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Wild Finish in St. Paul, but Caps fall, 4-3

Wow, what a crazy final few minutes. Having seen these Caps pull off a frantic comeback (or six) before, I stopped writing after Alex Ovechkin cut it to 4-2 with 3:53 left to play.

Minnesota was on its heels. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom had lost his focus. And Washington was determined. But, alas, the injury-riddled Caps ran out of gas and their losing streak reached three games.

A road trip that began with such promise ended with a thud (1-3-0), and Bruce Boudreau suffered the first three-game losing streak (in regulation) of his tenure on the day the AHL announced he was being inducted into its Hall of Fame.

Here are some notes/quotes/observations from tonight:

*There were three -- count 'em -- three closing hand on puck penalties called tonight. One on Minnesota's Marek Zidlicky and one each on Ovechkin and Tom Poti. Asked if he had ever seen that before, Boudreau said emphatically, "No. There was a lot of stuff I didn't see [before] out there tonight."

*I asked Boudreau if he had ever heard of Cal Clutterbuck before he scored two goals for the Wild. He said, "Yeah, I had his younger brother in my [summer] hockey camp."

*The Caps' injury situation, as I'm sure you've seen by now, went from bad to worse.

Defenseman Jeff Schultz suffered a broken finger a few minutes into the game and is out for several weeks after blocking a shot. Center Boyd Gordon left a few minutes later with back spasms. And defenseman John Erskine left in the second period with something he declined to describe in detail when I ran into him outside of the dressing room.

The injury to Schultz will force the Caps to make a recall from Hershey. It will probably be Sami Lepisto because of his puck-rushing ability (think Mike Green's replacement).

Those injuries are on top of the ones to Green (bruised shoulder), center Sergei Fedorov (sprained ankle) and leading scorer Alexander Semin (upper back strain).

Everyone but Schultz, obviously, is day-to-day.

*The injury situation got so bad, Brooks Laich was moved from forward to defense in the third period because the blue line was down to four healthy bodies.

"We were down to four and they were huffing and puffing back there," Laich said. "I was told to go back there. I'm aware of our systems and I know what to do back there, so I was able to lend a hand."

*The Caps were outshot 17-6 in the second period. They also took three penalties in the period.

*The mood in the Caps' room after the game was more upbeat than one might expect after finishing the road trip with three loses. It had everything to do with the near comeback.

"I'm going to be able to go to sleep happy tonight," Laich said. "We lost guys to injury. Other guys played through injury. I'm proud of our guys for the effort they gave with a short bench on a long road trip."

Nylander said: "We came back and were hungry to tie the game up. We worked hard and never quit, so that was good."

Boudreau added: "We just have to go back and regroup and get it done. I think the last six minutes were very positive. It shows what you can do when you put your mind to it. They'll be the first ones to tell you that they are lucky to escape with a win today."

*The Wild improved to 5-0 at home against the Caps.

*Jose Theodore made a couple of unbelievable saves - one in the opening seconds on Antti Miettinen and the other a sliding glove save on a 2-on-0 attempt by Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the older brother of Caps' prospect Francois Bouchard, in the second period.

Theodore, in my opinion, was also left to fend for himself far too often. Again. One goal was the direct result of an Erskine turnover. Another came on a five-on-three power play, and the Wild's fourth came on a 2 on 1.

"I thought he was great," Boudreau said. "He kept us in the game. That's what you ask a goaltender to do--keep you in the game. He gave us a chance coming into the third period."

*Ovechkin finished with a game-high six shots on goal and got his first ever tally against the Wild.

That's all for tonight, folks. There won't be any practice tomorrow, and with the next game on Wednesday, there may not be any news in the way of injury updates or recalls. We shall see, though.

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  November 25, 2008; 12:40 AM ET
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This team is falling apart in the injury department, which is sad to see.

Fortunately, we have amazing players like Sami more than ready to step in!

Posted by: _jordan | November 25, 2008 1:09 AM | Report abuse

main laich does it all.. said for a long time he earned his money +

gonna be interesting to see as people come back how chemistry builds as compared to lines that have played together most of the year.

Posted by: am_jim | November 25, 2008 1:09 AM | Report abuse


OK, Dr. Hockey...

I did not say we don't need him. I said he's not a good defenseman. He cannot clear the zone. He CAN carry it out. That's a good thing. He cannot shift from skating backwards to forwards when the rush is against him. Mostly, the offense goes around him and usually pretty easily. He can score. That's a good thing. But a replacement for Semin? or more important than Semin? I don't think so.

And I didn't say I knew more than Joe B. I said "The announcer with Joe B seemed to think..." I went on to say that Green is a 4th offenseman. Which is fine. No problems there. Just don't call him a defenseman.

Please quote me correctly.

Posted by: Greg S. | November 25, 2008 1:11 AM

Posted by: Greg S. | November 25, 2008 1:12 AM | Report abuse

So...Schultz is out for at least 10 games and 24 days.

That's the limit for the LTIR...shich will be required to get Sami on the 23 man roster.

Posted by: jincargo | November 25, 2008 1:26 AM | Report abuse

Riddle me this:

What's more inevitable, Laich getting the C in the near future, or the sun rising in the east tomorrow?

Posted by: ThisGuy | November 25, 2008 1:35 AM | Report abuse

I'm assuming Schultz will be going on LTIR.


Posted by: el_bashir | November 25, 2008 2:13 AM | Report abuse

laich the C...ew. his on ice presecence is great but im sorry he's kinda an ass off the ice. maybe im the only one who sees how cocky and self centered he can be off the ice. if anyone deserves the C after clark its ovie hands down. crucify me for my thoughts but honestly laich does not deserve the C

Posted by: capsfan387 | November 25, 2008 2:41 AM | Report abuse

I hope the injured players will stay in good physical shape so they can bounce back when they are healthy.

Healthy does not necessarily mean physically fit.

Posted by: redskinsux | November 25, 2008 3:37 AM | Report abuse

At 4-0 I thought the game was over and then we almost come back. Wow. Considering out injury situation we did well actually. Finished the game with 4 D and I thought we played well even before we started scoring, but Backstrom was standing on his head in the Wild goal.

The injuries really suck, but I'm glad to see Lepisto getting called up. Really like him.

Last thing. Boudreau calling Green a one man breakout pretty much summarizes what I've been saying for the past couple of weeks and especially what I said in my last post. We miss him tremendously in every way. If anyone can't see it I'm sorry, but you just don't understand hockey.

Posted by: ranndino | November 25, 2008 3:39 AM | Report abuse

Read the game thread after this one. It was unbelievable. I almost puked. This is what happens when a team plays in a non-traditional hockey market. You get people who have watched hockey for about 6 months pretending like they know something.

If the Caps have to play with a Hershey roster vs some of the best teams in the NHL and finish games with half the starting roster am I still gonna have to read stupid crap about this team sucking and the players mailing it in on here? I really do try to be polite to everyone here, but as someone who's been watching hockey since I was 4-5 I just can't take it anymore sometimes.

Anyway, left most of my comments in the game thread.

Posted by: ranndino | November 25, 2008 4:12 AM | Report abuse

@Greg S

M. Green is one of maybe 3 or 4 players in the league that can do what he does on a night in and night out basis. He is a defensemen. I also guarantee you that his skill sets are matched by none in the league, skating, puckhandling and his pension for scoring.

We didn't have this Semin last year and we still won. We basically had one scoring line and Green for the majority of last year until the trade deadline and we were one of the best teams from Thanksgiving on.

The loss of Green takes away the 1 thing that makes this system what it is, a none stop pressuring offense, its clearly not the same, not even close to the same offense without him. Poti just can't do it.

What Joe B, randino, myself, Steve R and amazingly only a few other people in here realize is that this system needs M.Green in it more so than Ovechkin or Semin. Just look at how this season has played out. OV didn't score, in fact, neither did Backstrom, Nylander, Kozlov and Clark for long stretches, but Green was playing at a Norris Trophy candidate level, which is an award for the "BEST DEFENSEMEN", and we still managed to win.

Semin got hurt and we went 2-1, the one loss in the shootout vs NJD. Green gets hurt and we get runover by LA, horse whipped by SJ and for 2 periods vs MIN shutout.

I am no way Dr. Hockey, but I do 86% of the time, know what I'm talking about.

Greg S, sorry dude for calling you out, but you are completely clueless about the definition of defensemen and importance and abilities of one M.Green.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 6:08 AM | Report abuse

Way to many people that think that nothing should have an effect on a team's ability to win. The timing of a tough road trip and key injuries should make the losses a little more understandable. Sure I would prefer that they pulled out more points in the trip. However, there isn't a team in the league that would not struggle under similar circumstances. Many here are calling for major changes and one moron cheering an injury. The major change we need is to get some of our key contributors back healthy.

Posted by: _Mark | November 25, 2008 6:33 AM | Report abuse

One day some of the jokers in here will realize and appreciate the abilities of Green. For some it will take longer, like some of the people in here that wanted no parts of Green during contract negotiations. The ones who wanted him beck only at a team discount of $2.5 million a year or less to prove himself, or people who wanted to get a S@H defensemen, like W.Redden (I almost jumped out of a window when I read that) or John Michael Liles, good grief.

Mark my words, Green will finish in the top 5 in Norris Trophy balloting this year. He will win one or 2 in his career and I wont be surprised and I will laugh at all of you while I read blogs at 5:45 in the morning.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 6:34 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and the moron should change their name to "ilikephilthy". That is a more suitable place for a person that wishes injuries on players, whether on their team or the opponents. You can argue the merits of a player, their strong points and weak points, but cheering an injury is just plain wrong.

Posted by: _Mark | November 25, 2008 6:38 AM | Report abuse

86%?!? And here I thought it was more like 87.2% ... ;-)

Yes, the injuries are killing us and yes the comeback was stellar (and, for the record, when my DH changed the channel after the Wild was up by 4, I made him turn it back - so glad I got to see the end of that game!). I just hope the boys from Hershey can help us limp along until some of the big boys come back. If not, we could be in for a long stretch. I'm just glad that Jose did not completely fall apart back there - it could have been much worse ...

Posted by: Boo- | November 25, 2008 6:40 AM | Report abuse

JSchon: You make good points on Green - as I've always said too, he has a unique skill set the way he moves the puck out. A good example some people might be able to relate to - the Bullets in the 70s had Wes Unseld and Dave Bing. Unseld was fantastic at getting rebounds and making the outlet pass. Bing knew just when to break downcourt for the "snowbird." Take one of them away, and the whole team was completely different because then they had to run the half-court offense.

All people need to do is listen to the other city announcers to know what everyone in hockey thinks about Green.

On Alzner - if they only bring him up for like ten games, the cap hit is 10/82nds of $875K? I think as soon as they would reassign him, if they do, the bonus cushion goes away?

Posted by: tominfl1 | November 25, 2008 6:45 AM | Report abuse

In order to win the Norris, you have to be Mistake Free.

Green is a genuine talent and should be mentioned, however he's not close to winning that award.

As a matter of fact, he'd better work on his position before he ends up labeled a liability.

Then again, with the politics involved, you never know.

Make no mistake, that was not a comeback, it was Minnesota falling asleep.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 7:04 AM | Report abuse


Don't you have to be at South Park Elementary soon to prepare the Salisbury Steak for lunch today?

Its the system that puts M.Green in these precarious positions, not M.Green. The same pressure that our system puts on other teams is the same pressure that Green to get back into position.

And like I said earlier, there are only a handful of defensemen that can do what M.Green is capable of doing night in and night out.

Feed the Children Chef.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 7:15 AM | Report abuse

Last night's comeback was a result of the Caps putting pressure on and fighting for the puck. They did not give up. This team is capable of scoring and cannot be taken lightly or given up for dead. There were Caps teams in the past that you could count out, but not this one.

Posted by: _Mark | November 25, 2008 7:19 AM | Report abuse


No need to be a jerk.

There is no system in the world that causes a player to cough up a puck, it's the player you child.

There is also no system out there that causes ill advised passes. Yes, your hero makes enough mistakes (and understandably so for a young guy) to keep him far away from actually winning a Norris.

If you have the nerve to say you know 80 some odd percent about hockey, then that makes me at about 99.9 compared to you, Mr. Fantasy expert.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 7:21 AM | Report abuse

This is how our system works...

We have to:

A. Put the other team on their heals more than us.

B. We have to be better on our heals than they are.

Without Green, we are neither A or B.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 7:24 AM | Report abuse

I agree that this team cannot be taken lightly and is capable of coming back (see Pens game).
The Wild rarely see the Caps and gave them respect until half way through the third, but on the whole, they have been beaten pretty bad over the past 3 games.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 7:24 AM | Report abuse

""This is how our system works...
We have to:
A. Put the other team on their heals more than us.
B. We have to be better on our heals than they are.
Without Green, we are neither A or B.""

Thank You !

I always like starting my day with a huge laugh.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Im s jerk?

Thats rich and compelling.

Chew on this Chef.

2007-2008 Norris Trophy Voting
Pts. (1st-2nd-3rd-4th-5th)
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, DET 1313 (127-5-1-1-0)
2. Dion Phaneuf, CGY 561 (2-38-37-26-12)
3. Zdeno Chara, BOS 486 (3-38-23-21-12)
4. Sergei Gonchar, PIT 370 (1-24-21-21-24)
5. Brian Campbell, S.J. 333 (1-18-16-31-24)
6. Andrei Markov, MTL 156 (0-4-15-11-20)
7. Mike Green, WSH 84 (0-1-7-10-12)
8. Chris Pronger, ANA 56 (0-2-5-5-2)
9. Brian Rafalski, DET 25 (0-1-1-2-7)
10. Scott Niedermayer, ANA 22 (0-2-1-1-0)\

We know what you are Chef... Make no mistake about it.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 7:28 AM | Report abuse

"I always like starting my day with a huge laugh."

What did you do Chef, lift up your spare tire to check out your manhood?

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 7:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm waiting to see what BB and GMGM have to say about who's being called up. I'm hoping for Lepisto or Alzner, but I realize Alzner is a bigger cap hit. I've been watching the Bears as well as the Caps this year, and I'm liking a lot of what I see.

And after last night, no matter how disgusted I am, I will not be turning the TV off on a Caps game again. We CAN come back from behind, and if the stinking referees had been calling both sides evenly, we'd've had a 5-on-3 on that last penalty set, from everything I've heard. And on THAT, we could have tied the game.

"Closing hand on puck" my a$$.

Posted by: irockthered | November 25, 2008 7:31 AM | Report abuse


maybe you're the one lifting a spare tire ?

Given the amount of time you spend on a blog it would not be surprising if you had a couple of spare tirea, little acne, receding 80's hair and maybe even playing Mr. Mom while the woman makes the money.
Just a thought.

Have a nice day in fantasy world.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 7:39 AM | Report abuse

See you around the next losing streak, Chef. Its always a pleasure proving your stupidity.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 7:41 AM | Report abuse

It's always fun reading your stupidity.

My 7:04 post contained no insults or provoking comments.
You just had to behave like a child. Figures.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Chef, did I hurt your feelings? Go ask your parents for a hanky.

Toughen up Chef, I thought you were a hockey fan.

Calling you a character from a Cartoon isnt really an insult, but I guess you are a softy.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 7:50 AM | Report abuse

With Schultz on LTIR and Feds close to it (not sure if coming back for 1 game screws that formulation up), it may be time for Alzner to come up along with Sami. There just aren't enough bodies on the blueline and some of those bodies are not playing well. Jose got hung out to dry a lot last night -- way too many odd-man rushes this west coast swing. Green's abiility to rush up ice is sorely missed and I bet the Caps will miss Schultz more than some bloggers think.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS | November 25, 2008 7:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad Schultz is gone. Now hope Erskine will be gone soon, so that we can bring up some real defensemen.

Posted by: DannyBoy1975 | November 24, 2008 11:02 PM
Another class act.

Posted by: Section117 | November 25, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Uh oh, I think it is time for a group hug ...

I agree - any blueline loss will really be felt at this point. I hope that Schultz's status = Alzner; I would like to see how he does in the bigs in a 'real' game. I'll be curious to see what happens ...

Posted by: Boo- | November 25, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Bottom line after all these years.
Goaltending and defense still never addressed.

How many more years will they allow for the same person that destroyed the team originaly, to ruin the new guys ?

Without an anchor on D and a bonafied #1, no chance the Caps will contend in the post season.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Hopefully, Fehr also continues to play. The kid has grit and has produced points in most of the games he has played. The same cannot be said about Clark and Nylander, who is playing better now. Once Federov is back, Nylander may be too much of a luxury for a team so close to the cap that it cannot call up players. Please tell me that Tyler Sloan was the first choice because of talent, not due to the cap.

Boo! I hope that Schultz for Alzner works out too.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS | November 25, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse

Interesting, Chafe telling someone "no need to be a jerk". Really?

Posted by: _Mark | November 25, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse


you're usually right... but if you're suggesting that this team lost the last 3 because of Green's absence, then you're wrong.

Mike puts a lot of offense on the table, but as far as defense goes he's not the solution. On a good night, he can score, but if our D allows 4-5 goals a night (could be 6-7 if not for our good goaltending) then we are in trouble, no matter if we're all healthy or not.

This team desperately needs some good veteran D. Recalls from Hershey won't help, we need good ol' rugged NHL experience. If we can't get that then BB has got to do something to fix it, even if it means changing "the system" a bit.

Don't you think so?

Posted by: mauree | November 25, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Call up Pokuluk.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 8:02 AM | Report abuse


Sloan was the choice strictly due to cost, not talent.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 8:03 AM | Report abuse

You have been around long enough to know that Chafe is all about trying to get a response. Don't let him get you going. When the Caps get back on track, he will disappear again until the next loss.

The group hug could get ugly. :)

Posted by: _Mark | November 25, 2008 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Sloan was called up because he was labeled the fastest guy on D to not play in the show, add on that he's been playing for years in the minors and there's your answer.

Alzner "looks" solid but prone to mistakes given the speed and strength of these guys, no sense in messing with his confidence, if he gets called up I hope they they work him in properly.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 8:06 AM | Report abuse

No Mauree... I do not agree...

System... System... System... Not player...

Boudreau's system requires unique players. We have a few. Green is one of them.

We apply pressure, we ask a lot from our defense and goaltending. At times our offense will be behind the play and put our goalie in a bad spot, but that is part of the system that constantly puts pressure on the opposing team.

I'm beating a dead horse with some people in here.

Your issue should not be with Green, your issue should be on the coach who put this system in place. Last time I checked it was Boudrea not Green.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, my first post was all about trying to get a response.

It was provoking and insulting, sure.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 8:09 AM | Report abuse

There are only a few teams that can play the way we do.

DET and SJ come to mind. Thats the list. Maybe PIT when Gonchar is back.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Nothing to do with system, everything to do with assignments.
Too many free passes given to the star players, they need to be held accountable.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I am saying this about the last 3 games.

Green is missed more than Semin.

Green is more valuable to our system than either one of the Alex's.

Our system requires a M.Green.

No M.Green, our system isn't going to work properly.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 8:15 AM | Report abuse

I didn't say Green was a better player than either one of the Alex's, just more valuable to how we play.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 8:16 AM | Report abuse

Well that's comforting, Green is the messiah.
Wow just wow.

Someone didn't tell Pronger.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 8:19 AM | Report abuse


I actually don't really mind Cheef... He is easy to pick on and extremely predictable. I'm setting my watch to him right now.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Not sure what game some of you watched last night, but I KNOW I watched a pretty damn good hockey game! To say the Caps were bad for the first 2 periods is just asinine. They were actually dominant at times, but the other Backstrom is a pretty decent goalie, yes? Pretty sure he will be on the short list for a Vezina this year.

As Ovie often says - this team never quits, never gives up, and that was exactly what happened in the last 5 mins. They had the Wild on their heels. The play by Fehr for the Brad's goal was one of the finest individual efforts I have seen this year.

I love the Caps - even when they drop 3 straight on the road. And I will take them over ANY other sports team in the DC area.

Posted by: Snowdog | November 25, 2008 8:22 AM | Report abuse

Green's clears actually clear. That alone puts him above almost all of our other D.

Take away the offensive engine, the puck-handling, the intuition and timing. He clears the puck.

Posted by: DCwho | November 25, 2008 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Well said Snowdog...

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Snowdog -- not sure which game you were watching. In the first two periods, the Caps defense gave up a lot of odd-man rushes and allowed the Wild to crowd the net (see the first two goals). Given that the blueline is decimated right now, I think the play in their own end is understandable. But I find it hard to write that the Caps were in charge. JT played a very good game in net; the top line had a lot of pressure. After that, not so much.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS | November 25, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

Everyone here is so focused on missing Green and how it affects the team. With any luck Green will be back by the weekend. But have you all forgotten that we're also missing Semin and Fedorov, who account for both offense and defense (Semin on offense and PK, and Feds on everything).

Posted by: tess2201 | November 25, 2008 8:34 AM | Report abuse

That's funny, I saw Jozy actually earning his money last night, how many 2 on 1's and a 2 on 0 did Backs face ? Or 5-3's ?

Better goaltending excuse not applicable.

Watching OV close his hand on the puck was sad, reminded me of Semin without the toss.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Feds is the difference, he keeps all the Russians accountable at the right time, without him around it's the wild west.

Posted by: Cheef | November 25, 2008 8:36 AM | Report abuse

No one is saying that we don't miss Fedorov or Semin, I believe these comments are directed towards me.

What I am saying is that the loss of Green effects our play more so than any other player on this team, ANY.

We went 4-0 without Fedorov, 6-0-1 without Fedorov and Semin, and have lost the last 3 without Green, Fedorov and Semin.

Posted by: JSchon | November 25, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

@ Yoshietree & Ranndino-----from previous thread.

WOW. I couldn't have said it better. What makes it even worse, is the nasty replies to anyone who gives a cogent description of what is going on. I can't wait for some of these call ups to make even one mistake----the vultures will land.

In reading other blogs, both hockey & whatever else, it seems too many people are there just to attack. pathetic

Posted by: sidehillman | November 25, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse

If the Caps can get some healthy D in front of JT and Johnny, and can work the breakout, I think the Caps are set to go on a roll.

Steve in Jersey

Posted by: sjshanno | November 25, 2008 9:22 AM | Report abuse

I think alot of you under estimate Mike Greens defense. He will get beat on ocassion, not like the rag doll you play it to be. He goes up against the other teams BEST players every nite.He is a Paul Coffey type of skater/puck handler. He can rush the puck, get caught up ice and still get back into the D zone first. He is still young and is still polishing his game. What is he a plus 12 for the year, and all most of his goals , if not all are on the PP, where he does not get a plus/minus rating.

Posted by: Capsfannmiss | November 25, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

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