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Varlamov appears set to start, Alzner makes return

Based on the morning skate, it appears that Semyon Varlamov will start in goal and Karl Alzner will make his season debut tonight as the Caps attempt to snap a three-game slide against the Sabres.

For Alzner, it's been a long time coming. Although he's probably deserved a promotion prior to today, the Caps' salary cap situation has kept him in Hershey, where he's been biding his time for the first two months of the season despite Washington's injury problems.

"I know the [salary cap] situation this year better than last year, [so] last year was tougher for me because it was all new to me," Alzner said. "This year it was easier for me to just relax because I knew something like this is going to happen and then I'm going to get my chance. I've just been having fun instead of living out of my suitcase, waiting, waiting, waiting."

Alzner will be paired with Milan Jurcina, who will return from a six-game layoff because of a groin injury.

Alzner "has been playing well down there, but it's tough because we have eight pretty good defensemen up here when everyone is healthy," Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I'm really excited to see him. The reports [from Hershey] are great. We'll see where it leads."

The Caps were able to recall Alzner, in part, because Mike Knuble (broken finger) has been placed on the longterm injury list. Knuble, who skated today for the first time since suffering a broken finger on his left hand on Nov. 13, said he hopes to play Dec. 9 against Buffalo.

Knuble had the stitches removed yesterday from his pinkie finger, which required six screws and a plate to repair. The rugged winger said he hurt himself when he caught his hand on the cross bar after he was shoved into the net by Wild defenseman Marek Zidlicky.

"My finger snagged on the crossbar," he said. "I thought it was dislocated at first because when I pulled my glove off it was sticking out sideways."

Some other notes from the skate:

*Coach Bruce Boudreau said Alexander Semin (wrist) is expected to skate Friday. He has missed the past four games.

*Boudreau did not have any updates on the other injured players -- Tom Poti, Boyd Gordon or Shaone Morrisonn. When asked whether Morrisonn had suffered a setback in his recovery from a concussion, Boudreau said "I'm going to find out."

*Jose Theodore told me he feels like he's got his focus back and wants to get back in the net. It's unclear when that will happen.

*Boudreau on facing the Sabres, who have lost three straight but have not played since a 5-3 loss in Ottawa on Saturday: "I think we're playing the best team in the East at this stage. And they've had five days to work on their game, so it's going to be a real test for us."

*Defenseman Brian Pothier is really excited about the way he's playing these days. And for good reason: he's got three goals and four assists in his past nine games, after notching just one assist in his first 13 games.

*A little more from Boudreau on rookie defenseman John Carlson, who was returned to Hershey yesterday after getting his first taste of the NHL: "Where he's at is he competed. He's got to get a little stronger, but it was his first trip to the NHL as a 19 year old. There might have been a little awe factor as well. He's going to be a really good player for the Capitals. But the one thing you noticed is that he's an offensive defenseman that didn't to take any chances. That happens when you're first called up. So I expect in the future that he will be a little more aggressively offensively."

*Although Alzner is not technically a rookie anymore, he stayed behind to pick up pucks and put them in a bucket after practice.

"I still consider myself a rookie until a full season, or at least half a season," Alzner said. "So I'm still a rookie to me."

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  November 25, 2009; 12:15 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Alzner recalled, others still hurting (updated)
Next: Tonight's lineup: Sabres at Caps


Posted by: richmondphil | November 25, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Unless Alzner plays a whole lot better than he did in Hershey on Saturday night, it's going to be a long game and you might just wish Sloan was back there. For example, on the power play, all the defense to do was shoot the puck at Alzner's 5-hole while he played the point and it was guarenteed to make it all the way down the ice with him chasing it - repeatedly. No focus, like he wished he was somewhere else. Sort of like the Caps when they take the game off when playing a lesser team. If he steps it up tonight -great - but you still have to play for a win against every team., even in the "A".

Posted by: Varly | November 25, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Nice attitude, Karl. You have to appreciate how he's handled everything so far. Sounds like a true professional.

Posted by: Riddler1 | November 25, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Varly has definately earned the time in net. He has played very well in his last 1/2 dozen games. I don't think any of the goals from the Sens can be put on him. A goalie doesn't have a prayer when a shot is deflected 10-15 feet in front of the net and 3-4 feet off the ice. The only thing he can do is hope it hits him and 2 of them didn't. No to mention he made about 1/2 a dozen outstanding saves to give us the lead going into the 3rd. I'm not sure how long the term will be but I'm liking Alzner and Carlson getting up here and Varly in net. Maybe by the end of the year we can have all 3 here and playing well. Gotta win tonight. Lets not get a big losing streak going. Will be screaming LETS GO CAPS from the mile high city. Happy Turkey day all!

Posted by: pokerfaceI208 | November 25, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Varly's been here all year.

Posted by: richmondphil | November 25, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Nylander question: Don't we have to waive him again if he doesn't sign in Russia within 30 days of the original waiver wire?

Posted by: oldtimehockey | November 25, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

That is good putting Jurcina with Alzner. They played very effectively together last year when Alzner first came up.

Posted by: tominfl1 | November 25, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I think its great that Theo wants to play and that his mental focus has returned but #40 is clearly the more athletic and confident of the two. Also,the kid is 12-1 in regular season games for Pete's sake!

Seriously Tarik, WHAT IS GOING ON WITH CIRCLES! And what do you all think will happen to Perrault when Gordon comes back? How do you send 85 back down

Posted by: skinzfan4 | November 25, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Nothing is going on with Nylander.

Nothing will ever go on with Nylander until around the deadline, if then.

Posted by: richmondphil | November 25, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

@Skinfanz, 12-1? He's 8-1-2, I believe. He's only lost one in regulation, which is great, but OT and SO losses are still not wins.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | November 25, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

@oldtimehockey: Varly was 4-0-1 during the regular season last year, and 8-1-2 this year. That makes him 12-1-3 overall in the regular season, which makes the comment by Skinfanz "Also,the kid is 12-1 in regular season games for Pete's sake!" accurate.

So in 18 games the team has 27 points. Pretty good if you ask me. Over a full season that would give a team 123 points.

Posted by: 85tarheel | November 25, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Yes, after 30 days, I think Nylander must go on waivers again.

And, as time goes by, and as his remaining salary dwindles, he becomes more attractive.

I think it's the same thing that happens if you stay in the bar until 2 am.

Posted by: tominfl1 | November 25, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

well said

Posted by: superpaqman | November 25, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Lets hope there is a GM in the league with those thick 2AM beer googles on that will pick him up and end this nightmare.

Posted by: PhilR | November 25, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Any updates on Nylander yet?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Is Circles watching the band "Russian Circles" play in Russia yet?!!!?

This team will not win a game until he is gone. Oh wait....

Posted by: richmondphil | November 25, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

@Tarheel, ok, I see where he's coming from, but leaving the OTLs off his record is misleading. 12-1-3 is not as good as 12-1-[0-0], since its only 84% of the points available, rather than 92%.

Still darn good, though.

@Tominfl: LOL at the 2AM comment.

Posted by: oldtimehockey | November 25, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Tarik, any updates on Nylander? It's been 20 minutes since I last checked, how come the Caps organization and Tarik are being so shady about this Nylander thing?

Any updates on Nylander yet? No? I'll try again in 10 minutes.

Posted by: richmondphil | November 25, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

There have been several comments on Tarik's blog about Green and Ovi being tired, suggesting BB should not be playing them such excessive minutes. While NHL coaches dictate who is out for the PP or PK they do not tell them how long to stay out on the ice or when to come off. That is the player's decision. If you've sat near the bench you'll have heard BB yelling for them to change ... get off and they ignore him. Regardless of how fit you are, if you're tired you're not doing the team or yourself any favors by staying on the ice.

Posted by: gogetem | November 25, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Lets Go Cap - I - Tals!!!

Posted by: BernieWolfeFan | November 25, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

@gogentem--true but in several of the situations discussed In the past few threads the player in question was unable to get off at that moment without causing a different problem--it's a fine line but it is the coach who decides which pairing or line to send out in the first place.

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | November 25, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Oh and GO CAPS!

Posted by: Capsyoungguns | November 25, 2009 5:18 PM | Report abuse

I hope Leonsis passes on the Wizards, he is a great owner, and I honestly dont want to share him with the NBA. As odd as that sounds...

Posted by: jesstyr | November 25, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Leonsis has reportedly lost $100 mil since he has owned the Caps. The only reason for doing that is because he has known for 10 years that he would eventually own the Wizards and VC as well.

For some reason if he can't have the wizards and VC now, he will probably sell the Caps so it's not a matter of him just keeping the status quo... it's about him owning all 3 or probably nothing.

Posted by: joek443 | November 25, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Don't worry about Nylander. When Ted buys the Verizon Center, the premier of "Nyls on Ice" starting Nylander and Tanya Harding will more than make up for the big bucks he earns to sit at home.

Posted by: dezlboy1 | November 25, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Didn't have a chance to comment on the last game because I had to watch it the next day, etc.

I normally always defending Green against his haters, but he had an atrocious game vs. Ottawa. I counted at least 5 instances when he could have cost us a goal for no reason. 4 times he got bailed out by Varlamov, but the 5th one ended up on our net as a game winner. What really sucked about that one is that he made a terrible giveaway just seconds earlier, Varly bailed him out and then he makes another dumb play. Urrghhh.

Pothier has been awesome. Playing with so much confidence now I can see why he was thought of so highly before his long term injury. The guy has lots of offensive skills to go with his D.

Varly has been awesome. Every goal that Ottawa scored was a deflection right in front. Nothing he could do about those. His split save on a 2-on-1 in OT after Green's boneheaded giveaway was amazing. Unfortunately it didn't even get a replay on TV since they scored seconds after to end the game after another bad mistake by Greenie.

Whatever Caps have to do to keep Perreault with us they must. He's getting better and better. What most amazing to me is that for such a little guy he always seems to come out with the puck in board battles. He just has such quick hands that even despite his size he manages to fish the puck out from between everyone's skates and he knows what to do with it once he has it.

Clark being on the 1st line kills me. Yeah, I know he scored, but that goal, if anything showed why he shouldn't be anywhere near the top 2 lines. Just got lucky it bounced into the net and they counted it. There were so many instances when he screwed up good chances it wasn't even funny. On one particular play he was wide open in the slot with an empty net to shoot at and completely whiffed. On another he had the goalie already down and instead of calmly pulling the puck back and throwing it over him he just stupidly pushed it along the ice right into his pad.

Anyway, good luck to our guys tonight. Might be tough because Buffalo is also in a slump so will be very motivated.

Posted by: ranndino | November 25, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mr. Polin.

Posted by: grackle5 | November 25, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

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