been the pansies; just once I'd like to intimidate a team with skill and physicality, and that's what Erskine brings. If we're not good enough to absorb his liabilities while taking advantage of his assets, we'll never be good enough to win the cup anyway. What SC champion didn't have players in the lineup who could've been replace by a more skilled players?

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

i'm just bored everyone, i don't want to piss anyone off :) I'd be happy to get off topic Erskine, i've said all i can say...on another note, I thought Fehr (who I'm highly critical of) looked really good w/Chim and Hendricks last night, I hope they're together again tonight

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Lots of opinions on Caps defensemen. My two cents- in pressure situations, Poti and Green can't clear the puck to save their lives, and Alzner gets muscled all over the place. They're my Caps, I love 'em, but that's how I see it.

Posted by: redhotCAPSaicin | December 2, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

@SeminAllOverTheIce

I happened to enjoy your Hannan Montana joke as well. (Then again, we do have similar tastes in favorite hockey players.)

Posted by: CapsFan75 | December 2, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 3:07 PM Unbelievable, I CAN'T WAIT FOR BB TO GO
why dont you hold your breath till he's gone.

Posted by: heathdog1119 | December 2, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Lots of opinions on Caps defensemen. My two cents-
------------

Alrighty then, I'll weigh in. I know BB likes to keep his d-pairings together more than the forwards, but at some point I'd have to think we'll get another look at Poti-Carlson, those two were - by far - our best pairing against MTL.

And maybe I've been too hard on Schultz in the past - why do so many slow, tall Canadians always get drafted so high, but that's another story - but I realize he has his strengths, it's just that quick, shifty forwards like Gionta, Plekanec, Camilierri, etc. do not seem to bring them out, in pressure situations. I would not mind, at some point, seeing #52 paired with a different partner, just to get a look. Just my two cents.

Posted by: Timbo_1 | December 2, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 3:07 PM Unbelievable, I CAN'T WAIT FOR BB TO GO
why dont you hold your breath till he's gone.

Posted by: heathdog1119 | December 2, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I endured Bryan Murray's tenure, I'm sure BB's will run its course, too

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 6:37 PM | Report abuse

@Timbo_1

How about Hannan and Green?

Posted by: sgm3 | December 2, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

@vermont...I am not sure if i can endure this atrocious team either...

Bryan Murray was 343-246-83 as Head Coach
Bruce Boudreau is 159-62-30 as Head Coach

Maybe you need to tap into some of that Vermont maple syrup, it may sweeten you up:)

Posted by: boomer44 | December 2, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

@ Vermont

I will not take away from what Erskine is able to contribute on most nights....and you are not alone singing his praises. He has been the closest thing the Caps have to a traditional D man that can clear around the net and intimidate other teams players.

Now Ive heard the most praise of Erskine from Pierre McGuire of TSN in Canada hockey broadcasts. Whenever they cover Caps games McGuire says that in big games Erskine goes noticed back on the D - when they lose big games he hasn't played. He has that physical element the Canadian writers love.

Those guys rarely compliment the Caps D - and actually that says he has been either our best guy consistently or they just dont see many of our games.

Posted by: yesisaiditfirst | December 2, 2010 7:23 PM | Report abuse

@boomer

too funny :) Admitedly, I'm a jaded fan caused by decades of living and dying with them. My fav players come and go, and just happens that Ersk is my fav at the moment. I don't understand why he gets no respect her ("he's ok as a 7th dman to fill in for injuries")...The man would be revered in Boston or Philly...he's top-3 on team D in hits, blocked shots, fights, goals, and points despite getting less ice time and being paired w/Sloan and Fahey all year...it makes no sense to me (other than he didn't play for BB or get traded for by GMGM) that he doesn't even get consideration for a regular spot (even if that spot is just a rotating one)...look for yourself what BB said if/when all are healthy...that's why he must go

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

green/shultz= combined 5g 13a 18pts
carlson/alzner= combined 4g 11a 15pts
erskine/et al= combined 6g 11a 17pts

I guess BB assumes that if you're overachieving, you need to come out of the lineup because it's only a matter of time before you falter....if you're underachieving, you need to be in the lineup because it's just a matter of time before things reverse.

Posted by: vermontcaps | December 2, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse


Oh yeah major brands always give out samples on their products, search online for "123 Get Samples" I just got mine. CC not required.

Posted by: kathrynmerry | December 3, 2010 3:55 AM | Report abuse

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