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Alzner: 'I Want to Be More Aggressive'

Must be the week before main training camp opens, because the biggest group of veterans (Caps and Bears) was on the ice at KCI this morning for a rigorous informal practice. Afterward, I caught up with Karl Alzner, Chris Bourque and Tom Poti, all of whom made their summer debuts in Arlington.

Alzner said he added lean muscle to his 6-foot-2 frame over the summer and now weighs between 210-212, up from the 205 he checked in at last fall. But the most noticeable change he wants people to notice next week, the former first-round draft pick said, will be his new approach.

"I want to be more aggressive," said Alzner, who began his on-ice training in July, which is quite early by most standards. "I don't want to just sit back and play it safe and hope to make the team and be one-dimensional. I want to show that I can play a [bigger] role."

"I don't want to get pushed around out there," he added. "I want to be more gritty. I'm not going to go out there looking for fights, but I want guys to know that I'll be there to stick up for them if things do go down and not be [left] wondering, 'Am I safe out there with that guy?'"

Being more assertive, Alzner said, will likely result in him taking more than two minutes in penalties -- his total through 30 games NHL last season.

"That's the thing: I stayed away from everything last year," he said. "I didn't say a word. I don't think I slashed a guy all season. I don't think I hooked a guy, either. I'm not going to be a goon. But if something happens in front of the net, I'm not just going to turn my back."

As much as Alzner would like to make the Caps' opening night roster, he also realizes that it won't be an easy task with so many other D-men with NHL experience fighting for a spot, too.

"It would be better if I can make the team out of camp, especially confidence-wise," Alzner added. "That would be huge and it's what I'm shooting for. But if it's not in the cards, then it's not in the cards. I control my own destiny."

*Bourque, a 2004 third-round pick, is in a similar position to Alzner. Bourque was on the cusp of making the opening-night roster a year ago and figures to be in for another tough battle this season.

"I didn't know if they were going to qualify me, and I heard rumblings about a trade, but this is where I want to be," he said. "You always want to play for the team that drafted you. As long as they are going to to give me a chance, this is where I want to be."

Bourque said he's approaching camp as if there's one spot open for a new forward to crack the Caps' lineup.

"I'm going to make it hard for them to send me down," Bourque said. "I thought I had a strong camp last year, but I guess it wasn't good enough. I have to do a little bit more."

The Caps' coaching staff likes the energy and intensity Bourque displays. So the "little bit more" likely means he'll need to show he can finish and create more scoring chances. He had one goal in eight games with Washington, skating limited minutes.

*Poti told me his broken foot, an injury he played through during the postseason, healed after five weeks and did not negatively impact his offseason preparation. The 32-year-old also got married in July on the water in Cape Cod.

*Nicklas Backstrom arrived at KCI moments ago, according to Paul Rovnak's twitter feed.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  September 9, 2009; 12:21 PM ET
 
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Comments

Nicky is back!!! We must be getting close folks, gonna throw on my number 19 jersey when I get home from work!

Posted by: PhilR | September 9, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I love Karl's intensity and that he started working out early to get bigger, stronger and meaner this seaon. If he doesn't make the Caps I will be very upset.

I am a huge Bourque fan. I love seeing a guy my size our there and doing well. I hope he makes the team as well.

Posted by: pkendrick | September 9, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Did Nick show up with his entourage of Swede's? Where is Nylander? Nyls is ready to show the young boys how it's done.

Posted by: SA-Town | September 9, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Tarik, can you post the new time for informal practice? Also, any word if they will have a practice session this Saturday?

Posted by: madflava | September 9, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Chris Bourque = 2004 2nd round pick, not 2003 3rd round pick

Posted by: bikng | September 9, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Let us know if Nylander shows up. Or will he be absent for TC.

Posted by: joeshred | September 9, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

It's funny how Alzner has become taken for granted and Carlson is the new flavor of the month. It's similar to the fan reaction to the backup quarterback for the Redskins, when people wanted to start Colt Brennan. Alzner is still the same guy who was captain of his junior national team and was solid playing for the Caps last year. I have high hopes for Carlson too, but let's not overlook Alzner.

Posted by: zmega | September 9, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Chris Bourque- Favorite player not named Alex Ovechkin!

seriously Bourque is perfect for bradley checking line, he may be small, but he is not easily bumped off the puck, and he is quick, and he always bounces right back when he is knocked down. his assist numbers in hershey should be enough to prove that given consistent time to actually play he can prove to be a huge assest.

Bourque deserves a spot, he's earned a spot.

Posted by: capsfan387 | September 9, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

actually I'll tell you exactly why Carlson is now looked at more then Alzner, one worde...PHYSICAL. Carlson is a beast, and he uses his size well. I've saw Alzner and Carlson in development camp last year, and then I watched them both this year in hershey and saw Carlson in development camp this summer. Carlson definately has it, and he is developing rather quickly. Alzner mighta been all the hoopla last year, but let me tell you what, I'm seeing better showings from Carlson this year that definately deserves some chatter.

Ideally, we should have both of them up here. Send down Shultz, and trade Juice...there you go. Only problem, I don;t really want to trade juice but with his current salary and his game 5 loss for us, not to mention several other penalties taken during the playoffs that either cost us the game, the lead or momentum... his departure sometime this year seems inevitable

Posted by: capsfan387 | September 9, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Carlson didn't play for the Bears until the WBS series. IMO he is big and physical but is very raw. He made glaring mistakes in games 3 and 4 of the Calder Cup final. Meanwhile Alzner looked fluid. Carlson has looked good thus far but has yet to step on the ice with bonafide NHLers. Alzner did OK last season in his 30 games, and with added grit and muscle, he is probably ready. Let's see how Carlson performs as the competition gets more steep. If he is still looking good come 27 September against the Rangers I will start to believe he's going to be in the NHL this year at some point. So far he's been the big fish in a little pond, the flood gates will open next week when Ovi and company start skating. I believe some of Carlson's weaknesses will start to show and the big boys will only be at about 80% during camp.

Posted by: fanohock1 | September 9, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

I will add though that IMO this Caps roster will consist of Karl Alzner and John Carlson playing regular shifts coming out of camp within the next 2 years.

Posted by: fanohock1 | September 9, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

@fanohock1 - Agreed. It seems inevitable, in a good way.

Posted by: zmega | September 9, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I agree as well and I cannot wait to see Alzner and Carlson as regulars on the blue line with Green.

And you cannot blame Juice for game 5. He did the right thing and the puck took a lucky bounce.

Posted by: pkendrick | September 9, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

-Vegasinsider gives the Caps 10/1 odds to win the Cup. Don't know if I agree, but I'll take it.
-I like aggressiveness. All players should adopt it..except maybe ovie. He can lay off the aggressiveness sometimes.
-As far as Bourque is concerned, he may have earned his spot and deserved it, but it still doesn't change the fact that we have somewhat of a log jam up front. I'm just putting these together as space, not necessarily my lines; Ovie-Backs-Knuble Semin-BMo-Flash Fehr-Nyls-Bradley Gordon-Stecks-Laich PLUS Clark. Then, PLUS the tweeners who maybe ready to make the jump; Bourque, Osala, even guys like Beagle.
This is the only thing I see keeping Bourque off the NHL roster. Maybe we will see a forward or two go whenever we send a d man out and that would clear up the jam a bit, but then the question is who?

Posted by: richmondphil | September 9, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Carlson and Alzner have options. It's going to make it that much harder for them to crack the roster this year. Barring a trade or implosion by one of the other d-men, they'll start the season in Hershey.

Posted by: JohninMpls | September 9, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

You're right JohninMpls but if either or both of those guys prove they should be in the Caps line-up then GMGM can look to move one of our other D to make room.

But based on GMGM's history of developing D in the AHL (see Green) I see Carlson in Hershey this year used as an injury call up like Alzner was last year.

Alzner should be on the team from the start.

Posted by: pkendrick | September 9, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

oh, I forgot Fehr will be on LTIR for the first month or two. I think we will see a lot of our tweeners get their call then.

Posted by: richmondphil | September 9, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Alzner should be on the team from the start.

Posted by: pkendrick | September 9, 2009 2:22 PM |

I agree and I think we will see him in the majority of games in a Cap sweater.

ShaMo or Juice is already out the door..I mean it has to happen to even make it under the Cap.

Posted by: richmondphil | September 9, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Phil: One thing we know is there WILL BE INJURIES. All of the players you listed will play this year, plus likely 3 or 4 others (hopefully not the goalie from the press bow though!). Anyway, they'll all get chances. Alzner was definitely tentative somewhat last year. Another thing to remember is Juice and ShaMo are UFAs after this coming year, so that makes them easiest to trade. Pothier also UFA but I doubt he goes anywhere.

Posted by: tominfl1 | September 9, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

ShaMo or Juice is already out the door..I mean it has to happen to even make it under the Cap.

Posted by: richmondphil | September 9, 2009 2:27 PM

i like juice better than shamo - GMGM: find a way to trade him

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | September 9, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Can someone please explain to me why the Capitals seem so content to go with the starting defensemen they ended last season with?

Not one change in the offseason.

I am not suggesting the team had to go out and acquire Zdeno Chara, but at the same time it might have been a decent idea to put guys like Morrisonn and Schultz on the block for draft picks and create one or two spots so guys with a much higher talent ceiling can join the parent club and help propel this team further in the playoffs down the road.

By keeping the same defense as last year (19th in goals against) you are once again saying to Varlamov and the Ovechkin-led offense that they are going to have to win with one hand tied behind their backs.

Expecting Varlamov or Theodore or Neuvirth for that matter to 'save' the team night in and night out by stopping jail breaks is not going to net a Stanley Cup.

The Caps have been very productive in the draft the past 4-5 years under McPhee, but what George has to show now is how he can use some of those assets to then go out and not merely replace Fedorov and Kozlov but to acquire ADDITIONAL talent to defeat Pittsburgh and the Red Wings.

Posted by: leopard09 | September 9, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Leopard you nailed it: GMGM's been good in the 1st-round [but you could argue Ovie, Varly and Backstrom were no-brainers anyway] but our D was once again exposed in the playoffs [by Brandon Dubinsky, never mind the duo from Pitt] - and squadoosh was done to address that.

Yes, I like Alzner a lot, and have heard terrific things about Carlson to be sure, but still.

Posted by: govtimbo | September 9, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

leopard09: You're forgetting something very important. Remember the change that did get made in the offseason - the coaching? Consider if you will the difference, with the same set of players, between Hanlon and Boudreau. Given that night-and-day difference, why wouldn't you wait and see if the coaching change on D makes the desired difference before going out and overpaying for a defenseman when you've already got a ton of NHL-ready assets in your club and you're tight under the cap as it is? Especially when you have two key cogs that go RFA next summer and the cap is likely to drop? That kind of deal just doesn't make good business sense. We already know that the D we have have enough talent to get the team into the postseason, so it's a far more sensible and thrifty approach to see if the coaching change bears fruit, and then acquire a stud Dman at the deadline if you find that you need one.

Calm down, grasshopper. The Cup isn't won in August or September. Let's see if with a coaching change, the guys we've got can get the job done before we go throwing money we don't have willy-nilly. GMGM doesn't dare do anything that might cause him to lose Semin and/or Backstrom, so he's got to be smart.

Posted by: kittypawz | September 9, 2009 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Its funny isn't it -- those of us who were clamoring for Alzner to be MORE AGGRESSIVE got ridiculed by the know-it-alls on this board who kept saying that Alzner did not need to be more aggressive because he was a Lidstrom-in-the-making and that being more physical would somehow screw up his positional game. lol, whateva! looks like Alz himself realizes the deficiencies in his playing style.

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 9, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

any friggin chance we can get the same comments to come out of that lanky beanpole Schultzy?

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 9, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

kitty, fair enough about the coaching change, it's been night and day since BB took over. I'd caution 2 things though: 1) BB is one of the most innovative minds in hockey since Herb Brooks, so we got very lucky there; & 2) It's not like our D suddenly became a problem just last postseason - it's the same thing for 3 years now, and GMGM hasn't addressed it, from what I can see.

As I said above, I like Alzner and am very hopeful about Carlson - but still.

Posted by: govtimbo | September 9, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

This sounds harsh but I simply don't think Schultz has the foot-speed for today's NHL. Maybe he proves me wrong - but I doubt it.

Posted by: govtimbo | September 9, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse

@govtimbo - I still want to see what Woods can do with the D. Many of them were on the Calder-cup winning team that Boudreau and Woods coached together... This year is going to be good.

Posted by: irockthered | September 9, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

how many defensive players have Woods and Boudreau graduated successfully to the NHL so far? Juice, Mo, Erskine, Pothier and Poti all came via different channels. Mike Green is the only starting defenseman that has come the Hershey route and he has some glaring defensive weaknesses. The only other exBears player to get real ice time at the nhl level so far is Schultzie and we don't seem too fond of him. Point being, there is no established track record of Woods et al being a great mentor to defensemen.

Posted by: cstanton1 | September 9, 2009 8:53 PM | Report abuse

SA-Town said:

"Nyls is ready to show the young boys how it's done."

Posted by: large23220 | September 10, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

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